June 19, 2018
For those of us who are bargain shopping for our next smartphone, some of the usual routes include buying a mid-range device that still offers a fair punch, keeping an eye out for sales, and finding a deal on a manufacturer-refurbished handset. But another great way to score a good deal is by buying a used phone.
Used. It’s a word that’s weighed down by negative connotations — “we’ve used it up, it’s no longer good”. That’s probably why so many retailers that sell used products tend to go with “pre-owned” to soften the blow. Scary word aside, buying a used phone doesn’t have to be a bad experience. I’ve bought a number of used smartphones online over the years, and the experience has been positive almost every time.
Wait… Almost every time? Yes, that’s right. I have run into problems in a few cases, but I learned from them. Even if you give the process of buying a used phone or tablet due diligence, things can still go wrong — but there are many steps you can take to lower the likelihood of an incident, and a backup plan never hurts in the event you do run into trouble.
The tips below should help you through the process of getting a solid used smartphone, and while written primarily with phones in mind, most steps should also apply to tablets. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
1. Know what you’re looking for
You need to know what you need for before you start shopping. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have an exact model picked out, though.
Start by deciding the minimum specs you are looking for and the Android version you’re willing to live with. Also think about what screen size will suit your needs, and how much you can afford to spend. This should narrow down your choices to a handful of used smartphones.
How do you know how much you should pay when buying a used phone? Research! and compare prices.
Figure out what makes a phone mint, good, okay, or poor and decide on a minimum quality you’ll be happy with — from there, you can quickly figure out a fair price. Also. make sure the phones you’re comparing are either locked to the same network or unlocked, depending on what you are looking for.
Want to save some money? Time your buys with the release of the new iteration of the device you’re interested in. If your heart desires a used Galaxy S8, wait until the Galaxy S9 has been announced — or better yet, until it’s been on retail shelves for a few weeks.
2. Meeting the seller in person? Here are a few tips
Meeting the seller in person is a great option that gives you the chance to look at the phone before you buy it, instead of relying on pictures. Before you set the meet-up, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Before the meeting, let the seller know you’ll want to test out the device by inserting your own SIM, checking if it can charge and power up, and so forth. If the seller doesn’t agree with your request, you should probably find a different deal to pursue.
- Make sure you meet in a public location as opposed to a shady alley. It should also be during the day for both safety reasons and because it makes it easier to see the phone.
3. Inspecting the phone
At first glance, this section might seem to apply only to those buying a device in person. However, the tips below are also useful when you get the phone in the mail. They will help you detect problems early, so you can either walk away from the deal when buying a used phone in person, or start the process of getting your money back if you already bought it.
Stuff to bring with you for the inspection:
- A battery pack or a laptop, as well as a charging cable
- A microSD card if the phone supports it
- An active SIM card that is compatible with the phone you are testing
Before you even boot the phone up, give it a visual examination. Start with the screen by checking if it’s scratched. If the phone has physical keys, test them to see if they are in good condition. Also check if the front camera is cracked or damaged in any way.
Next, move to the sides and check for scratches and dents; test the buttons to see how well they click and press. Finally, move to the back to see if there is any visible damage.
If all looks good up to this point, remove the back if that’s an option. Check the battery and other components. Make sure to check whether or not the battery is original — this can make a real difference when it comes to price negotiation.
Now it is time to put in the SIM and microSD cards and turn the sucker on. Test it out by making a call, sending a text, and connecting to the internet. Make sure to check if the device recognizes the microSD card and gives you access to your files.
While you are at it, check out all the ports. Plug in your headphones and test the audio with a song or a YouTube video — if the device has a headphone jack. Make sure to also plug the handset into a power source to see if it charges.
4. Negotiating the deal
Before you start negotiating, you have to know the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the handset. The first offer you give the seller should always be lower than what you’re willing to pay. If you can’t close the deal right away, start gradually increasing your offer until you can both agree on the final price.
But when you reach your budget, make it clear that you won’t pay any more than that. If the seller wants more money, walk away from the deal and find a different one. There are a lot of used smartphones on sale, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding an alternative. Buying too quickly or settling “because you need a phone” is a surefire way to end up with a raw deal.
When negotiating for the price, point out some of the bumps and bruises the device might have. Tiny scratches likely won’t affect pricing much but bigger ones — especially if they are on the display — are bigger negotiating points.
If you take your time, watch out for shady characters, inspect the device, and are firm on what you are looking for, you can minimize the chance of getting burned.
Nevertheless, there are no guarantees when buying a used phone. Don’t let that scare you away though. I know many people who buy used phones all the time online and have never run into a problem. Sure, I also know a few that got scammed, but they could have avoided it by following the advice presented in this post.