We’ve always been a huge advocate of buying used tech gear, and for the most part, we still are. After all, you save a ton of money by waiting a year or two and buying an older model used. Buying used smartphones, however, is becoming less appealing.

RELATED: The Best Way to Save Money on Tech: Buy Used

With a lot of tech products, you just have to make sure it works and then you’re in the clear. Smartphones are a bit different, however, because not only do you have to make sure that every little feature works on the thing (and there are a lot of things to check), you also have to deal with activation locks and the phone’s overall condition, which most people are picky about.

It’s an Absolute Chore to Buy from Craigslist

With stolen smartphones being such a huge thing, buying a used one from Craigslist requires all sorts of precautionary measures—to the point where it can become more hassle than it’s worth.

Granted, it’s not all that difficult to figure out whether or not the phone still has an activation lock on it, but there are always new and creative methods that tricksters come up with to scam a buyer.

RELATED: How to Sell Your Old Gadgets on Craigslist

Not just that, but you also have to take the time to make sure that every little thing on the phone works correctly because it’s easy for a Craigslist seller to get away with a hidden defect that might lessen the value of the entire device.

Because of that, you have to make sure to take the time and check everything. Does the charging port work? What about the headphone jack (if it has one)? Do all the buttons work? Does the camera work? You have to check all these things before you hand over any money.

Of course, you have some options out there than Craigslist. You could buy online from a reputable used smartphone marketplace like Swappa, but that also comes with risks and problems.

Buying Used Online Is a Complete Crapshoot

Online used smartphone marketplaces can be safer than Craigslist because sellers are required to prove that the devices they sell aren’t stolen and still work 100%. However, there can still be complications when going this route.

For starters, “lightly used” can have a different meaning for different people. To you, it might mean that a phone has just some very minor scratches on the body or the screen. To someone else (perhaps the seller), it might mean a phone that has some noticeable dings and scratches that could hinder the viewing experience slightly.

RELATED: Don't Trade in Your Phone, Sell It for More Money

On top of that, photos of the device’s condition can only show so much. More often than not, scratches on the screen are nearly impossible to see in a photo unless the seller takes an excellent picture that focuses solely on the scratches (which usually doesn’t happen).

Another problem with buying online is that the seller will say the phone is in excellent working condition and that there are no defects, but once you receive it in the mail, you notice some defects and things not working. This isn’t a huge deal since you can get a refund, but you might have to jump through hoops and possibly argue with the seller, eventually filing a PayPal dispute to get your money back.

Is All This Trouble Worth the Money Saved?

You have to ask yourself if the time, effort, and risk are all worth the trouble to save some cash compared to just buying a brand new smartphone.

Sometimes it is, especially if you’ll be saving a few hundred dollars, but you have to weigh what’s more important to you: your time and effort, or your money.

Some people will gladly spend several hundreds of dollars more to get a brand new phone that works and looks great right out of the box, and so they don’t have to hassle with a used sale. But with the right deal, buying used can still be worth the possible headaches.

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Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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