Should you buy this used phone on eBay? 4 things to think about

mobtkr27 June 2022Last Update : 1 month ago
Should you buy this used phone on eBay? 4 things to think about

The iPhone 13 Pro Where Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra get the latest and greatest in phone technology: supercharged processors, 5G connectivity and the best cameras. But they also come with sky-high prices that are simply out of reach (or unnecessary) for many of us. Even Google is slightly more affordable Pixel 6 Pro Still costs $899, which is hard to swallow, especially at a time when many of us are watching our spending more closely.

Buying an old phone from the previous generation can save you a lot of money while still allowing you to put very powerful mobile hardware in your pocket. These phones will include your daily essentials, as well as things like photo editing, gaming, and video streaming. Best of all, it saves a phone from going to the landfill, which we can all agree is a good thing.

But there are key things to keep in mind if you want the best phone for your money and want to stay safe when you get it. Here are our top tips for safely buying a great used phone, whether you want an iPhone ($500 at Best Buy) or an Android phone.

What features are the most important in a phone?

First, consider what you actually need from your phone, as this will determine what kind of tier (and budget) you need. If you just want something more basic to handle the occasional WhatsApp message and play Spotify on your commute, you don’t need flagship performance levels. Therefore, a low-end phone with a lower price tag will do just fine.

Think about the features you really need in a phone. Is having a buttonless display really worth spending the extra cash on a more modern handset?

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If, however, you’re really into phone photography, you might want to spend a bit more on something with a decent camera. In this case, something like an iPhone X ($295 on Amazon) or one Galaxy S10
may be preferable. You’ll need to find that balance between the performance you need and the price you’re happy to pay. Newer phones with more modern features and better performance will come at a higher price.

Buy from a trusted source

Not all phone sellers have your best interests at heart, so it’s important to be savvy when shopping. Some places to avoid should be obvious; don’t buy from the guy who sells phones on the corner in a big box, for example. Others may be random.

eBay is a well-known source for buying used items, and there’s a huge selection of phones. Some of them are sold by refurbishment companies that are dedicated solely to buying and selling used handsets. Others are ordinary people trying to unload their old devices while upgrading. The result is that it can sometimes feel like panning for gold, looking for the nuggets you really want. See the next section for more tips on buying on eBay.

My best advice, however, is to go to trusted companies that buy old phones, refurbish them, and resell them. I’ve used MusicMagpie in the UK and had no issues. Its online catalog is extensive, it clearly lists the condition of the phones, every handset is factory reset, and you get a 12-month warranty with every purchase. Prices may be a little higher than on eBay, but the peace of mind more than makes up for it. They also offer rental options if you can’t bear to spend the money up front. Gazelle offers a similar service in the United States, although we have not tested this ourselves and therefore cannot guarantee the overall quality of the service.

A screenshot of the MusicMagpie product page for the Galaxy S20

MusicMagpie’s product pages make it super easy to see the condition of the exact phone you’re buying.

MusicMagpie/Screenshot by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Check the details on the listing

Whether you’re buying on eBay, Amazon Marketplace, or elsewhere, it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re actually getting. Read the list carefully, including fine print that might be hidden below among other details. Phrases such as “not working” or “faulty battery” may be intentionally buried to trick people into buying a phone that no longer works. They’ll also likely tell you if you’re getting the original charging cable, the packaging, and what kind of nicks and scratches you can expect.

Use common sense here: if a $1,000 iPhone is selling for just $100, something fishy is probably going on. Don’t be the guy who bought a picture of an xbox one for $735.


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

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Don’t buy phones without recent security updates

I’ll be as clear as possible: don’t buy a phone that no longer receives security updates from its manufacturer. Unsupported phones are open to all sorts of vulnerabilities which can give hackers easy access to every piece of information on your handset – or even control it completely. Those bank details, cute photos of your kids, sexy selfies you sent to your partner – it could all be accessed and stolen.

Most Android phone manufacturers tend to support their handsets for two to three years. Apple goes further, however, by supporting even the 2015 iPhone 6S ($200 on eBay) with the latest iOS 15.4 (from June 2022). However, Google’s Pixel 3 2018 is no longer officially supported, and the Pixel 4 only receives “guaranteed” security updates until October 2022, according to Google’s support page.

It’s frustrating that the phones aren’t supported any longer, as the hardware is still fully capable of handling most day-to-day tasks you’re likely to need. Some (like the Pixel 4) still pack great cameras that would take great photos on your next vacation. But outdated software makes phones vulnerable, and it’s just not advisable to continue using phones outside of their support period.

Your best bet is to look at phones that have been released within the last couple of years and therefore are likely still getting security updates. When you find a phone that suits you, search for the model name and try to find out if it is still receiving updates, and if there is any indication of how long it will receive them. Companies don’t provide information on when they cut a product, but by looking at what other models are supported, you should be able to make a fair estimate.


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

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Galaxy S10, for example, is still listed on Samsung’s support page as receiving quarterly security updates, while 2018’s Galaxy A9 is only listed as receiving semi-annual updates. It’s reasonably safe to assume that the A9 will be cut from the support period sooner, so opting for a slightly newer handset like the S10 or even the Galaxy S20 2020 usually means you’ll have more time with the phone before that. ‘it only becomes more and more dangerous to use. It may cost a bit more, but you’ll get more uptime with it.

Make sure that when your phone of choice arrives that you fully factory reset it and make sure to check for any available software updates before doing anything else.

If you want to save money buying used, be sure to check out our full article on the safety tips you need to be aware of. If you don’t want to buy used but still don’t want to spend all your savings, take a look at our roundup of best phones under $200.

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