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Best Cheap Unlocked Phones of 2021

Compare cheap unlocked phone prices & deals

Cheap unlocked phones in April

Do you really need the latest smartphone coming out?

While it is tempting, they often aren't too much different than older versions and come with quite a hefty price tag. There's a market on the rise that can save you money – the used unlocked smartphone market.

Is a New Smartphone REALLY Necessary?

While getting the newest smartphone is definitely tempting, it's important to take a step back and consider the reality of the upgrade before spending an arm and a leg for it. Honestly, there are minimal changes or upgrades between each generation of phone.

Consider this, you could pay $550+ for the iPhone 7 or you could pay $1,000+ for the iPhone X. The only main differences between the two are that the iPhone X can charge wirelessly and unlock your phone with your face. Could you live without those features? Definitely. Could you find a better use for the $450 you saved by getting the iPhone 7? Absolutely!

Used Or Refurbished? There's A Difference

Consider buying a used phone or a refurbished phone before shelling out the big bucks on the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Not sure what the difference is, we're here to help:

Refurbished Phones

  • Previously owned or used.

  • Has undergone diagnostic testing, any faulty parts have been replaced.

  • Data is wiped clean, and it has been repackaged.

  • Refurbished phones give an extended warranty.

Used Phones

  • Previously owned or used.

  • May have some cosmetic wear and tear.

  • Ultimately are fully operating and functional.

Key Reasons to Consider Buying Refurbished

Calling all eco-friendly, money-saving, deal-finding lovers out there! There are so many advantages when it comes to buying refurbished, so here are some you'll be sure to appreciate:

  • Function as if it were new - Refurbished phones have gone through testing, have data wiped clean, and are ready to function just like a brand new smartphone.

  • Good for the environment - Keeping used and refurbished phones out of landfills.

  • Saves you money - No need for an explanation here... who doesn't want to save money?!

  • Most come with an extended warranty - giving you peace of mind if you're feeling wary about purchasing a refurbished device.

What's the Deal With Unlocked Phones?

Not sure what an unlocked phone means? No problem. The first thing to note about cell phones, in general, is that some phones are locked to certain carriers.

This is easily explained by noting there are two major radio systems: CDMA and GSM. These systems are the most commonly used by cell phones to function. How do you know which one your phone is currently operating on? That's easy!

While unlocked phones aren't tied to any specific carrier, they will function best on the bandwidth they were originally made for.

Let's say you have a GSM unlocked phone, it will work on a CDMA network as long as your 4G LTE doesn't drop to 3G. If it does, your phone will essentially become a paperweight until 4G is restored. With this in mind, it is best to get an unlocked phone that operates on your current carrier of the carrier you're planning to switch to.

Key Consideration When Buying A Refurbished Unlocked Phone

Keeping an open mind about buying a refurbished unlocked phone? Great! Now here are some things you should certainly keep in mind as you're on the hunt for your next favorite cell phone:

  • Warranty - Be sure to note that some sellers offer warranties, while others do not.

  • Returns - For peace of mind, check to see if the unlocked phone you're interested in has a return policy. That way, if the phone doesn't meet your needs, you can return it within the policy time.

  • Certification - Similar to the process of making a car "certified," phones can go through rigorous testing to be considered certified as well. Buyback sites, like Gazelle and Decluttr, offer certified phone options.

  • Insurance -Third-party insurance companies, like SquareTrade, offer coverage for used devices. Typically, the cost is around $10/month.

How To Get The Best Price On A Cheap Unlocked Phone:

Here at MoneySavingPro, we have done all the hard work for you, check out our review of the best places to buy a used phone. Then, make sure to use our comparison tool, to make sure you get the best deal on a used phone.

Want To Save Even More Money?

Put extra money in your pocket by selling your old phone online on the same sites.

While you could trade your phone in with your current carrier, you'll get a much better price selling it on your own. If your phone is still functioning properly and doesn't have cosmetic damage, you can make major bank!


Another surefire way to save money is to consider switching to a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). Simply put, MNVOs are small carriers that lease service and tower storage from the "Big Four" - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

Switching to an MVNO is quick and easy and is done completely online. Yes, you get to avoid the ridiculous waits at the phone store because you don't have to set foot in one to switch to an MNVO! Just sign up online and they will send you your new sim card. Other amazing benefits of MNVOs include:

  • Cheaper costs

  • Increased flexibility

  • No credit checks

  • No long-term contracts

  • Customizable plan options


There's no need to drain your wallet if you're looking to upgrade your smartphone. MoneySavingPro has made it easy for you to save money by comparing prices before you buy a refurbished phone.

In addition, you can cut your monthly costs considerably by switching to a cheap cell phone plan from a wide selection of low-cost carriers. Also, don't forget to sell your old phone for extra cash.

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.