If you want a fancy new smartphone with tons of features but can’t afford it, consider buying a used or refurbished phone. These days used smartphones are a great way to get a new-to-you device and save some money. This guide will show you the best places to buy a used or refurbished phone, and everything else you need to know.
Everyone wants the latest and greatest phone with dual cameras or a big screen until they see the price tag. The Galaxy Note 8 is nearly $1,000 and Apple’s iPhone X starts at $999. Some people might be ok with paying retail prices, but there’s a huge group of people looking for a good deal or a used phone instead.
In fact, you can get last years Galaxy S8 for under $380 or an iPhone 8 at a heavy discount if you know where to look. You can get a gently used phone for nearly 50% off, if not more. The only problem is you can’t just walk into Verizon and buy a used phone, and Craigslist isn’t a very wise choice either. It takes a bit of time, research, knowing what to look for, and where to look. Here’s what to know before you start, and where to buy one.
Used or Refurbished?
There are two main categories when you’re buying a phone that isn’t brand new. Those being used, and refurbished. Typically, a used smartphone is the cheapest but there are fewer guarantees that it’ll last for a long time or work as expected.
Most the time when you buy a refurbished phone it comes with some sort of warranty. These phones get fixed by a certified technician or undergo a rigorous inspection. This is a safer route than buying a used phone. Basically, refurbished is your best bet.
The term “refurbished” gets thrown around a lot though, and it doesn’t always mean what you think. Some places sell used phones, refurbished phones, or you’ll see terms like recertified, reconditioned, or even pre-owned. As long as you’re buying it from a reputable site you’ll end up with a good phone at a big discount. Most likely these phones got repaired Samsung or Apple, or a store like Best Buy. Sometimes though, you’re getting a brand new phone that was simply returned and can no longer be sold as “new”.
Best Place to Buy Used or Refurbished Phones
If you know what phone you want to buy and want the best deal, here are great places that sell used, refurbished, pre-owned or open-box phones.
- Best Buy is a great place to start. They offer refurbished, open-box, unlocked, and pre-owned phones with big discounts. You’ll find almost every major carrier, manufacturer, and tons of accessories too. Everything comes with some sort of warranty, even if it’s only 90 days.
- Apple has a growing list of refurbished phones and devices they sell online. Apple charges more than most other sites, but you’re basically getting a phone that’s nearly new, and a 1-year warranty.
- Swappa is one of my favorite sites for used and refurbished phones. They’re dedicated to safely selling like-new products and have strict policies in place to protect both the buyer and the seller. Each device must pass a test that proves it’s not stolen or on a lease/payment plan, and other safeguards. Every purchase goes through PayPal for added protection.
- Samsung sells certified pre-owned phones just like Apple at steep discounts. Most of them are over a year old, but you get a phone rebuilt by Samsung, a new charger and headphones, and a standard Samsung 1-year warranty for peace of mind.
- Gazelle is another popular place to buy used smartphones. They buy phones from individuals, then inspect each one to ensure they work properly, and sometimes make small fixes. Then, sell some of the latest devices at steep discounts. You’ll only get a 30-day return policy though.
- eBay has tons of sellers with good feedback that will sell you a heavily discounted phone. And while you can find some pretty good deals here, there aren’t any guarantees like Gazelle or Swappa. Do your research on the seller before clicking any Buy it Now buttons.
- Your Carrier likely offers certified pre-owned phones. Head to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint and buy a used phone that you know will work on your carrier. They typically only sell their own phones, so you don’t have to worry about an AT&T phone not working on Verizon Wireless.
- Craigslist is your last resort if we’re being honest. While yes, you can find some great deals, a lot of shady things happen around those parts too. From scams, stolen phones, locked devices, and much more. We recommend checking the IMEI to make sure it’s not lost or stolen before you buy any phone on CL. An ESN or IMEI is like a serial number or social security number for phones. Each one is unique, so use that to make sure you’re buying a legit phone.
There are a few things you’ll want to look for when you buy a used or refurbished phone. Whenever possible, always buy from the original manufacturer or a reputable store. It’s just a smart way to shop. If it’s a refurb see what kind of warranty is available, if any, or find a store that offers one.
Then, keep in mind that most used phones are probably already a year old, so things like battery life and software updates are different from a new phone. Or, they won’t get support as long. Don’t forget that most used phones get sold “as is” even if you don’t see it anywhere. Read the fine print.
Last but not least, use caution and some common sense when shopping for a used smartphone. Craigslist and Facebook group deals that look good are often misleading. If the price is too good to be true, it’s probably stolen. That’s why we recommend reputable sites like Samsung, Apple, Swappa, or Gazelle first.
As long as you do your research, you can find the right phone for the right price.