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Four Things to Know Before Buying the Used Phone on eBay

used phones

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Having a great phone that can handle games, stream and take great photos does not mean spending a fortune on the latest flagships that iPhone 1

1 Pro or Galaxy S20 Ultra. Buying an older phone, which is used, can save a lot of money, but still put some amazing hardware in your pocket. Even better, it saves a phone from going to landfills, which we can all agree is good.

But there are some important things to think about 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 large 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 it will dictate what kind 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 don’t need flagship levels. Something that 2018’s Samsung Galaxy A8 will probably suit you.


Think about what features you really need in a phone. Is having a buttonless screen really worth splashing extra money on a modern handset?

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

However, if you really use your photography, you may want to spend a little more on something that has a decent camera on the back. If so, something like an iPhone X ($ 900 on Boost Mobile) maybe fits, 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 with a higher price.

Buy from a reliable source

Not every telemarketer has your best interests at heart, so it’s important to be proficient with your shopping. Some places to avoid should be obvious. For example, don’t buy the guy who sells phones in a street corner, but others may get hit and miss.

eBay is a well known source for buying everything used and there is a great selection of phones available. Some of these are sold by renovation companies that only deal with buying and selling used mobile 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, looking for the nuggets you actually want. See the next section for more tips on buying on eBay.

However, my best advice is to go to trusted companies that buy old phones, renovate them and sell them on. I have used MusicMagpie in the UK and had no problems. Its online directory is huge, it clearly shows the condition of the phones, every handset is reset from the factory and you get a 12 month warranty on every purchase. Prices may be a bit higher than you find on eBay but peace of mind does 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 trading mobile phones for iPhones and Android phones

Samsung Galaxy-s8-64gb-black-unlocked-very-good-musicmagpie-store-google-chrome-07-07-2020-10-39-15.png

MusicMagpie’s product pages make it very easy to see the condition of the exact phone you buy.

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. Read carefully what the list says, including any small print that may be hidden further down, among other details. It could be that phrases like “not working” or “battery failure” were 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 kind of junk and scratches you can expect to see.

Use your common sense here – if an $ 1,000 iPhone is sold for only $ 100, there’s probably something fishy going on. Was not the guy who bought a picture of an Xbox One for $ 735.


Although the latest software has been installed, this Galaxy S6’s latest security update was applied in 2018. That means there are two years of new exploits for which this phone is susceptible.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Make sure it still gets security updates

I’ll make this as clear as possible: Don’t buy a phone that no longer receives security updates from the manufacturer. Unsupported phones are open to any type of vulnerability that can give hackers easy access to every single information on your handset – or even control it completely. These banking details, the cute pictures of your kids, the sexy selfies you sent to your partner – everything can be accessed and stolen.

Most Android phone manufacturers usually support their phones for two to three years. However, Apple is taking this further and even supports the 2015 iPhone 6S ($ 129 at Back Market) with the latest iOS 13.

It is frustrating that phones are no longer supported, as the hardware remains perfectly capable, but the outdated software makes the phones vulnerable. I recently compared 2017 Galaxy S8 for the brand new Moto G Power and while the S8 performed excellently, it is right on cusp to be turned off from Samsung’s regular updates, which means it won’t be long before it gradually becomes less secure to use.

The best option is to look at phones that came out in the last two years and therefore probably still get security updates. When you find a phone that fits, you google the model name and try to find out if it is still getting updates, and if there is any indication of how much longer it will get them. Companies do not provide information about when they cut a product, but by looking at what other models are still supported you can make a fair estimate.

Galaxy S9 crops Andrew-hoyle

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

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Galaxy S8 ($ 198 at Back Market)for example, is still listed on Samsung’s support page as getting updates, but it probably won’t be that long anymore. 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 you choose your phone you will reset the factory completely yourself and make sure all available software updates are available before doing anything else.

If you want to save some money by buying second hand, be sure to read the entire article about 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 are not interested in buying 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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