Tips for Buying a Cellphone on Ebay

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My husband and I have been buying used phones off eBay for a few years now. It never fails that when you’re under the 2 year contract something will happen to your phone at 12 months and 1 day…just outside the 1 year manufacturers warranty. Leaving you with limited options. You can buy another phone in the store for full price (since you’re still under contract), use an old phone (if you still have them), or buy off eBay!

The other scenario is that you’re under contract but a new phone just hit the market and you HAVE to have it! You can buy a new phone from eBay for a fraction of the cost a retail store will charge you. Here’s how to:

First you need to click Buy:


Then scroll down to Cell Phones & Smartphones:


Your next option is to select a phone manufacturer, but I would recommend selecting your carrier first. You don’t want to fall in love with a phone only to find out the the programming won’t work with your cellular provider. If you don’t see your carrier in the list click on Select More at the bottom:


I’m going to click on Alltel, because that’s my carrier. Most of you know that Verizon has purchased Alltel and taken over Alltel’s customers in most areas. That would NOT be true for my area. We primarily have Verizon and Alltel in this community only. If Verizon were to take over Alltel it would become a monopoly here and that’s not going to happen, so I’ve been told. So if I were to buy a Verizon phone for my Alltel service it would NOT work. Verizon has GMA programming and Alltel has CDMA programming. So when looking for a phone, be sure that you see your carrier’s logo on the phone itself just to be sure.

This is where the fine tuning process begins. You can further narrow down your search by checking off boxes in Features, Condition, and/or Style:


I’m interested in a slider phone. I’ve tried a qwerty but I just can’t get used to it, so I’m going with a number pad instead. I’m choosing against a Smartphone because the plan’s are just too pricey for my budget. That leaves me with 260 phones to search through. I don’t mind considering a used phone, many times they are well taken care of and the owner got a new phone by signing a new contract. My rule of thumb is to buy used or refurbished for the best price.


That took me down to 229 phones. You have purchasing options from here, Auction or Buy it Now. I prefer the auction because I can get a better price. The Buy it Now prices are what the seller usually has invested in the phone and then some.


That took me down to 155 phones. From here I decide if I want to find something now or if I can wait a few days. I often sort the remaining results to narrow this down further.


My first sort is to look at the auctions ending the soonest so I can see if there is an awesome deal waiting for me to snatch up.


That search didn’t reveal what I’m searching for. So I’m going to change my sort criteria to lowest price first. This option requires much more patience, but for many of us half the fun is in the challenge, the pursuit of the perfect deal.


When searching for your perfect phone avoid words like As-Is, for repair, for parts or broken. You want to make sure you read the product description completely so you don’t overlook something.


Key things to consider:

  • Make sure the phone has at least a charger to go with it. If the phone you’re buying is being used to replace a broken one it’s likely that you already have a charger and won’t need another one. Keep that in mind. You don’t want to buy a phone and find out that you can’t charge it!
  • Just because the photo you see is of a new phone does not mean that is your phone. Many times sellers use “Stock” photos to save themselves the time of photographing each and every phone they have to sell.
  • The phone MUST have a clean ESN (electronic serial number)!!! I cannot stress this enough! What this means is that someone may have a balance with Verizon on a phone and left that carrier, also leaving behind a balance. That balance is connected to that phone and can be verified with the ESN. So if the owner of the phone sells it to you with a bad ESN (meaning it’s not a phone that’s free and clear to use) you will NOT be able to activate the phone without paying the balance!!! If you don’t see that the seller has stated that, you need to ask. Don’t be a sucker and buy a lemon phone.
  • Also, if the phone description says that the phone is locked, move on and look for another. You will have to take it to the carrier to get it unlocked and often times reprogrammed. Not all carriers will do this. The phone is most likely locked for a reason and you won’t be able to use the phone.
  • After you win a phone be sure to note when you paid the seller and when the item was shipped. You need to be aware of how many shipping days until your package is scheduled to arrive. That way if it takes too long you can contact the seller to get specifics. When your phone arrives first you need to charge it completely to ensure a full battery. Most often the carrier you have will allow you to change out phones from your old one to your new one over the phone or from their website. Alltel will allow you to change it very simply through the website. All you need to activate it is the serial number or HEX number underneath the battery. Very user friendly!

See, it’s not too hard! You can do it too!

So tell me, have you ever purchased a cell phone off of eBay before? What was your experience? Did you find this tutorial helpful?

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