6 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Used Smartphone

Buying a used device is a great way to save money as long as one knows how to examine the device for red flags before it is purchased. Here are six important checks that must be performed on used smartphones before you decide to buy one.

1. Don’t Buy a Device That’s Too Old

Smartphones that are three or five years old are cheap for a reason – they are barely usable today. If a device is too old, even if its hardware is well preserved, there is the risk you won’t be able to load a recent operating system. When you can’t install a recent operating system, you will hardly be able to install the latest versions of popular apps.

This is turn means there is a lot of functionality you won’t be able to access. For instance, many mobile sites don’t support older devices, so if you are getting a used smartphone to browse the mobile Web, you will hardly have a first rate experience. GSMArena is one of the places where you can check for the release date as well as the parameters of nearly any model


2. Check to Be Sure the Device Is Unlocked

Locked smartphones are cheaper, but again this is for a reason. While you can almost always unlock a locked smartphone, this involves additional cost, and there is always the risk you won’t be able to unlock it. In this case you will be stuck with a carrier you didn’t select, which could also mean you will have to pay more in monthly fees than you would if the phone weren’t locked and you were free to choose any carrier you like.

3. Make Sure It’s Not Stolen

One of the really unpleasant caveats of buying a used smartphone is the possibility it’s a stolen device. If the offer is too good to be true, than it most certainly is. Of course, you won’t see in the ad that the device is stolen. To avoid this risk, buy from reputable places only, such as sellers with good ratings on eBay.

Ask for the IMEI, ESN or MEID of the phone and check online if these numbers belong to a phone that has been reported stolen. Even if the search yields no results, this still isn’t a guarantee the phone is clean, but it’s better than nothing.

4. Carefully Examine the Phone’s Physical Appearance

You don’t expect a used device to be as shiny as new, but if the phone is damaged beyond repair, or if it’s too costly to repair it, you don’t want this device. While a few minor scratches here and there are not too much if the price is right, if the glass is seriously scratched or broken, or if there is leakage from the battery, such repairs, if possible at all, are too costly. Lots of dents or scratches on the phone surface imply rough use, which might have damaged internal components even if it looks OK.


5. Price

You might think the price of a used smartphone is the most important thing to check, but it isn’t. If the device you plan to buy failed the first four checks, then no price is low enough – the device is simply useless.

When you are considering the price, question whether it is a fair price. If it is too low, this is suspicious – the device might be stolen or broken. If it is too high – e.g. if the same new device costs $100 and the price for the used one is $80-90, this isn’t worth the risk of buying a used phone. Check to see how much the same device costs new on sites such as Amazon, eBay, or BestBuy, and this will give you a clue if the purchase is a bargain or a ripoff.

6. Buyer Protection

Always buy used stuff only from sites that offer buyer protection. If you can’t return the phone when you are not satisfied with it or when it’s very different from what was advertised, it’s not much of a comfort that you bought it cheap. Use eBay’s Money Back Guarantee or PayPal’s Purchase Protection to protect your interests as a buyer.


Unfortunately, even if you follow all these tips, there is never a guarantee you won’t be ripped off when you buy a used smartphone, but if you follow them, this dramatically improves your chances for a bargain. Do your research before you buy so that you don’t regret it later.

Ada Ivanova
Ada Ivanova

I am a fulltime freelancer who loves technology. Linux and Web technologies are my main interests and two of the topics I most frequently write about.

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