Used Samsung Galaxy phones: A guide on where and how to buy one

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Tue July 2, 2019

Fixing a cracked screen on a Samsung Galaxy, or even having to replace the whole phone, is not cheap. As these devices have gotten more advanced, with pinhole front-facing cameras, sharper OLED screens and faster processors, the prices have advanced too. The latest S10e, S10, and S10+ start at $749, $899 and $999 respectively.

Luckily for all the Galaxy fans out there, you don't have to break the bank if you're in the market for a new one. You can upgrade to a used or refurbished model from several retailers. And while buying a used or refurbished device might sound intimidating, this guide will make it easy.

First, let's walk through some key differences.

Used vs. refurbished

When looking for a replacement device, you'll see new, used and refurbished models. And there are some key differences.

A new device is just what you think it is -- a brand new device that is still fresh in the package, sold from Samsung itself via the online store or from an authorized reseller. And it's a full-price device, unless you find some limited time deal or offer.

When it comes to a used Samsung Galaxy, it is being sold as is, with a restored software experience. So while the software will run as if it is brand new, with no content from the previous owner on it, there's a chance that there might be some scuffs or scratches. These should be noted in the item description, along with anything that's wrong with the hardware.

On the other hand, a refurbished Samsung Galaxy has been tested and has more assurance behind it. A refurbished device has gone through diagnostic tests to make sure it meets the standards for a sellable condition. Depending on where you're getting the device, it could be a manufacturer-refurbished device, or the testing might have been done by a third party.

With any of these, it's important to buy the device from a reputable retailer. In the case of what we're recommending below, Decluttr, Gazelle, select eBay sellers and wireless carriers are safe spots. Sites like Decluttr and Gazelle are in the business of buying used devices to resell, after testing to ensure that they work and meet certain standards. These two specifically outline their testing, which can add confidence to the purchase.

What to check: Condition, antenna bands

You'll want to check the condition of the phone as rated by the seller and ensure that it will work on your network. In the case of many Samsung smartphones, there are different bands being used, depending on the carrier and region.

An easy cheat sheet with the bands would be to look for either CDMA, GSM or Unlocked. In the United States, Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. The last term, Unlocked, means you can use the device on any of the main networks in the United States, and likely a large portion of those globally. These devices can access many network bands and allow for a solid experience that supports both voice and data.

Beyond that, it's important to know what kind of device you're getting. You can choose the phone's color, internal storage size and overall condition. Sites like Decluttr will note the condition and provide a scale to let you know how scuffed up a device might actually be.

Now we've outlined what to look for when shopping, here are a few places to start your search.

Decluttr

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 this year's Galaxy S10, S10+ and S10e at a bit of a discount. With any of these devices, Decluttr lists out very clearly the storage size, color, networks it supports and the 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. Plus with Decluttr's Summer Sizzlers offer, you can save up to $50 off select devices.

Gazelle

If you've bought or sold a device online in recent years, you likely know Gazelle. And if you're looking for a Note 5, 8 or 9 this will be your source. Gazelle also offers the Galaxy S7, S7+, S8, S8+, S9, S9+, S10e, S10 and S10+. As with Decluttr, you can sort by color, network compatibility, storage size and condition. It's laid out pretty clearly and if your desired model is out of stock, you can choose to be notified when it becomes available.

eBay

This online marketplace isn't just about auctions any more, and many listings also offer buy-it-now options. eBay offers some sweet deals, 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, dating to limited edition modes and even the original. Just be sure to check the network compatibility and conditions, and remember you can always ask the seller for clarification.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.