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What to Check When Buying a Used iPhone?

Buying a new phone is an expensive investment especially if it’s for a single or couple of reasons.

So, your best option might be to buy a used phone as it will save you a lot of money and there are a lot more options.

But before purchasing a second-hand iPhone it is best to do a few checks. Especially if you are buying it directly from the previous owner.

So, this post is specially written for you to learn what to check when purchasing a used iPhone.

Things to Check Online When Buying a Used iPhone

Below I’ve listed a few things to check online if you’re purchasing a used iPhone or iPad.

When taking this route make sure to check the profile and legitimacy of the seller. The best way to do this is to look for reviews. A way of identifying a dodgy seller is if there is no profile picture, second name, real name or bio.

0Before Checking – Ask for IMEI/Serial Number

The most important thing for a used iPhone online transaction is to ask the seller to offer IMEI or Serial Number of the device.


Because checking the iPhone status with IMEI or Serial number is the only reliable way for an online transaction – only Apple has the privilege to modify the device status from the database.

Request the IMEI when talking to the seller online and if they refuse to provide it, it is best to just buy from elsewhere.

To find the IMEI/Serial number, ask the seller to go to Settings > General > About. Then sending the info to you.

find imei on settings general about

If having trouble in finding the info, see our guide on how to find iPhone IMEI.

After getting the IMEI number, checking the iPhone status with a trusted online IMEI checker, there are a lots of IMEI checkers are available to do this. But most of them are just generate a report from an outdated database. The one we used is WipeLock iPhone IMEI checker, they check the iPhone status manually to make sure the IMEI report is the latest and accurate.

imei check report iphone 12

After receiving the IMEI report, you need to check the following options:

1Find My iPhone

Find my iPhone is used to help find, lock, or unlock lost/stolen Apple devices. For your personal privacy, it is best to make sure the previous user sells the phone with this removed.

So when the Find My iPhone status is “OFF”, this means this iPhone is removed from Find My iPhone and it is safe to buy.

2The Blacklist Status

A blacklisted iPhone is one that has been reported as stolen or lost by the owner. And because of that, it cannot connect to any network.

You should absolutely check the IMEI through a service like WipeLock IMEI checker to make sure of the blacklist status.

3Check the SIM Lock Status

It’s necessary to check the SIM Lock (unlock status) of the iPhone before purchasing. When the iPhone is locked you will be stuck to using a certain carrier if you choose not to unlock it.

If it is unlocked then you will be able to change networks freely. A locked phone will often be cheaper so it might be a better option if it’s locked to your network or you don’t mind getting unlocked yourself.


Make sure to check the warranty status as well. Apple cover the phones with a warranty for one year and some people may sell their practically new phones. They might do this to try a new brand or buy a more recent model. Like upgrading the iPhone 12 to iPhone 12 Pro Max.

It’s great if you can get a newer phone at a cheaper price with the warranty still included.

5Replacement Status

It’s good to check whether the device is refurbished, replaced or personalized. Any of the latter three should be cheaper. So to make sure you are getting the best price, it’s necessary for you to check the replacement status.

If it’s a replaced device, you should be revising the price.

After you make sure all the above things are fine, just make a purchase.

But it’s not finished yet!

After receiving the iPhone, you need to check the things in the next part.

What to Check After Receiving Your iPhone?

So after making a purchase and receiving your iPhone, you still need to check some things before making sure it’s 100% safe to use.

6Verify IMEI

The first thing is to verify the IMEI or Serial Number.

We recommend you look at the back of the iPhone and then also check the IMEI within the Settings app. You’ll want to make sure everything matches up and if it doesn’t then you run the risk of buying a used phone that’s gone under extensive repairs after something like water damage.

7Activation Lock

When iOS 7 was first released, Apple began locking down security on their devices. When purchasing a used iPhone we recommend you check if the Activation Lock has been removed because with that on, the iPhone becomes useless.

To check the Activation Lock, you can go to Settings > [Your Name] > Find My > Find My iPhone.

turn off find my ios 14

If Find My iPhone is ON, you need to ask the seller to turn it off with their Apple ID and password. And then sign out of their iCloud account from this iPhone.

8Check Storage Capacity

The most expensive iPhone right now has 512 GB of storage available for all your data. However, with most models on the market you’ll be looking at having 32 – 256 GB.

Now keep in mind this should be enough if all you looking for is a way to keep in contact with people and take a few photos. But if you’re planning on keeping lots of data on your iPhone then we recommend going for the higher price. Before purchasing it just make sure to ask how much storage is available.

You won’t be able to replace your storage capacity either on the iPhone due to Apples closed off hardware.

9Check the Battery Health

iPhone battery health can actually decrease as time goes on, with each iOS update it will change. It also depends on how the owner has used the iPhone. If it’s been dropped, thrown, or damaged in certain ways, the battery might have been damaged.

iphone battery health

When iOS 12 released, it brought a new feature of checking battery health. There should be a percentage of Maximum Capacity in the Battery Health option. This is telling how good the battery is.

I personally recommend you try to stick to an iPhone that has 85 – 100% maximum capacity.

10Water Damage

Make sure the iPhone hasn’t had any water damage as this will affect how it works and isn’t covered by the warranty.

iphone water damage check

There is a Liquid Contact Indicator on most iPhones. It is often on the right side of the phone and if it has come into contact with liquid it will be red. Meanwhile, if it’s silver then you should be fine.

FAQS About Buying a Used iPhone

Here are a few of the common questions received about buying a used phone.

What’s the difference between a used and refurbished iPhone?

A refurbished iPhone can be bought at a lower price than a new one from Apple itself. The warranty will be the exact same as one for a new iPhone and it won’t come with any of the risks of buying a used iPhone.

It won’t be much cheaper than a new iPhone. In this case, buying a used iPhone is much better when you’re looking for a cheaper option.

But it’s worth having a look on the Apple sites to see what refurbished phones are available.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used iPhone?

The Advantages

  • The biggest advantage is of course the price tag especially in comparison to the official prices.
  • You’re able to pick from a wider range of iPhones if you’re buying used.


  • The most obvious disadvantage is the range of sellers you get. The majority will be fine and often just want to get rid of an old phone so someone can put it to better use. But there are some people trying to sell stolen or broken phones. We’ve talked about ways of avoiding these people and you’ll more than likely buy from a perfectly fine person.
  • It’s a used iPhone so it will obviously have some wear and tear. This isn’t a massive issue but we recommend not getting anything with cracks especially on the screen. Not only is the look of the iPhone awful but the battery life might have gotten damaged when it was smashed.
  • The battery life will have already decreased with time so avoid an iPhone with battery health that is lower than 70% as it only gets worse. It’s the reason to avoid iPhone 5 and lower.
  • The lack of warranty on most of these iPhones might put you off. As we said, only newer models like the iPhone 12 and SE2 are likely to have a warranty.

Is there any red flag when buying a used iPhone face-to-face?

You should absolutely look out for a few red flags when buying a phone face-to-face.

  • If the iPhone is at an extremely low price then it’s best to do some research before picking it up. Sellers that have stolen an iPhone will try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. You should especially look out for this if you’re buying an iPhone 12.
  • If the seller is desperate to just hand off the iPhone to you. Thieves won’t want to sit with a stolen iPhone in their possession so if they are desperate to meet up I’d look somewhere else.
  • If they can’t give the IMEI or answer questions. I mentioned this briefly but if they don’t hand over information to you like the model number or IMEI look somewhere else because you don’t want to end up with a stolen phone even if it was incredibly cheap.
  • If they want to handle the transaction online. This is a common one and we even gave a few tips if you are buying online. But if a seller is trying to convince you that they’re out of town or otherwise not available for a face-to-face transaction we recommend searching elsewhere.

These are just a few of the things to look out for, but really all you need is your common sense. If you feel the transaction is dodgy in any way. Back away and look for someone else.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, I have helped you decide on the choice of buying a used or new phone. Before buying anything make sure to do your research and watch for dodgy sellers.

Look into a refurbished iPhone from Apple it might be exactly what you are looking for.

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Bryan is a tech-aficionado whose superpower lies in blabbering interminably about new technologies. He is passionate about helping people solve their iPhone problems with easy and practical solutions.

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