Should You Buy A New Or Used Smartphone?
A new smartphone purchase can be a difficult decision — should you buy Android or iOS? New or used? On contract or an outright purchase? The questions can go on forever, but one of the biggest areas that hang people up today is whether to buy new or used smartphones. Smartphones have gotten extremely expensive, particularly on the Apple end of the spectrum — the iPhone XS Max with 512GB of storage sets you back almost $1500 or around $52 per month. On the Android side of the spectrum, a Google Pixel 2 XL with its maximum amount of storage — 128GB — will set you back just under $1000.
While Google’s phone is noticeably less costly than the iPhone XS Max, it’s still a hefty price to pay, which has consumers looking at the used market for cheaper options. So should you buy new or used? Is there one that ends up being more cost effective than the other? What are the pros and cons of buying used? Here’s what you need to know.
New versus Used
Buying new and used smartphones have both pros and cons to them. Buying new is almost always the more expensive way to go, and is usually high dependent on whether or not you have the money to spend on an expensive phone like the Google Pixel 2 XL or iPhone XS Max. Payment plans have made these phones easier to swallow, but you still have to consider a $20 to $50 per month additional payment tacked on your phone bill.
The “pro” to this is that you have a smartphone with no blemishes that just works straight out of the box. The con is definitely the “new” price you’re paying, possibly having another additional bill to pay per month, sometimes a contract that you are stuck to, and the fact that that smartphone is locked to the carrier until you pay it off.
If you’re concerned about cost, “used’ smartphones are the way to go. As a general rule, you can get a flagship phone, such as an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, for around 50% of the cost of what it would cost brand new. The “pro” is that you save money and still have a great smartphone, but the “con” is that it might have some blemishes on the rails or tiny scratches on the screen or glass around the back.
That said, the choice ultimately comes down to what you can afford and whether or not you want to spend a large price on a new flagship smartphone. However, and generally speaking, it’s much more cost effective to grab something used from a buyer-protected smartphone website like Swappa.
What to watch out for in used phones
Buying used phones are more cost effective, but you do have to be more careful in your purchases. You’ll want to stay away from sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for your smartphone purchases, as someone could very easily sell you a blacklisted device, “fake” smartphone, or one that’s locked to a specific carrier, if you don’t know what to look out for.
Stick to sites like Swappa or eBay where buyers are protected from sleazy sellers or people that are trying to pull a fast one.
You also want to make sure that the hardware you’re getting is up to far. Sites like Swappa don’t let sellers sell garbage on their platform, but you do need to keep an eye out for things like battery replacements. If you’re buying an iPhone, ask sellers to take a picture of the Battery Life left in the phone. If it’s below 80%, you can expect to soon have to pay Apple to replace the battery in the phone soon, so that might be a phone you want to avoid or negotiate down. Make sure you get detailed pictures overall so you can make sure you know what you’re getting — you’re going to want to know of every scratch and nick on that phone.
Smartphones powered by Android are a little more difficult. There’s no way to see how much Battery Life is left in Android smartphone, so if it’s been used a year or more, you can expect to need to have a phone repair shop replace it soon. Or, if the phone has a removable battery, you can replace it yourself.
You do need to pay attention to the age of Android phones. The older they are, the slower they are, and they continue to get slower as the days go by. This is largely due to poor software support by most manufacturers (few phones are kept up to date to the latest version of Android). However, you should be pretty safe with flagship devices, such as the Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8, Note 8, or LG G7 ThinQ. Flagship devices are generally a company’s primary focus, so you not only get great, long-lasting hardware, but a few years of software support as well.
If you’re looking to save money, buying a used smartphone can keep a ton of money in your pocketbook, you just need to pay extra attention to what you’re buying. If you were on the fence about used, don’t let that stop you, as there are a lot of great gently used phones that can be had for a steep discount. However, if money isn’t an issue, or you don’t care about the price that payment plans bring, buy a new phone and don’t worry about the hassle of searching through used products.