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10 tips for buying a phone off Craigslist

Considering that the cost to have an old phone repaired is often comparable to buying a new one, its common for people to abandon their old phones altogether when they break.
But to get a good deal on a phone you usually have to extend the length of the contract with your carrier. Because of this, many people opt to buy used phones. Online classifieds like Craigslistand Kijijiare chock-full of ads for mobile phones. Many of them are in mint condition.
Can you save by purchasing a phone off of an online classifieds site?
I did some hunting around and found that you can save up to $500 by purchasing a phone off of Craigslist.

Prices of phones at stores and on Craigslist (CL)


Before-tax Store Price

CL Price 1

CL Price 2

CL Price 3

CL Price Avg.

Avg. Savings

iPhone 3GS 32GB







BlackBerry Bold 9700 32GB







Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 16GB







Huawei U1250 8 GB







Average Savings figures do not account for tax on store prices. All Craigslist prices are from ads posted in June 2010 in Toronto , Montreal and Vancouver .

10 tips to consider when buying a phone off Craigslist or Kijiji
Tip # 1: Do your homework
Make sure you know the market value of what you want to buy. Do online searches for customer reviews. Find out if the phones maker offers 24/7 support.

Tip # 2: Negotiate
Sometimes people are desperate for cash and are trying to sell their phones as quickly as possible. For some people, selling at a discount today is better than hoping to get a better price for it tomorrow.
If the seller wont budge on the price, ask if they can meet you in your neighbourhood instead of theirs at least you might save some time. But dont travel across the province to save $20. Deal with someone locally.
Tip # 3: Ask if the phone is locked to a carrier or not
David, a sales associate from Torontos Wireless Wave, an independent electronics retailer that sells phones and plans from various providers, says it usually costs between $20 and $40 to unlock a phone from a carrier, depending on the phone. Theres nothing illegal about it, he says. The carriers just dont like it.
Its possible to find directions for unlocking phones online, but these arent always reliable. Sometimes they can wreck phones altogether, says MP Bruce Hyer, who recently proposed a billto disallow providers from locking phones to their networks.
Tip # 4: Your phone might not have a SIM card
Bell phones made earlier than 2009 dont use SIM cards, so its not possible to simply unlock them and then add in your own SIM card, says Wireless Wave sales associate Anni Nguyen.
Before paying for a used phone, pop the SIM card out of your old phone and into the new phone. Try calling someone to test compatibility. Just because the SIM card fits doesnt mean it works.
Tip # 5: Cell phone and smartphoneSIM cards arent as transferable as you may think
A SIM card from a smartphone with a data (Internet) plan inserted into a cell phonewill not make the cell phone have a data plan and vice versa.
However, as long as both phones are either unlocked or from the same network, youll at least be able to do basic functions like talk and text.
If youre downgrading from a data plan to a basic plan, youll have to pay a partial cancellation fee. The fee for downgrading from a data plan is never more than $100, Nguyen says. It depends on how long youve been with your provider.
Whether upgrading or downgrading your plan, you wont need to extend your contract, Nguyen says.
Tip # 6: Recognize a scam when you see one
Do not deal with someone who cant meet up locally. Some scammers will claimthat theyre from your area but are going on vacation, moving or on a business trip. Its common for a scammer to request that the buyer wire money online, promising to ship the item afterward.
Some scammers ask for personal information like your address, SIN and credit card information. Beware of identity theft.

Tip # 7: Meet in public
Set up a public place to meet the seller and bring someone with you who has a mobile phone. Never invite a stranger into your home. Dont get into a car with a stranger.
Tip # 8: Dont let the seller rush you
If youre buying from someone who posted a classifieds ad, youre usually not getting a receipt or warranty. The chances of you ever seeing the seller again are slim.
Dont feel shy about insisting that the seller give you enough time to check out the phone completely, and take it out of the box if its in one. If the seller is trying to rush the transaction, he may be trying to get your cash quickly, before you notice a problem with the phone.
Examine the phones camera and video features, trackballs or trackwheels, all buttons to make sure none are sticky or loose, the screen (there might be a tiny crack in the corner), sensitivity if its a touch phone, the battery, headphones and anything else you can think of. Test out the charger and any accompanying wires. The price to replace a charger can be as much as $50. Have a look at the manual as well. Is it for the correct series of your phone? Is it in English or your native language? Most manuals can be found online, but its still nice to have a hard copy if possible.
Tip # 9: Call the phone company before paying and make sure the phone is legit
Before buying the phone from the seller, look for the electronic serial number (ESN)and call the company that makes the phone to ensure it hasnt been reported as stolen or lost. This can save you a world of problems down the road, Nguyen says.
Tip # 10: Know your responsibilities
If youre taking over someone elses plan along with their phone, theres no reason why the person shouldnt be able to meet you at the carriers store to make sure the documentation is completed properly. Allow a sales associate to look over the documents before signing. Make sure you understand the terms of the contract. If, for whatever reason, the seller says he cant meet you at the store he may try to trick you into thinking that plans cant legally be transferred you may have a scammer on your hands.