The Quick And Dirty Guide to Buying A Used Smart Phone

The Quick And Dirty Guide

I’ve written about riding to financial independence on the trailing edge of technology.  One area where you can save massively this way is by buying used cell phones.  You can usually get last year’s best phone in the universe for about half what it cost new 12 months prior–saving roughly $400 on a high-end phone.

If you are going to go this route, the key is to not waste too much time finding the used phone.

The Quick And Dirty Guide to Buying A Used Smart Phone

  • Shop for your phone just as if you were going to purchase the phone new.  Go to the store and look at the phone you are considering purchasing.  Think through all the stuff like camera quality, storage capacity, etc.  (This post is not about how to pick the phone, just to buy it used online.)
  • Once you have picked your phone, I suggest you check three spots you might purchase the phone: eBay, Swappa, and Craigslist.
  • But first, you need to find out from your carrier the exact model you plan to purchase that works on their network.  Also, find out if you need a new sim card for the new phone or if the one in your current phone will work.  You should be able to buy the new SIM card for about five bucks if you need to.
  • It’s pretty simple, just search for the exact model number (often a combo of letters and numbers) on all three sites.  I suggest you not buy one listed as “new.”  The discounts are hardly worth it.  Instead, buy one in “mint” or “excellent” condition that is used.  I look for someone who just bought an Android phone, used it for a couple of months, and decided they like the Apple ecosystem better–or vice versa.  I try to buy from individuals who actually owned and used the phone rather than the big outfits that sell used phones online for a living.
  • You can get a very quick sense of what your phone is selling for by looking at the “trending at” info on eBay or buy reviewing Swappa’s graphs showing pricing trends.
  • The pricing is going to be cheapest on Craigslist, then Ebay, then Swappa.  However, with Swappa you probably have the least likelihood of any kinds of problems where you bought a stolen phone.
  • A bonus of buying a used phone is that you often also get the case and screen protector (and sometimes even extra memory) thrown in.

Don’t Agonize Forever (Don’t Spend Days and Days Trying to Save $20)

Here is my one piece of crucial advice if you decide to buy a used phone.  If you find a decent deal on a mint phone, don’t then spend days and days and days hoping to get a slightly better deal.  Just buy it.  You are going to save maximum $20 or $30 on a good phone by waiting, and you will waste hours of time.

Find a good deal, and buy it.  Otherwise, the whole exercise becomes a total time sink.  You have better things to do with you time.  Like maximizing your career, investing, having fun, whatever!

Similarly, I mentioned that these used phones are cheaper on Craigslist, but beware that if you don’t like the model you decide to look at, you can blow tons of time driving around, etc.make sure the phone works, shopping for the perfect phone.  If you do buy in person on Craigslist, be certain to use all the necessary precautions verify that the phone works with your carrier.  You can make certain by putting your SIM card in the phone before you hand over any money.

Oh Yeah, and don’t buy cell phone insurance….