A shiny new cell phone is hard to resist, until you look at the price. But you can get a new-to-you smartphone and save hundreds of dollars if you buy a used cell phone.
Used iPhone 6S models in like-new condition sell for as low as $425 on Swappa, an online marketplace for used phones and tablets. That’s $225 less than the retail price of a new iPhone 6S.
And you can get an even better deal with a gently used phone, says Brendan McCue, sales manager and gadget analyst for NextWorth, which buys used phones and recycles or resells them.
“If you’re OK with a phone with some scratches on the back or a dent — you can throw a new case on it, and you’re going to save a lot of money,” McCue says.
The first step to buying a used phone is finding a trusted site, which can be tricky. Craigslist is riddled with scams, and it can be hard to tell whether newer online retailers are legit. Then, once you settle on a site and start shopping for phones, it’s important to ask the right questions before clicking the “Buy” button.
Where to buy a used cell phone
Look for a retailer that has buyer protections, says McCue, who bought his used phone on eBay. Seller ratings and detailed phone descriptions are also helpful when purchasing a phone online, as is the ability to ask the seller questions.
Here are a few trusted places to shop for a used cell phone:
What to ask before buying a used cell phone
Buying from a trusted site takes some of the risk out of buying a used phone, but you still need to ensure you can activate and use the phone when it arrives.
What is the serial number? Also known as the ESN or IMEI. This is a crucial piece of information to get, because you’ll need it to verify whether the phone has been registered as lost or stolen. If it has, you won’t be able to activate the phone. The serial number will also tell you whether the phone will work with your carrier. Most carriers let you check this online, but you can also go to a store or call customer service.
Is the phone under contract or lease agreement? Phones under a contract or lease can’t be reactivated until the agreement is fulfilled. So, if the seller has a year left on the contract, it will be at least a year before you can activate the phone.
Does the phone have water damage? Moisture erodes a phone’s components over time. So while the device may look fine and work well now, it won’t last long if it’s been exposed to water. Unfortunately, you typically can’t look at a phone and tell if it has water damage, so you’re trusting the seller to be honest.
For added security, don’t pay cash or directly from your checking account. Instead, pick a payment method that has built-in protections, such as PayPal. Ramon Khan went that route when he purchased a used phone on Swappa.
“I did a triple-threat kind of deal here in a way,” Khan says. “I went through a site that had buyer protection already built in, used PayPal to protect my purchase and also used my Discover card, which issues refunds regardless of the refund policy of a website.”
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.