Mobile technology

Thinking of buying a used phone? Check these 5 things before you do!

Jack McLoughlin

30 Sep 2021

Buying a second-hand phone can be a great option if you’re looking to save some money. But before you hand over your hard earned cash, here’s a few things you should keep in mind.

Why buy a second hand phone?

It might come as a surprise that used phones now make up 10% of global smartphone sales.

But with flagship makers Apple, Samsung and Huawei releasing phones priced at $1000+ every couple of years, for many of us, better value for money can be found in the second hand market.

On average, phones can be found for 10-15% cheaper if bought second hand within a few months, and as much as 50% within a couple of years.

As phone features, battery life and storage sizes continue to advance, used phones are becoming more attractive to buy.

5 things to check when buying a used phone:

1. Check the serial and IMEI number

This should be the first thing you check, whether you buy the phone online or in person. If they are unable to provide this, it’s a red flag that the phone may be stolen or a fake.

Once you have either of these numbers, check them against the receipt or the box if it’s provided.

Next, enter the IMEI number into an IMEI tool online. This will provide you with all the information about the phone, to prove it’s legitimate.

2. Check the physical condition of the phone

The cosmetic condition is often a sign of how the phone has been looked after (or not!)

If you’re meeting in person, check for any obvious damage to the screen, charging port, headphone jack and camera lens.

Even if the phone looks good in photos, you may be able to notice a loose screen, different screws or damage that suggests there has been repairs made to it. A good test is to turn the brightness to 100% to check for screen scratches which might not be so obvious.

If you are purchasing online, ask the seller to provide more close up photos or a detailed video of the phone turned on. If they are a genuine seller, they should have no problem providing this.

3. Check the ports and battery life

Bring your own charger and headphones to check that the battery charges and the sound works. You can also get photo or video proof of these working from online sellers.

Most new smartphones now have a section under the battery settings that will tell you the health of the battery.

A score between 90-100% indicates good battery health, 80-90% is average, and anything below 80% would require a replacement battery.

4. Check the functions all work

Once you’re happy with the physical condition, make sure all the functions work:

  • Perform a call and make sure it connects

  • Send a text and make sure it delivers

  • Play something on the speaker to check it works

  • Load a website (!) in the browser to make sure the internet connects

  • Take a picture and check the quality matches what you expect

  • Make sure the wi-fi and hotspot connects

Of course if you are buying a used phone online you won't be able to check these things, so make sure it comes with a warranty so if there are any issues, you can get a refund.

5. Consider where you are buying your phone from

A quick Google search will show you there are many second-hand online marketplaces to purchase from.

If available, check the sellers’ ratings and read their reviews before buying to make sure they are legitimate.

Trusted website such as Back Market advertise their warranty and buyer protection. Although their models may be more expensive in terms of second hand prices, they come with a greater guarantee:

If you are buying through a social media marketplace or from a stranger on a classifieds site, make sure to follow these steps:

  • Ask them to provide proof of purchase and the original box if they have it

  • Tell them in advance you will inspect the phone when you meet, so you don't feel pressured to purchase

  • Always meet in a public place

  • Only hand over cash or send money once you have seen the phone

There are a lot of great second hand phones out there on the market and you can save a lot of money by going this way. Once you’ve got your phone setup, download the Ding app and keep you and your loved one's phone topped up.

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Thinking of buying a used phone? Check these 5 things before you do!