How To Buy A Second-Hand Smartphone – And What To Look Out For


Buying new tech devices has very quickly become a prohibitively expensive endeavour for the average consumer, as prices for new smartphone models frequently breach four figures. Nonetheless, our tech has a lifespan, and replacing our devices is a fact of life. Buying second-hand can be a minefield without knowing exactly what you’re looking for – but the following considerations can help guide your thinking.

Choose Between Used and Refurbished

Before you start looking at specific models or listings, ask yourself what kind of product you’re looking to buy. Used phones tend to come direct from private sellers, whether bulk-purchased or used as their main device until they themselves upgraded. Refurbished devices are sold by manufacturers or licensed shops, and have been reconditioned by the manufacturer before purchase – giving you the chance to own a like-new product at a reduced cost. However, refurbished models are more expensive than privately-sold second-hand models.

This choice might well also affect the platform through which you purchase your phone. As easy as it is for me to sell my iPhone using an online platform or service, online marketplaces may not be way for me to buy my next one. This is because private sellers can easily draw up fraudulent listings for defective products, where brick-and-mortar shops selling tested and refurbished models allow you to physically inspect the product before purchase. Of course, the majority of private sellers are not scammers, and you may well get the opportunity to inspect a used phone before you buy – but the risk is part and parcel of buying used, as well as part of the reason for the reduced cost.

Checks and Protection

Speaking of risk, buying used can present a number of dangers over buying refurbished, which should be considered and prepared for before you complete a used phone purchase. One chief risk is the possibility that a given listing is for a stolen smartphone, which can present issues further down the line in your ownership. You can test to see if a phone is stolen before you buy it, by running the IMEI number through a checker service – the person who the phone was stolen from will likely have contacted their network provider to blacklist the number.

Of course, refurbished phones aren’t without their own dangers. Even after being reconditioned by the manufacturer, they can be prone to premature breakage – making it key that you ensure your purchase is protected before you buy. If a listing isn’t protected by a period of warranty, you may want to avoid buying with that seller.

Item Age and Quality

Lastly, discerning the quality of the product itself is vital to making your purchase worthwhile. Older models are more likely to have suffered wear and tear in important areas such as the charging port and any surface buttons, while older batteries can hold less charge and deplete quicker. If the model itself is somewhat outdated, some of its features may have little practical utility, or be outpaced by other models of similar value. Go into your purchase knowing everything you can about the phone, in order to make sure it will live a long life in your ownership.