Buying a used or refurbished Samsung Galaxy phone is one of the easiest ways to save money when it comes to getting a new cell phone, whether it’s due to a cracked display or simply because it’s time to upgrade. Flagship devices like the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 cost, at a minimum, $999 and $1,799, respectively. And that’s a hefty sum to spend on a phone.
If you’re not someone who needs the latest and greatest tech, it might make more sense to find a used Galaxy Note, an older Galaxy S9 or similar for a fraction of the cost of a new phone. Not only can you find a good deal on a used or refurbished Galaxy phone, but many places accept trade-ins for your current phones, turning your existing phone into some form of cash or credit that can be applied toward the cost of your new-to-you phone.
And don’t worry, buying a used or refurbished device doesn’t have to be intimidating. To help you out, we want to start by breaking down the differences between a used or refurbished phone.
Used vs. refurbished
When shopping for a replacement phone, you’re going to see three terms used pretty frequently: new, used and refurbished. While there are some similarities between the latter two, there are some distinct differences you need to know.
First of all, a new device is exactly what the name implies — new. It’s never been opened or used in any capacity. It’s in the same condition as it was when it left the factory. When you buy directly from Samsung, your wireless carrier or a retailer like Best Buy, you’re buying a new device unless it’s explicitly said that you’re buying a refurbished phone.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a new device. It’s in mint condition, has a factory warranty and the latest tech, but it’s usually the most expensive route to go without any sort of promotion.
Used Samsung Galaxy phones are common on sites like Swappa. It’s a device that has been previously used and it might show everyday wear or tear. That means you might have minor scuffs on the edges of the phone, or a small scratch on the screen or glass back. The software that runs on the phone will have been factory reset, erasing all personal information the previous owner stored on it, and giving you a like-new setup experience.
When shopping for a used phone, make sure to read through the product description closely. Pay attention to any noted cosmetic defects, and when in doubt, request a photo (or better photos) so you fully understand what you’re buying. More often than not, used phones don’t come with a warranty. If it breaks a few months after you get it, then you’re back at square one.
The upside to dealing with some scuffs and scratches is that you’re often able to save yourself a bunch of money. This is ultimately where the best deals on a Samsung Galaxy phone are to be found.
On the other hand, refurbished Galaxy phones have been tested and repaired by the company selling it. For example, if a company receives a Galaxy S20 with a broken display, it can replace the screen and then list the phone as refurbished. Most companies that sell refurbished phones will have some sort of diagnostic checkup to verify everything is in working order and all required repairs have been made.
Not all repairs are done by the original manufacturer, or in this case, Samsung. Companies like Amazon use a third-party service to refurbish devices before listing them.
A benefit to buying a refurbished device, in addition to knowing the phone is in working order, is that most businesses will include some sort of warranty. Some are limited to 90 days, while others are a full year.
Regardless of the condition the Samsung phone you end up purchasing is in, the most important factor you want to take into consideration is that the company you’re buying from is a reputable retailer. Companies like Swappa, Decluttr, select eBay sellers and wireless carriers meet that bar.
What to check: Condition and antenna bands
Once you’ve narrowed down what type of Samsung Galaxy phone you want — new, used or refurbished — here are two more things to keep in mind while you shop. Double check the condition of the device. Sites like Swappa require listings to have photos that clearly show any damage as well as the display, and most sellers will upload additional photos when requested. Again, just make sure to read through the description carefully and take note of any issues, communicating with the seller when you have questions.
Another factor you need to take into account is carrier compatibility, or antenna bands. If a Samsung phone is listed as unlocked, odds are it’s going to work on any and all carriers in the US. However, there are some Galaxy phones that are listed as GSM or CDMA phones, and those two technologies are very different.
The short version of it is this: AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, while Verizon and those Sprint customers who haven’t switched to T-Mobile’s network after the merger use CDMA.
Our best advice is to buy an unlocked Samsung phone. Not only does that ensure you can use the phone on your current carrier, but if you ever decide to switch carriers, you only need to swap the SIM card inside your phone. And if you happen to travel internationally, you’ll most likely be able to use the phone overseas.
While shopping you’ll need to decide which model of phone you want, the color and the amount of storage space, but sites like Declutter list every detail you need to know.
What to know about trading in
After picking out a new Samsung phone, you’re left to figure out what to do with your old phone. All wireless carriers and even most retailers that sell cell phones now accept trade-ins. That is, you give them your old phone, and in exchange they’ll give you either a credit for the store or cold hard cash.
Trade-in sites like Decluttr or It’s Worth More will ask you a series of questions to determine the condition of your phone and then present you with an offer. If you accept it, you’ll be sent a box with a prepaid label to send your old phone in. A few days later, money magically shows up in your account. It’s pretty cool.
If you want a large selection of Galaxy S smartphones dating back to the S5 and Note 9, then Decluttr might be your best option. You can find savings on last year’s Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. With any of these devices, Decluttr lists very clearly the storage size, color, networks it supports and refurbishment condition.
This allows you to pick a device with a clear understanding of what you’re actually getting and will hopefully avoid any issues. Decluttr also shares a ton of information about its refurbishing and checking process, so this way you’ll know exactly what shape your device will be in upon arrival.
And if you’re looking to trade in, Decluttr makes it easy to type in your device name, rate the condition and see how much you’ll be offered. You can lock that price in, choose how to get paid and even get a prepaid label to send it in.
This online marketplace isn’t just about auctions anymore, and many listings also offer buy-it-now options. There are some sweet deals at eBay, but not all sales are the same. As with buying anything on the site, you’ll want to check over the item description and the seller’s rating. In some cases, you might find a big-box store like Best Buy selling items on its eBay storefront.
And as you’d expect, eBay is a treasure trove for Samsung Galaxy devices, including limited-edition models. Just be sure to check the network compatibility and conditions, and remember you can always ask the seller for clarification. Now, if you’re looking to sell on eBay, you’ll need to make a listing, but there’s no guarantee on the amount you’ll receive. And even if you do complete a sell on eBay, there are quite a few fees you’ll have to deal with. Not to mention the occasional scam that asks you to ship the device overseas.
If you want a relatively hassle-free selling or buying experience, give Swappa a shot. Look through all of the Samsung Galaxy listings and you’ll find a wide range of devices at all price levels and quality. You’re buying directly from the phone’s current owner, so anything you get on Swappa will be used.
You can ask the seller a question in the comments on a listing, and if you need help from Swappa, the company is very responsive and eager to help.
Selling on Swappa is just as easy, allowing you to list any supported device. Just be ready for potential buyers to try to negotiate a better price in the comments on your listing.
If you’re looking to upgrade to a Galaxy S21 or the new Z Fold 3 or Z Flip 3 and you’re buying directly from Samsung, you can trade in up to four of your old devices directly to them. Samsung will take phones, tablets and wearables. You’ll need to go through a short question and answer session, picking the device(s) you’re trading in, the current condition and then accepting the offer. Samsung is usually competitive with its trade-ins; it’s currently offering up to $499 off the price of a Z Flip 3.