The cell phone market is undergoing major changes. More and more people are choosing used or refurbished devices because of rising prices and minor changes to new models.
In this guide, I'll tell you why this is a solid decision and what to look for when you're shopping for a used smartphone.
In This Guide
Cell Phone Comparison - Is Newer Always Better?
Sure, that shiny new device is tempting, but the near - $1,000 price tag is tough on your wallet.
The major phone manufacturers and big four wireless carriers do a great job of making it seem necessary to buy a new phone every year or two. But here's why that's deceiving:
Minor Changes to Each Model
According to Forbes little has changed from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 8:
- The front-facing camera and rear camera remained the same.
- The 8 is heavier due to integrated wireless charging hardware.
- The back of the phone is made of gorilla glass rather than aluminum.
- The iPhone 8 costs $200 more.
Smartphones Last Longer Than You Think
According to the Consumer Technology Association, the average lifespan of a modern cell phone is 4.7 years. So why spend $900 every year?
Benefits of Buying a Refurbished Phone vs. a New One
Buying a used or refurbished phone has many benefits including:
- Save 50% or more off the retail price.
- Most reputable seller sites offer warranties or guarantees in case something goes wrong.
- Independent repair shops make fixing your phone more affordable than buying a new one.
- No monthly installment payments mean you're free to go to any carrier.
What to Look for When Buying a Used/Refurbished Phone
Use this list of factors to choose the best cell phone for you:
- Is it used or is it refurbished?: Refurbished means the device has been repaired and restored. Used smartphones typically come as-is.
- Specifications: The good news is that you can find a device with a larger internal memory, better camera, longer battery life, and all the features you want for a much lower price than you would if they were brand new.
- Warranties/Returns: Most phone seller sites offer a return period of up to 30 days. Some even offer warranties - for example, Decluttr offers 12 months on many devices.
- Insurance: Don't forget you can purchase third-party phone insurance just like you can through a carrier.
- Certified Phones: Looking for a certified pre-owned smartphone? Look for sellers like Gazelle, that put devices through a rigorous inspection.
Locked vs. Unlocked Cell Phones
You've probably heard the term "locked" in reference to mobile phones. While it sounds confusing, a locked phone simply means that the device is restricted to use on one carrier.
This practice is typically used when you buy a smartphone on a payment plan because the carrier doesn't want you to be able to take your phone and go to a different provider.
Benefits of Buying an Unlocked Phone
- Freedom - switch carriers whenever you want.
- Flexibility - love to travel? Buy an international SIM card for wherever you're going - no worries about high roaming charges.
- Peace of mind - if your device is unlocked you know it isn't under contract or stolen.
Find out how to unlock your phone. If you're shopping for a used phone, read on to learn what to look for in an unlocked device.
Key Considerations When Buying an Unlocked Phone
There are two types of cell phone technology - CDMA and GSM. When buying a phone - whether used/refurbished or new - it's important to understand the distinction.
- AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM, Sprint and Verizon on CDMA.
- An unlocked phone can work on both but only if 4G service is available.
- If you use a GSM phone on a CDMA network (or vice versa) and your 4G signal drops, you'll lose service.
- It's best to buy a phone that works on the same technology as the carrier you plan to use.
- If you buy a device on installment payments your phone will be locked until it's paid off.
- If you buy outright your phone should come already unlocked.
Why Compare Used Phone Prices?
Prices can vary according to different factors, like when a new model was released and device condition. We make it easy for you to see all your options in seconds. Ensure you get the best deal on a used phone by using our price comparison engine.
Here are the key benefits:
- Save money by comparing prices from numerous reputable sellers all in one place.
- Quickly and easily compare smartphones specs like iPhone, and the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series, along with their condition and features.
- Read reviews of the best sites to buy a used phone.
Not sure whether you want to buy a phone that runs on GSM or CDMA? Compare network coverage to see which one is best for you.
Save Even More Money
Not only can you save hundreds on your smartphone, you can also save over 50% off your wireless service by using an MVNO.
What Is an MVNO?
MVNOs - or Mobile Virtual Network Operators - are smaller carriers that rent the use of extra capacity on the big four networks. MVNOs run on the same infrastructure as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint but they give you much lower prices.
How can they afford to do this? MVNOs don't have the maintenance, marketing, and overhead costs of the big guys. They seldom operate brick-and-mortar stores, which means they can pass the savings along to you - and you'll never have to leave your house to buy service!
Benefits of MVNOS
- Cheaper - by 50% or more.
- Same reliable 4G LTE networks as the big guys.
- No contracts or credit checks.
- Custom plans that you tailor to your own needs and budget.
- High-quality customer service.
- Bring your own phone and keep your number.
- Do everything online - never set foot in a store.