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Home / Tips and Tricks / Are you buying a used or refurbished phone on eBay? Not so fast

Are you buying a used or refurbished phone on eBay? Not so fast

used phones

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Having a good phone that can handle games, streaming and taking great pictures does not mean that you spend a fortune on the latest flagships that iPhone 1

1 Pro or Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Buying an older phone, used, can save a lot of money, but still puts some great hardware in your pocket. Even better, it saves a phone from going to landfill, which we can all agree is good.

But there are some important things to keep in mind if you want the best phone for your money and you want to be sure when you get it. Here are our top tips on how to safely buy a good used phone, whether you want an iPhone ($ 699 at Apple) or Android.

What features do you need?

First, think about what you actually need from a phone, as this will dictate the type of level you need to aim for. If you just want something to handle some casual WhatsApp messages and play Spotify on your commute, you do not need flagship levels. Something like the 2018 Samsung Galaxy A8 ($ 499 on Amazon) will probably suit you well.


Think about what features you really need in a phone. Is it really worth throwing an extra button on a modern phone with a buttonless screen?

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

But if you really like photography, you might want to spend a little more on something that has a decent camera on the back. In that case, something like an iPhone X ($ 900 on Boost Mobile) can fit, or a Galaxy S9 ($ 230 at Back Market). You need to find the balance between the performance you need and the price you are happy to pay. Newer phones with more modern features come at a higher price.

Buy from a trusted source

Not all telemarketers have your best interests at heart, so it’s important to be smart with your shopping. Some places to avoid should be obvious; Do not buy from the guy who sells phones on a street corner, for example, but others may be affected and missed.

eBay is a well known source for buying anything used and there is a large selection of phones to get. Some of these are sold by renovation companies that only deal in buying and selling used phones. Others are just ordinary people trying to download their old devices when they upgrade. The result is that it can sometimes feel like panning for gold and looking for the nuggets you actually want. See the next section for more buying tips on eBay.

However, my best advice is to go to trusted companies that buy old phones, renovate them and resell them. I have used MusicMagpie in the UK and had no problems. Its online catalog is huge, it clearly shows the condition of the phones, each phone is factory reset and you get a 12 month warranty with every purchase. Prices may be a little higher than you would find on eBay but peace of mind compensates more than that. Gazelle offers a similar service in the US, although we have not tested it ourselves so we can not guarantee the overall quality of the service.

Read more: Best options for replacing mobile phones for iPhones and Android phones


MusicMagpie’s product pages make it very easy to see the status of the exact phone you are buying.

MusicMagpie / Screenshot by Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Check the details

Whether you are buying from eBay, Amazon Marketplace or elsewhere, it is important to be careful about what you actually get. Carefully read what is in the list, including small prints that can be hidden further down, among other things. Phrases like “not working” or “battery faults” may be intentionally buried to trick people into buying a phone that no longer works. They will probably also explain if you get the original charging cable, the packaging and what type of ropes and scratches you can expect to see.

Use your common sense here – if a $ 1000 iPhone sells for only $ 100, it’s probably something fishy going on. Was not the guy who bought a picture of an Xbox One for $ 735.


Although the latest software was installed, this Galaxy S6’s latest security update was applied in 2018. This means that there are two years of new exploits that this phone is susceptible to.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Make sure it still gets security updates

I will make this as clear as possible: Do not buy a phone that no longer receives security updates from the manufacturer. Unsupported phones are open to all kinds of vulnerabilities that can give hackers easy access to every single piece of information on your phone – or even control it completely. The bank details, the cute pictures from your children, the sexy selfies you sent to your partner – everything can be accessed and stolen.

Most Android phone manufacturers tend to support their phones for two to three years. Apple takes it further but also supports the 2015 iPhone 6S ($ 128 at Back Market) with the latest iOS 13.

It is frustrating that phones are no longer supported, as the hardware remains fully capable, but the outdated software makes the phones vulnerable. I have recently compared 2017 Galaxy S8 for the all-new Moto G Power and while the S8 performed excellently, it’s just about to be cut off from Samsung’s regular updates, which means it’s not long before it’s gradually becoming less secure to use.

Your best bet is to look at phones that came out in the last two years and therefore are likely to still receive security updates. When you find a phone that fits, google the model name and try to find out if it still gets updates, and if there is an indication of how much longer it will get them. Companies do not provide information on when to cut a product loose, but by looking at which other models are still supported, you can make a fair estimate.


The Galaxy S9, which is a newer model than the S8, is likely to continue to receive security updates for longer.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Galaxy S8 ($ 205 at Back Market)for example, is still listed on Samsung’s support page to get updates, but it probably won’t be that much longer. It is reasonably safe to assume that the S9 (launched one year after the S8) will have at least another year of safe use. Buying a used S9 may cost a little more than a used S8, but it is an investment that will be safer for you in the long run.

Make sure that when your optional phone arrives you fully reset it yourself and make sure all available software updates are available before doing anything else.

If you want to save some money by buying used, be sure to read our full article on safety advice you need to be aware of. See also how the old The S8 is compared to the latest Moto G Power. If you do not want to buy used but still do not want to spend all your savings, take a look at our summary of the best phones under $ 200.

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