How To Get The Best Deal When Buying a Secondhand Phone

On: January 22, 2015


Smartphones are everywhere! You too must’ve dreamt to own an expensive, fast-performing smartphone. It may be because you’re a geek and settling with a mid-range device won’t satisfy the gadget lover within you. Or…maybe you’re just a value conscious buyer who wants a beast of a performer at a pocket-friendly cost. If you fall under the above mentioned categories, you would have considered buying a second hand phone.

The used phone market is a very tricky place, but if you’ve got your fundas right — you can find the best deal. If you’re lucky, you could find the phone of your dreams at half or even a third of its price. Let me help you understand all the things to keep in mind while making a second hand purchase. 

Choosing the Right Used Phone for Yourself

Firstly, don’t opt for phones that are older than a year and a half. You might just find one at a temptingly low price, but it does not make any sense to get hold of a phone which might become outdated in a couple of months. Smartphones today get outdated in just a matter of six months! Instead, look at phones that got good reviews upon launch. Popular phones need not necessarily mean good phones — just take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Grand. Upon launch, people pounced on that phone because it seemed like a good buy at Rs. 20,000. But within a year, I know many of them who were utterly frustrated with the laggy, buggy software experience and even hardware flaws, that they dumped it to save their life.

Lastly, don’t miss out on checking if these phones have a sight of software updates in future. As a rule of the thumb, try to get a phone that’s at least one software update below the most recent version of the OS. For e.g, today if Android 5.0 Lollipop is the latest OS, don’t buy phones that are under v4.4 KitKat. Also, it’d be ideal if device has at least have one step-up update from the current version to ensure that you have a bug-fixed journey with your new affordable possession.

Where to Buy? How To Be Safe!

After deciding on what phone you are looking for, decide on where will you buy it from. Many consumers trade-in their phones at local shops to buy their next new phone from the same shop for some obvious savings. However, generally buying from these local dealers / resellers adds more layers in between and chances are that you will get it at a higher price. The chances of tampering / repairing etc also goes up when you get the phone from a second hand phone dealer. You may look at fast growing Marketplaces like Olx or Quikr, where you will find direct consumers selling phones. Or you may even want to look up friends (& friends of friends) on Facebook / Twitter who are selling their old phone, after all they are just a status update away. This is a plus point, considering an anonymous seller might just hide some of the phone’s flaws. Now, considering that you’ve decided on what phone you want to go for and where you will buy it from, learn how to get the perfect value for it.

Getting The Best Value When Buying an Old Phone

The cheat sheet I’m mentioning below is a rough estimate, and prices may differ depending on the popularity/success of the phone. Latest prices can be sourced from and second hand prices from and Olx.


  • 70%-60% of the current value of the phone is the approximate price you should pay for a phone launched less than 1 year ago and is under warranty. E.g. Samsung Galaxy Note III’s price is Rs. 35,000, Rs. 24,500 is what you should buy it at.
  • 60%-50% of the current value of the phone is the approximate price you should pay for a phone launched 1+ year back selling without warranty. Eg. Google Nexus 5’s price is Rs. 32,000. Rs. 18,000 should be its price out of warranty. Also a successor (Nexus 6, in this case) launching would have a benefitting impact on resale value of the product.
  • 70 – 80% of the current value of the phone is the approximate price you should pay for a phone launched 6 months ago.
  • 80 – 90% of the current value of the phone is the approximate price you should pay for a phone launched 3 months ago. Of course we are assuming here that the original buyer has the bill & you would get the warranty cover.

If the phone is out of warranty, it’s may be hard to get a bill but don’t risk buying without a box. The bill has the IMEI number punched in which is phone’s identity. Having that ensures that the owner of the phone has purchased it from an authentic outlet. The box doubly ensures that it’s not a stolen product, as its hard to pick pocket a box along with the phone (duh!). Check the IMEI by dialing *#06# and match it with the bill or the box, if it doesn’t match, then you should bid the seller goodbye. If the phone is having a non-removable battery where the identification number is generally found, the IMEI will mostly be embossed on the SIM tray.

[Caution: Do note that stolen phones can be traced by police and cause you a lot of nuisance if you are the one using it when they track it via telecom networks. It is highly recommended to have a photo ID & address of the person selling you the phone.]

If you are buying from an online marketplace — Try to negotiate as much as you can and don’t settle on for the price they’ve quoted on the website. Pro tips – You’re better off without the cases, memory cards and other such add-ons that they are trying to sell with the phone to increase the selling price. Do not pay with online bank transfer. Do not meet the seller at a shady location. Select a public place, coffee shops works best for most cases as you get to know background details of the phone and information on why the seller wants to sell the phone at a safe location. Try to get the seller’s warranty for at least 10 day period, meaning, if anything happens to the phone within the 10 day window, then you can just give it back and get your full cash refund. In most cases you won’t get a warranty but a seller giving a verbal assurance is still a good sign.

Once you have the phone in hand, go the Sherlock way on inspecting the device! Don’t hesitate in asking any questions you have in mind to the owner, so that you don’t have to live with it.

  •  Check for scratches on the display — did the seller bother applying a scratch guard or was it applied after getting a scratch. Most people fool you by applying a clean new screen guard a day before selling so that it looks new. So I advise you to remove the screen guard on the spot while you inspect. Check the display on full brightness and open an image of a solid colour in full-screen, if there are any dead pixels, it will call you out 😉 More the damage, the more you can negotiate. Avoid buying phones with minor cracks in the display, as in future, the display will cost you a tank!


  • We often place the phone on its back while putting it on a surface, so the most worn-off portion is typically observed on the center of the back. If the phone is having a removable back cover, you can probably change it if the scuffs are too much for you. It might be a problem if its a non-removable back body.


  • Make sure that the phone has experienced less falls on its edges. So check all the four corners of the device.


  • Test the buttons on the device over and over. Hit power button and home button multiple times to see if the button misses on acknowledging any input. Or use volume up down while playing music and testing the speakers at the same time.
  • Also play some track via headphone to check the headphone jack while you’re at it. It’s very important to check the USB charging port connection as its going to be the most used port on the device. Use the cable or charger provided in the box so that you test the accessories as well. If he doesn’t provide you with any accessory, you’ve just increased your chances to negotiate more while locking the deal.


  • Look for other cosmetic damages, like the color on the rim starts to peel off after certain point or the camera glass has acute scratches that may affect the camera results.
  • And to conclude your testing, move on to the software. Use the phone for at least 15 minutes. This is where you test the battery on the phone for known issues like faster drainage by using testing softwares on app store. See if the phone lags after opening multiple apps and while performing multitasking and also if it gets excessively hot. Every electronic device is bound to get warm, but if it is unbearable to hold, then something’s wrong. Use the camera for a while to check this.

When you are assured that the phone is fault free, perform a reset and give the seller a wide smile of satisfaction. Try a final negotiation 😛 and lock the deal. Make the best use of the 10 day warranty if the seller approved of it by using the phone extensively. Get a decent scratch guard for it, update all the apps and you’re good to go!

Got more tips? Drop a comment below or ping me on twitter @SwizzleKhan.

Saif Khan

Saif is an autodidact techie and ninja photo-video guy who works for PriceBaba and rhythmic focus. He loves to jolt down his views about tech occasionally. Say Hi to him at @SwizzleKhan on Twitter!


    • Chandra Shekhar Singh
    • February 3, 2015

    Very helpful article. Will surely share it with my friends

  1. What’s up, of course this article is actually nice and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging.

    • Pranaythakur
    • January 16, 2016

    hi,I bought blackberry q10used phone after a month it shows simcard not detected i went to service centre they told me problem with motherboard

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