(CNN) —  

There’s no getting around it: Phones are a pricey investment. Whether it’s the latest from Samsung, Apple or even Google, there’s a lot of money involved.

Complicating the matter is the fact that if you break your phone, or even worse, lose it, you’re on the hook for even more money to get it fixed or replace it.

Instead of paying full price for one of Google’s Pixel phones, take some extra time to search for a good deal on a used or refurbished Pixel phone.

Google’s current lineup consists of the $799 Pixel 4 and $899 Pixel 4 XL. The search giant recently discontinued the Pixel 3a, and it’s already showing as out of stock in the Google Store, so if that’s the model you’ve been looking for, you have no choice but to go used.

What is the difference between used and refurbished?

Refurbished Pixel phones have been through a certification process, where Google or a third party has examined the phone, tested it and certified that it works. There may be some cosmetic defects, like scuffs on the corners or light scratches on the display, but the product listing should accurately reflect those.

Used phones are just that: used. A person has used the phone for a period of time and decided to sell it. You have to take the seller’s word that the phone is free of any issues.

As long as you take precautions and do your research, it shouldn’t matter whether you buy a used or refurbished phone. You just have to know what to look for when shopping.

What to look for

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

When buying a used or refurbished phone, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The first thing you want to look for is original photos of the phone, especially in listings from sites like eBay, where individuals can sell items. If the seller refuses to take photos of the phone, move on.

Ask for the electronic serial number (ESN) or International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of the phone, and call your carrier to check that the phone isn’t lost, stolen or still under a payment plan. If you don’t want to call your carrier, you can use Swappa’s IMEI tool to run a free basic check (more on this below).

Another thing to keep in mind is carrier support. Google sells unlocked models, allowing you to put any SIM card in the phone and use it, regardless of carrier. However, phones sold from carriers like Verizon may be locked to that service. Again, it’s a good idea to get the serial number to check with your carrier before finalizing your purchase.

Where to look

There are many sites and services where you can find used and refurbished phones, but here are some of the most reputable places you can shop online.

Decluttr

Decluttr buys old phones, tests and certifies them, and offers a 12-month warranty for every phone sold on its site. Not only are you saving money, but the purchase comes with peace of mind — something that you don’t often get when buying a used or refurbished phone.

When browsing Decluttr’s Pixel listing, you’ll find the phone’s condition, storage amount, color and carrier support. A “pristine” 64 GB Pixel 3a is $284.99, or if you want something a little newer, you can get a “good” Pixel 4XL for $524.99.

eBay

If you have patience and don’t mind playing the bidding game, eBay is another reputable place to look for a deal. Of course, you’ll want to follow our best practices when buying from a third party, including going through the seller’s rating and reviews.

If you don’t want a bidding war, narrow your search results for “Buy It Now” listings, where if the listing checks out, you can make a purchase without any back and forth.

Just make sure to read the fine print on each listing to verify whether the phone you’re buying comes with any sort of warranty. Even if it is limited to just a few months, that added peace of mind is worth it.

Gazelle

Gazelle is one of the leading online stores for selling used electronics. Naturally, its selection of Pixel phones is extensive and, yes, affordable. Gazelle lets you narrow the search results by device condition, model or price.

Similar to Decluttr, Gazelle puts each device it receives through a 30-point inspection before listing it. Every device purchased from Gazelle comes with a 30-day return policy for a full refund.

Swappa

Anyone can sign up for a Swappa account and buy or sell used devices. But unlike, say Craigslist, Swappa requires sellers to take several photos of the device with a unique listing number visible in each picture. The photos also need to show the overall condition of the phone, including a functioning display.

Swappa also checks the IMEI or ESN of each phone listed on its site, ensuring the phone hasn’t been reported lost or stolen. And even if you’re not using Swappa to buy a new-to-you phone, you can use its ESN check tool to verify a device isn’t reported stolen.

Turn that old phone into cash

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

On the flip side, if you’ve recently upgraded to the latest Pixel (or another phone, for that matter), trade-in your old Pixel to help offset the cost of your new phone.

Decluttr and Gazelle accept trade-ins, with prices ranging from $60 for a 128 GB Pixel 2 XL on Declutter to $132 for a 64 GB Pixel 3 XL on Gazelle. Both sites only take a few minutes to get an offer from, after you answer a few questions about the phone’s condition.

Alternatively, you can list your old gadgets on Swappa to try and squeeze a little more money out of potential buyers.

The best advice, whether you’re buying or selling, is to have patience, shop around and buy from a company you’re comfortable with.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.