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Does the following scenario ring any bells?
You walk into the cell phone store with every intention of holding tightly to your wallet. Yet you leave having spent way more money than you expected. Maybe this whole buying a smartphone at retail price thing wasn't such a good idea after all!
We feel your pain. Even with a phone trade-in program, getting your hands on that new iPhone or Android smartphone can be painfully expensive.
Here's the good news:
Refurbished cell phones can cost you as little as half the retail price of new cell phones. The hard part is determining where to buy one. The online marketplace offers several options. But how do you know which sites are trustworthy and that the device will be in good condition?
In this guide, I'll tell you what to look for and where to buy a used cell phone for the best price.
The best places to buy used cell phones
Best used Apple iPhone deals
Apple iPhone SE (2nd Gen)*$50 off
$299* MSRP: $349
The Apple iPhone SE (2nd Gen) has 64GB storage capacity. It includes a 4.7 inches screen and 12 MP camera. This refurbished iPhone SE (2nd Gen) is available from Tello with T-Mobile network coverage and prices starting from $299.
Apple iPhone 11
- Back Market
$274 MSRP: $699
The Apple iPhone 11 has 64GB storage capacity. It includes a 6.1 inches screen and 12 MP camera. This refurbished iPhone 11 is available from Back Market with AT&T network coverage and prices starting from $274.
Cheapest used iPhones
Apple iPhone 7
- Back Market
$72 MSRP: $649
The Apple iPhone 7 has 32GB storage capacity. It includes a 4.7 inches screen and 12 MP camera. This refurbished iPhone 7 is available from Back Market with AT&T network coverage and prices starting from $72.
Apple iPhone 8*$40 off
$239* MSRP: $279
The Apple iPhone 8 has 64GB storage capacity. It includes a 4.7 inches screen and 12 MP camera. This refurbished iPhone 8 is available from Tello with T-Mobile network coverage and prices starting from $239.
Apple iPhone XR
- Back Market
$185 MSRP: $749
The Apple iPhone XR has 64GB storage capacity. It includes a 6.1 inches screen and 12 MP camera. This refurbished iPhone XR is available from Back Market with AT&T network coverage and prices starting from $185.
Compare iPhone prices
|Apple iPhone SE||$14/mo||$16/mo||$20/mo|
|Apple iPhone 13 mini||-||$22/mo||-|
|Apple iPhone 13||-||$26/mo||$30/mo|
|Apple iPhone 14||-||$30/mo||$35/mo|
|Apple iPhone 13 Pro||-||$33/mo||-|
|Apple iPhone 12 Pro||-||-||$33/mo|
|Apple iPhone 14 Plus||-||$35/mo||-|
Best used Samsung Galaxy deals
Samsung Galaxy S10
- Back Market
$160 MSRP: $899
The Samsung Galaxy S10 has 128GB storage capacity. It includes a 6.1 inches screen and 16 MP camera. This refurbished Galaxy S10 is available from Back Market with T-Mobile, Verizon & AT&T network coverage and prices starting from $160.
Cheapest used Samsung phones
Compare Samsung phone prices
|Samsung Galaxy A03s||$9/mo||-||-|
|Samsung Galaxy S10e||-||$11/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy A13||-||-||$12/mo|
|Samsung Galaxy S10||-||$13/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy S10+||-||$17/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra||-||$19/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy Note20||-||$19/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy S21 FE||-||$20/mo||-|
|Samsung Galaxy S21||-||$21/mo||-|
Used cell phone benefits
There are many benefits to checking out used smartphones for sale online instead of buying directly from your carrier. Here is what choosing to buy used can save you:
1. It can save you a lot of money
Buying a used cell phone can obviously save you a lot of money. If you are on a budget but desperate for a new phone, a used phone is definitely the way to go. You can find a used Samsung Galaxy in good condition for as little as half the price of a new one.
2. It is fantastic for the environment
The United States throws away up to 9.4 million tons of e-waste annually. Buying pre-owned phones via the online marketplace supports the cell phone recycling process, which is excellent for the environment.
The EPA has recorded that for every million cell phones recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be saved.
If you're looking to help the cause, this article will tell you how to and what to consider before you sell used cell phones.
Considerations when buying a used phone
Let's face it: no one wants to end up with someone's water damaged old cell phone that doesn't work right. But how do you know which site to trust? Should you go with factory refurbished, or even eBay or Craigslist? You're in luck.
In my research, I have uncovered the most vital information to consider before choosing where to buy a used cell phone online.
1. What am I looking for?
Before you even think about making a purchase on a cheap used phone, you need to know what you're looking for. Do you need a phone with a big screen to stream videos and shows? Are you on a budget, looking to filter phones for a specific price? Maybe you need a certain amount of memory storage for your pictures and videos.
Consider these things beforehand. This way, you won't end up with a phone that's completely out of your price range and does nothing to meet your needs. Most used cell phones sites will allow you to filter your options before you search. It's a good idea to use those tools.
2. What condition is the phone in?
Probably the biggest worry for anyone searching for the best place to buy a used cell phone is the condition of the device. You'll want to make sure your used phone comes with some sort of return agreement in case it's not in the condition you expected.
As soon as you receive the phone, make sure there is no water damage. You can do this by thoroughly inspecting the battery and outlets on the phone to see if they are discolored.
Most new iPhones and Android phones also have a Liquid Damage Indicator (LDI) sticker. This sticker is located inside the battery compartment and usually turns red if the inside of the device has been exposed to liquid.
4. Is the phone compatible with my carrier?
Certain phone companies don't activate certain types of devices. Before you make any purchase, you should call your cell phone provider. Make sure they will activate the phone and determine what kind of plan you'll be able to activate. Also, make sure there is no previous contract so you can activate right away.
Depending on whether you have a CDMA or GSM device, you may be able to simply put your existing SIM card into your new phone. If you have a provider that uses GSM phones, this allows your account information to automatically transfer to the new device, including your phone number. That's because your customer information is stored right on the SIM card.
5. Does the phone come with any warranty?
Some used cell phones for sale come with a limited warranty, but some don't. Are you okay if your device doesn't come with a warranty? Since there are no guarantees when making a purchase, a warranty might make you feel a little better about trusting your seller. I would take this into consideration before making a purchase.
6. How much cheaper is the used phone compared with MSRP?
I have seen used cell phones advertised online for around the same price as a brand new phone. This is not how it should be. No matter how like-new the phone is, it should always be considerably less than a brand new phone. Make sure to compare prices to the exact model new cell phone to determine if you're paying more money than you should.
7. Does the phone come with any accessories?
Accessories can add to the price of your used cell phone. Does it come with a charger? Chargers can cost up to $40, which is something to think about before you buy.
Compare used cell phones
Questions to ask when buying a used phone
The number of smartphone users worldwide has been forecasted to reach 4.7 billion in 2017. As you can imagine, there are seemingly infinite amounts being traded online within this large group of users.
In fact, 120 million used smartphones are predicted to generate about $17 million in sales at an estimated $140 per device in 2016. But there are some things you should know before you even consider deciding on where to buy a used phone.
1. What is a serial number?
Think of your phone's serial number as its social security number. It is also known as an ESN, MEID, or IMEI. This identification number can allow you to check if the device has been named lost or stolen or has a warranty. You should always check or ask for the serial number when buying a used smartphone online. If the seller won't provide it, I wouldn't do business with them.
2. What is the condition of the phone?
A used phone is one that has some wear but is still fully functional. They are usually a little beat up but work just fine. They have also usually not been tested, certified or worked on.
3. What does certified pre-owned phone mean?
Certified pre-owned phones are those which have been inspected to determine any problems they have had since leaving the factory. This is definitely something you should look at when deciding on where to buy used cell phones.
If your phone has been inspected, you'll be able to tell exactly what's right and wrong with it. You should also be able to tell if it was stolen. This will increase the chances of receiving exactly what you paid for. Certified pre-owned cell phones are usually well taken care of compared to used or refurbished phones.
4. What does refurbished mean?
If your used cell phone is labeled refurbished, it has been returned because it is not working properly or it is used. Either way, it has been tested for any damage and malfunctions, fixed, cleaned, and restored.
The difference between a refurbished device and a certified pre-owned device is simple. A refurbished one has been tested and worked on while a certified pre-owned device has simply been inspected. This is important to note when choosing the best place to buy used cell phones.
5. What are locked and unlocked cell phones?
A locked cell phone is locked to a specific carrier. When you are locked in, you cannot use your cell phone with another carrier. An unlocked cell phone is not locked in with any carrier; therefore, it can be activated by any carrier at any time, as long as it matches the provider's network type - CDMA or GSM. It's best to contact customer service to ensure that you can use it on your carrier's network.
This is what you want when looking for a used cell phone online. Make sure the phone is unlocked so you can activate it immediately. You can learn more about how to unlock cell phones with this guide.
6. Are there any guarantees?
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when shopping for used phones online. You won't have the benefit of being able to access your carrier's customer service if you have a problem with your device. Refurbished/used/pre-owned cell phones are hit or miss, which is why you need to take the steps to ensure you get the perfect device at the right price.
7. How does used phone pricing work?
Figuring out how much a used cell phone is really worth is difficult. After all, how are you really supposed to tell if the seller is giving you a fair price?
Fortunately, there are sites out there who will calculate the numbers for you. I suggest checking one out to understand where the price comes from and if the site of your choice is offering legitimate price options. Also, make sure the price of the used phone is significantly less than the price of a brand new model from your local cell phone store.
Remember, prices on newer phone models go down over time. If you really want an iPhone 6s but it's too expensive right now (even used), just wait it out. It may go down a significant amount in just a couple of months.
Sell your old phone for cash
You may now be wondering: where can I sell my iPhone or Android smartphone? Start with our guide on where to sell your used cell phone.
You could also bring your device into your local Best Buy or contact customer service on one of the sites I reviewed here to determine if they'll pay you for your old cell phone. If not, you can help the environment out by turning it in any way for recycling.
What's the bottom line? You definitely have to be careful when buying cheap used cell phones online because there are no guarantees. If you do it the right way, however, you can save hundreds of dollars. The internet makes it easy to buy and sell almost anything, and electronic devices are no different.
Whether you're looking for an Android smartphone, an Apple iPhone, or even just a basic Android phone, you can find refurbished unlocked cell phones at a great price on any of these websites.
Now that you've become an expert on finding the best place to buy used cell phones, you can go out and get a great device for a decent price. We've taken the first step for you and compared the most popular used smartphones on the market.
I put a lot of time and effort into choosing the top five best places to buy used cell phones. I researched and compared customer reviews, company details, and industry statistics to determine the best way to go about buying and where to do it.
Ultimately, I have found that buying used, refurbished and pre-owned cell phones online is an excellent way to save money and support the environment. After researching the process, I have no doubt you will find exactly what you're looking for at a great price. Just make sure to follow my tips and get to know your device as best you can before you buy it.