Should you buy a second hand iPhone? Pros and cons, what to look for

iPhones have doubled in price in just a few years and with new models coming out every year, it is costly to keep up with the latest tech. A second-hand iPhone might suit you better.

There are people that buy a new iPhone every year when the latest model is launched. Every September for the last decade there has been new iPhones and some people like to have the latest technology.

With up to three new models on offer and a lot of hype surrounding their launch, you may be tempted to buy one. However, there are several reasons why you should not upgrade every year.

  • New models are better than previous ones, but the differences are often small
  • Your current iPhone is probably still working well and still looks great
  • It costs a lot of money to change your perfectly good iPhone every year

What happens to all the old iPhones when people upgrade to the latest one?

  • Passed on to others, such as partners or children
  • Traded in at the phone store or Apple Store for the latest model
  • Purchased by recycling sites and sites that purchase electronic goods
  • Sold on online on websites like eBay, Amazon and others

Sources of second hand iPhones

There are many sources of second hand iPhones and some are as little as a year old. Some people keep their phones for two years, but with a life of around five years before Apple declares them obsolete and stops updating them, you can still get several years use out of a pre-owned model.


If you have not yet discovered it, Apple has a Refurbished section in the store on its website that contains nearly-new and perfect-condition used iPhones. If you placed a new iPhone and a Refurbished iPhone next to each other you would not be able to tell the difference. They come in original packaging and with the same warranty as a new model.

You won’t find a better second-hand iPhone and the phone and the buying experience is identical to new. Unsurprisingly, the prices are higher than other sources, but you won’t find better quality or more comprehensive warranty.

Refurbished iPhones on the Apple website

Go to the Apple home page, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Refurbished and Clearance. Click iPhone to see what is on offer. It changes weekly or even daily, so if the model you want, like an iPhone 8 Plus or an X is not available, come back in a few days and you might see one.


eBay is a great place to find bargains and there are some very cheap iPhones on offer. Apple tends to sell the high specification models, like 128 or 256 GB, but eBay has lower specification ones, like 32 or 64 GB, which are cheaper if you don’t need a lot of storage.

The quality of the iPhones on offer varies and you need to pay attention to the seller’s description. For example, it may say that there is some cosmetic wear, which could mean a small scratch or two, or minor scuff marks.

An iPhone listing on the eBay website

Look whether the iPhone is locked to a network because it will only work on that network. That’s fine if you currently use that network, but if you are on a different one you will need to switch. Get an unlocked iPhone if you don’t want the hassle of switching networks.

Check the description and condition of items in eBay auctions

Check the seller’s reputation carefully by looking at their rating and the number of times they have been rated. Beware of low numbers of ratings because they may not be real. It is safer to buy from sellers with high numbers of satisfied buyers.

Don’t expect a warranty. If it goes wrong two months later then it is tough luck. It is unlikely and if the iPhone is working when it arrives, it will mostly likely work for a long time. The only issue is battery condition if the iPhone is several years old. They can be replaced though.

eBay has a money-back guarantee which offers some protection when purchasing goods on the site.


Not only are new iPhones available from Amazon, second hand ones are too. Search for an iPhone model at the site and look for ones that are listed as Renewed. The availability of models varies, so if you don’t see the one you want or the price you want, search again in a few days or next week.

Amazon renewed iPhones

Check the storage capacity and whether they are locked to a network or unlocked.

The great thing about Amazon Renewed products is that they are backed by an Amazon warranty, which makes them a much safer purchase than eBay. Both the seller and the iPhone have been checked and there is less chance of anything going wrong with the purchase or the phone.

The length of the warranty varies and in the US it can be as little as 90 days, but it is up to a year in some countries.


Select Marketplace in the Facebook sidebar and search for iPhone. There are likely to be many models available and the models, age, quality and prices vary enormously. There are some very old models, some with cracked screens or dents, all the way up to quite recent models in nearly new condition. Prices vary.

Facebook Marketplace has many second hand iPhones for sale

Beware of dodgy sellers and try to research them as best you can to make sure they are trustworthy and reliable. Send messages, get them to check the battery health, ask about marks and dents, whether it is locked to a network or unlocked, and so on.

A great feature of Facebook Marketplace is that it finds local sellers within easy travelling distance of your location. This means that when you find a second hand bargain iPhone, you could go and see it or arrange to meet up somewhere. Not on your own in a dark place at night, with a pocket full of cash obviously – be sensible!

Be careful when buying because there isn’t a warranty and items may not be as described, so check them before handing over any money. See Buying something on Facebook Marketplace.

Other sources of second hand iPhones

An online search for ‘second hand iphone’ or variations of that phrase like ‘pre-owned’ or ‘refurbished’ will produce many results and there are numerous websites selling devices. This is helped by the large number of people that upgrade their iPhone every year or two and there are a lot of one and two year old models that are still in excellent condition.

Check what you are getting, such as the storage and whether it is network locked or unlocked. See if there is a warranty or returns policy and so on. As with buying anywhere online, do your research on the seller. It is easy to create a website and look like a quality, professional company, so spend some time checking them out and make sure it is real.

Keep an eye on your friends, especially those that frequently upgrade to the latest model of iPhone. You may be able to get a good deal from them by buying their old phone off them, relieving them of the task of having to sell it.