How to buy used and refurbished phones to save money

i swappa

A few years in the past, I made a acutely aware choice to cease shopping for new phones.

Whereas I used to all the time keep on the leading edge when selecting a brand new iPhone or Android cellphone, I noticed that purchasing used or refurbished gadgets made extra sense. As of late, one- or two-year-old phones aren’t a lot totally different from the newest fashions, and shopping for them second-hand helps you to save money with out getting locked into long-term wi-fi service contracts.

Shopping for used or refurbished tech additionally helps make a tiny dent on this planet’s e-waste issues. By buying an older system, you’re delaying its journey to the scrap heap and lowering demand for brand new merchandise. The thought appears to be catching on; a survey from February commissioned by Backmarket discovered that 25% of individuals listed environmental causes for purchasing refurbished gear, up from 16% in Could 2019.

For me, the used cellphone life-style has been understanding fairly effectively. I’ve been ready to bounce between a couple of totally different phones earlier than promoting them again into the used market, and I by no means have to get AT&T concerned with activation. (As a substitute, I simply transfer my SIM card from one unlocked cellphone to the subsequent.) Apart from, with corporations like Apple and Samsung dealing with provide points amid an ongoing chip shortage, shopping for used may develop into simpler than getting what’s new.


Save extra with used tech

My private go-to for used phones has been Swappa, a market the place people can buy or promote used gear to each other. In different phrases, it’s like eBay, however categorized in a method that makes discovering particular gadgets simpler. Every cellphone, laptop computer, or pill has its personal grasp itemizing web page, and from there you may filter by situation, colour, or storage dimension. Swappa additionally requires sellers to confirm their phones’ IMEI numbers earlier than itemizing them, guaranteeing that they’re not stolen and barred from service activation.

In current months, I’ve develop into one thing of a Swappa addict, perusing {the marketplace} to see what you will get on a budget. It’s been fascinating to watch Samsung’s Z Fold2 foldable cellphone come crashing down from its $2,000 checklist worth (I’m seeing one for $1,175 in like-new condition) and to see at what level Apple gear begins seeing vital reductions. (You may get an iPhone 11 Professional Max for $730 in mint condition now, down from the unique $1099.)

The opposite upside with Swappa is the way in which sellers generally throw of their additional equipment. My most up-to-date buy was a like-new OnePlus 8 Professional for $580—that’s $120 off the brand new worth—however the vendor additionally included the unique field, charger, and two official circumstances that usually price $20 apiece.

Swappa does have a few downsides. You may’t pay for gadgets in month-to-month installments such as you would with a wi-fi service, and aftermarket warranty coverage price additional. Extra importantly, you may’t return a cellphone after to procure it except it’s not as described, and even then, you’ve got to work issues out instantly with the vendor. In my case, I ended up conserving an iPhone XR that wasn’t fairly in its marketed mint situation final 12 months, since I didn’t really feel like coping with return transport.

On these complete, although, I’ve had a optimistic expertise shopping for phones on Swappa, and I’ve additionally bought each a cellphone and laptop computer again into the market with out difficulty.

Refurbished for higher perks

Should you’re antsy about shopping for a cellphone or pc instantly from one other proprietor, you may all the time buy refurbished gadgets as an alternative. They provide advantages equivalent to guarantee protection and and hassle-free returns—although costs could also be increased than these of used gear.


Backmarket, as an example, goals to replicate lots of the perks of shopping for new. The merchandise on its market include 30-day return insurance policies and one-year warranties, and it presents installment plans by way of Affirm (albeit with rates of interest on high.) As of this writing, you will get a last-gen iPhone 11 in “Glorious” situation for $500, which is $100 lower than what Apple costs for a brand new cellphone.

When you’re prepared to commerce up to a brand new system, you don’t have to return to Apple or your wi-fi service.

Some retailers even have their very own refurbished operations. Amazon, as an example, will typically embody a notice on its product web page when it has a “renewed” model of the product you’re about to buy. (One instance: Final 12 months’s Galaxy S20 Extremely, selling for $648 as an alternative of its $1,399 checklist worth.) Such merchandise are bought by third-party retailers who should adjust to the foundations of the Amazon Renewed program, equivalent to guaranteeing that merchandise “don’t have any seen beauty imperfections when held 12 inches away.”

Should you’re buying at Finest Buy’s website, you’ll discover open-box or Geek Squad re-certified offers by hitting the “Shopping for Choices” tab on the backside of every product web page. That is an particularly great way to buy a laptop computer, which have vital reductions for open-box variations. Take into account that when Finest Buy places a product on sale, its open-box costs have a tendency to drop accordingly.

Apple additionally has its personal retailer for refurbished gear, and whereas its costs aren’t all the time nice, it guarantees that they’re in “like new” situation and you may sometimes discover some strong offers. Proper now, as an example, the corporate is promoting a refurbished Mac Mini with an M1 processor and 512 GB of storage for $759, which is $140 off the worth of shopping for new. Shopping for from Apple additionally provide you with a one-year guarantee from Apple itself,  Apple packaging and all the unique equipment, and the flexibility to buy AppleCare+ protection.

When you’re prepared to commerce up to a brand new (at the least to you) system, you don’t have to return to Apple or your wi-fi service. Websites like Backflip, Gazelle, and BuyBackWorld gives you money for used electronics, all with out having to lock your self into one other cellphone contract.

Pitfalls to look ahead to

Whereas shopping for used or refurbished gear has its upsides, it additionally comes up with some dangers.

In some circumstances, it’s possible you’ll not get the unique packaging or equipment. Meaning it’s possible you’ll get a generic cellphone charger as an alternative of a fancier official one, or presumably no charger in any respect.

Guarantee protection may very by vendor. Amazon and Finest Buy, as an example, solely supply a 90-day warranties for renewed merchandise, and if you would like guarantee protection from websites like eBay or Swappa, you’ll have to pay additional.

You’ll even have to be careful for wear-and-tear that doesn’t present up in product pictures. A cellphone that’s been extensively used, as an example, gained’t get as a lot battery life as one which’s been used, which is why you generally see patrons on Swappa inquiring about battery well being ranges from sellers. And as Backmarket factors out, the refurbishing process can have an effect on waterproofing, so the positioning doesn’t assure that any of its merchandise can stand up to a drop within the pool.

Lastly, shopping for an older cellphone or pill means getting fewer years of software program assist than a brand-new product. Even with new Android phones, you’re fortunate to get a pair years’ price of updates, after which you’ll miss out on new options and could also be caught with unpatched safety holes.

And but, accepting these dangers can really feel like its personal reward. Shopping for used phones has made me understand I don’t want to rush out and get a brand new iPhone no matter how revolutionary Apple says it is perhaps. And after I do really feel a pang of gadget lust, taking an present cellphone off another person’s fingers feels higher than serving to to carry one other piece of e-waste into the world.