Used Google Pixels: A guide on where and how to buy one along with how to trade-in

Jason Cipriani, CNN Underscored
Mon October 21, 2019

There's no denying it. Phones are expensive.

Whether it's the recently announced $899 Pixel 4 XL, $599 Pixel 3 XL or the $429 Pixel 3a XL, convincing yourself to spend a significant amount of money on a phone is never easy.

Then there's the frustration and disappointment the moment you realize you've cracked the screen or as you watch the display randomly turn on and off as you pull it out of a swimming pool.It's easy to try and convince yourself to spend as little as possible on the phone you want.

Instead of paying full price for a Pixel phone, look for a good deal on a used or refurbished Pixel and feel good about saving yourself some cash in the process.

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's free of defects. 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

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.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Pixel phone has been sold through Verizon, or direct from Google as an unlocked device. If you are a Verizon subscriber, you can look for a Verizon or unlocked model — it doesn't matter. If you're on another carrier, like AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile, it's best to look for an unlocked model to ensure there are no compatibility issues once you put your SIM card in the phone.

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 3 is $371, or if you don't mind wear and tear, you buy the same size and model for $342.

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.

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 the listing number visible in each one. The photos 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.

Google's Refurbished Store

Google's online store has a refurbished section, but it currently lacks Pixel phones. It's a good idea to bookmark the page and check back once in a while to see if Google has added Pixel phones.

Turn that old phone into cash

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 $146 for a 128 GB Pixel 2 XL on Declutter to $229 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.