The Used iPhone Buying Guide
The Apple iPhone is a great used smartphone to buy as Apple build quality ensures that iPhones will last a long time (as long as you don’t drop them and crack their screen). So if you want to save some money, and especially if you want to go prepaid, a used iPhone is a really solid option. In this article I will go over used iPhone prices, what to look for when buying one, and how to find a deal on craigslist. If you use the right tools you can easily get a great iPhone 3GS for$120 or an iPhone 4 for $200, so read on if that interests you.
Used iPhone Prices
The most surprising fact we found about used iPhone prices is that condition had a relatively small impact on price. Phone Fanatic has an algorithm for figuring out if a listing is for an iPhone in “new” condition, meaning it is brand new and still in the sealed box, “like new” condition, meaning it was used, but has no blemishes and looks new, “good” condition, which is our default bucket, and “broken”, meaning it has a cracked screen or is not functional. We analyzed over 120,000 craigslist listings in the US and found that “new” condition only garnered about a $30 price premium over a “good” condition phone. A “like new” condition phone is on average only $10-$15 more expensive than good condition. This is likely due to a limited set of sources sellers can use to figure out fair selling prices. The bottom line as a buyer is you really want to get the best condition phone you can find in your area. If you are skeptical you are welcome to view current listings that are classified into the four different categories here. Just click the listings tab.
In the chart you will notice four lines corresponding to listings we categorized as either “new” (brand new), “like new”, “good”, and “broken” condition. Comparing the above iPhone 4 chart to the iPhone 3GS chart below you will notice the price has dipped about $35 for the iPhone 4 vs only $15 for the iPhone 3GS. Both dropped by about 10% in the three months. Looking at the iPhone 4S the price also dropped about 10%, so maybe this is a standard deprecation rate. The nice thing about buying used you can probably use this to figure out how much you may be able to resell the phone for in let’s say a year if you were to upgrade to the better model.
Another interesting statistic we found was that memory size impact on used price is significantly less than for new phones. The 32GB iPhone 4 is $100 more expensive than the 16GB model in stores, but in the used marketplace it is only a $50 premium in “new” condition and a $34 premium in “like new” condition. So basically if you want your phone to depreciate the least when you buy it new you want to buy the most basic version available. When buying used the opposite is true.
What type of used iPhone should you get
Well the first recommendation based on the price charts above, you should try to get a “new” or “like new” iPhone as the price premium is pretty small and you will get a lot more life out of the phone. You will also have an easier time reselling it later if you take care of it. If you were to purchase a “like new” condition iPhone you could expect to pay $417, $293, and $168 for the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS respectively. So approximately a $120 jump in each generation. You can click on each of the phone names to read specs and reviews for each to see if the $120 premium is worth it. Personally I feel the iPhone 4 may be the best compromise of features and price. Plus this is the most listed phone on all of craigslist so chances of finding a deal or a good listing in your are is higher.
How to find a deal on Craigslist
The key to getting a good deal is to make an offer quickly, offer cash (at below the listing price in most cases), and offer to meet at the sellers convenience. A lot of time you have situations where people don’t want to deal with a lot of people or simply need the cash. Try to look for listings that have the original box, as that is a good sign it is not stolen. Another benefit of buying a new sealed in box iPhone. One benefit of buying “like new” though is a lot of times you can get a case and a screen protector with the phone, which can run $20-$30, so that is something to keep in mind. To make an offer quickly you may be interested in our local deal alerts. Just browse to the listing tab on any iPhone (iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS) and click the “Local Deal Alerts” link or the Deal Alert Button to get the following form
This is one of the key features of Phone Fanatic that we hope will make finding a used phone easier. You can specify your zipcode and distance you are willing to travel and we will e-mail you as soon as we find a listing that meets your price and condition settings. You can also view current listing and browse them quickly in our listing browser. If you click on a listing you can quickly navigate to the next one and previous one in one click to see if they meet your requirements. Hopefully these tools will make finding a good deal a lot less work.
The used iPhone is an excellent option if you don’t want to sign up for a new contract and want to save some money. You can get “new” unopened iPhones significantly below retail. In fact new unopened iPhones do not cost that much more than used iPhones. Again you can verify this by browsing listings yourself. The iPhone 4 is the highest volume phone on craigslist and at $309 in “new” condition can be a perfect high quality phone to use on a prepaid plan such as those offered at SmartTalk. We also found the price premium for higher memory models goes down on the second hand market so upgrade to your hearts delight. Finally if you want a deal you can sign up for a deal alert with us and we will do the deal hunting for you.
We plan to write a follow up blog with a more detailed analysis of used iPhone prices, so let us know if you have any insights that you would like to see. Just leave a comment if you have any interesting questions and we will try to answer them.