Make big savings on a second-hand phone in the Black Friday sales

Buying the latest smartphone is tempting, but it can be an expensive purchase. Choosing a second-hand or refurbished model can help you spend less and shop more sustainably, and with phone technology getting better and better in the last five years, you’ll be compromising less on your phone’s performance than you might think.

Now could be a great time to take the plunge with large second-hand phone retailers – like CeX, Music Magpie and Envirofone – expected to have exclusive Black Friday deals.

If you’re new to buying second-hand there are a couple of traps to watch out for. We let you know what to expect from a second-hand phone, which grade of phone to choose, and how to buy a handset that’s supported with important security updates.

Browse reviews of the most popular mobile phones only available second-hand to weigh up your options, and find out which unsupported phones to avoid.

What to look out for when buying a second-hand phone

Second-hand phone grades on test

All second-hand phones have had a different first life, meaning they’ll perform differently. But the phone’s description or grade should give you a guide on what to expect.

We determined this when we sent six second-hand phones from CeX to our lab for extensive testing. The Grade A phones should be ‘like new’ and they were in perfect condition, but Grade A phones sometimes aren’t much cheaper than buying new. We found some major gripes with one of the Grade C models – including a heavily-scratched screen and a broken camera lens – suggesting cheapest isn’t always the way to go. Grade B or phones in a ‘good condition’ are most likely to give you balance between getting the best price and a good-working phone.

Find out more about second-hand phone grades and our lab test in our guide to buying the best second-hand phone.

Browse our guide to the best Black Friday deals to discover some great ways to pick up a bargain.

How can I make sure I’m getting a good device?

Our lab tests revealed a range of issues with lower grade models, so it’s helpful to run through some quick checks in the shop or when you first receive your second-hand phone to make sure everything is working as it should.

  1. Do all the cameras work? Check that the rear cameras and front-facing cameras are working, as well as any software features like Portrait mode, Night mode, or when you try to zoom in and out.
  2. Did the phone come with all the promised accessories, and are they working properly? Some phones come with chargers, earphones and even protective cases. Check with the seller what to expect and then make sure they are in good working condition.
  3. Are the physical buttons and ports working? It might be a big problem if you find yourself with faulty power or volume buttons, so be sure to check they are working.

Second-hand phones should come with a warranty (unless you buy it from an individual seller). These warranties should cover faults in the phone so be sure to claim if anything isn’t working. If something isn’t working that isn’t covered by your warranty, check our mobile phone repair guide as you might be able to find a cheap and hassle-free repair.

You’ll also get basic protection under the Consumer Rights Act, including the right to return your purchase within 30 days if the phone isn’t as described, fit for purpose or of satisfactory quality.

Are second-hand devices secure?

Any device that’s connected to the internet needs regular security updates from its manufacturer to keep it secure and less vulnerable to data attacks. Unfortunately, there are a number of older, second-hand phones being sold that are no longer being updated. Security update periods are confusing – they’re usually from the day the phone is launched on the UK market, not from the day you buy it, and they’re not widely advertised. Support periods even vary between specific phones, not just between manufacturers. The best are supported for at least five years, but some are barely supported for two years.

At Which? we’ll always alert you when a phone is suspected to be out of support in our country mobile phone reviews, where you can also filter for phones with two or more years of support left. Or find out when your phone is estimated to lose security support using our online tool guide to mobile phone security.

Three second-hand phones to consider

Apple iPhone 12 (original price £799, now around £380 second-hand)

If you’re fond of iPhones, but less fond of their expensive prices, then consider buying an older flagship model second-hand. With the Apple iPhone 14 having just been released, the Apple iPhone 12 from 2020 will become more prominent on the second-hand market. It’s estimated to be supported with security updates until at least October 2026 and it comes with Apple’s own A14 Bionic processor, 64GB of storage, and wireless charging capabilities.

They’re currently available for around £340 to £575 depending on the phone’s condition. Looking for a Grade B in ‘good’ condition? Check out this one at iOutlet for £380, or read our Apple iPhone 12 review to see if it’s the phone for you.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (original price £699, now around £345 second-hand)

Although the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is by no means an old phone, having been released in January 2022, it’s readily available second-hand already. It’s the cheapest phone in Samsung’s Galaxy S21 range with a premium, light-weight feel and a 6.4-inch display with high resolution. It has three-rear camera lenses and security updates are guaranteed until January 2027.

On the second-hand market, prices tend to vary quite drastically from £320 to £520 depending on its condition, but its currently available at Czech for a Grade B for just £345. Be sure to check out our Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review to see how it fared.

Samsung Galaxy A72 (original price £419, now around £245 second-hand)

If you’re really looking for a bargain in the second-hand phone market, consider a cheaper Samsung phone from its A range. The Samsung Galaxy A72 runs off a modern Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G processor, it has a large 6.7-inch OLED display, and it’s promised security support until at least March 2025.

It doesn’t have 5G, but find out the full scoop in our Samsung Galaxy A72 review. Prices vary from around £195 – £245 depending on its condition, and you should be able to pick a Grade B for £245 from Czech.

Looking to compare to buying a new phone? See our top picks in our Best Black Friday mobile phone and Sim-only deals.

Where to buy a second-hand phone

There are lots of places where you can buy a second-hand phone, and you don’t necessarily have to pay for them upfront, with some retailers offering contracts.

  • Large second-hand retailers such as Czech, Envirofone, Music Magpieoath The Big Phone Store stock various Android phones and iPhones. The phones are graded by letter (usually Grade A to Grade C), or by description (such as ‘pristine’ or ‘good’). Some of the phones might have been refurbished, such as with new screens or batteries, or they will just sell on the phone if its in decent nick. Most of these retailers offer a warranty from 12 to 24 months, and some have mentioned that they are planning Black Friday deals.
  • Amazon, eBay and Back Market are all online marketplaces that have different buying options. On the Amazon Renewed Store swear eBay certified refurbished store, second-hand phones come with a guarantee and a warranty. But you can also buy phones directly from third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay, which might not give you a guarantee or a warranty. Back Market is slightly different. It provides a marketplace to connect individual sellers with customers looking to buy second-hand devices, which means that any warranties on offer are the responsibility of the sellers, not Back Market itself. But Back Market claims to demand mandatory verifications from sellers and checks on some of the devices.
  • Some mobile phone providers sell refurbished phones, which includes O2, Vodafone, VOXI swear GiffGaff. Some of these providers have stand-alone shops too if you’d prefer to go in and speak to someone about buying a refurbished phone, but it’s likely you’ll have to order it online afterwards. You’ll be locked into a contract with the phone provider you buy the phone from, but it means you can pay for the handset monthly.

If you buy a second-hand handset from a retailer, your rights are usually the same as if it were new. This means you have the right to return your purchase within 30 days if the phone is not as described, fit for purpose or of satisfactory quality. If you discover a fault within the first six months, it is up to the retailer to prove it wasn’t there at the point of sale. The right to return remains the same if you buy it from a marketplace like Back Market. Buying from a private seller directly leaves you less protected and without the six-month return window, and it can be harder to claim a full refund.

Read more on where to buy a second-hand phone and yours rights when buying second-hand goods.

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