Bargain buy or false economy? The truth about used smartphones

|     Isabelle Modler     |

BRAND new tech gear can be expensive. If you don’t have 800 euros (US$940) to spend on a new smartphone, you might be tempted to search for a second-hand bargain on the net. But does it make sense to avail of used devices?

Buying second-hand tech is worthwhile in some cases, according to Rita Deutschbein of the website If there are signs of wear and tear on the device, or it is an older model, you might well get a bargain – but you will rarely make savings with current models, she says.

A recent survey by German consumer goods tester Stiftung Warentest confirms this theory. “In our test, more than half of the second-hand models, some of which were up to three years old, were more expensive than the current new price,” says the organisation’s Sandra Schwarz.

“For all others, the savings for buyers averaged 20 euros.”

One device where you can make decent savings is the iPhone – older models, especially after the introduction of a new model, are often cheaper than in retail outlets, Deutschbein says. Savings of between 50 and 100 euros are possible.

Buying a second-hand smartphone is worthwhile in some cases, according to experts, but it’s a good idea to consider exactly what you need the device for. – DPA

Of course, there’s always a residual risk with used devices as their history is unknown. “So it’s a matter of luck if you can make a saving and the device works properly,” Schwarz says.

Stiftung Warentest found problems in several of the second-hand phones tested, including swollen batteries, display brightness that couldn’t be dimmed and phones that crashed all the time. Schwarz advises that it’s better to search for new products first.

She also warns against what look like super bargains. “These can be counterfeits or phones assembled from old parts.”

There are exceptions. “For example, if it’s intended as a second device or as an entry-level smartphone for a schoolchild,” Deutschbein says. “Here, it’s often not bad if the model has a few scratches.”

You should find out whether the second-hand device comes with any residual guarantee or warranty and, if it does, ensure you get the document from the buyer. Another point to consider is whether a device shipped from abroad will attract custom charges in your home country.

You should also pay close attention to any images of the phone to ascertain its condition or, ideally, actually see the device before buying it. “If possible, a prior view of the model is recommended,” Deutschbein says.

Finally, before buying a second-hand device, Schwarz advises people to consider the ecological point of view. “Instead of buying a used phone, you could repair the old one.” – dpa