It's time for you to find a new best friend. The smartphone you've loved so dutifully has betrayed you too many times, and you're on the hunt for a replacement. Whether paying upfront or leasing is right for you depends on:
- Your bank balance.
- Your credit history.
- Your technology preferences.
- Availability of the phone you want.
These are deeply personal factors, and most pundits can't outline exactly what someone like you should do when shopping. But the experts have spoken up about the pros and cons of leasing and buying. We'll dive into those details in this article.
Financing: The Benefits
Both manufacturers and carriers offer financing programs that let you stretch the cost of a phone across months or even years. At the end of the term, you could upgrade to a new phone or keep the one you have.
If you're a technology junkie, this plan comes with clear benefits made just for people like you. When the lease is up, you'll either get the bright, shiny, new phone you're hoping for, or you'll walk away with your old phone you can sell to finance the new one.
You'll satisfy more than your vanity with a new phone. Technology changes rapidly, and old devices can't always keep up. If you can no longer download software updates, you're vulnerable to hackers. That concern is lessened when you have a new phone resting in your pocket.
Financing lets you satisfy the upgrade buzz without breaking the bank. You'll pay somewhere between $20 and $50 each month for your pretty phone, and you won't have to come up with a big chunk of change as a down payment.
Financing: The Drawbacks
It's so easy to sign loan documents to get the phone of your dreams. But you'll pay for that convenience with interest fees, credit score hits, and more.
Your phone payments may seem small enough to squeeze into a monthly budget, but as experts writing for U.S. News and World Report point out, you must do the math to determine how much the device will cost you at the end of the term. You might discover you're buying more phone than you can really afford.
Companies use financing to help cover up the price tag for major purchases, including:
Savvy salesmen could sweet-talk consumers into expensive models with payment plans when those same consumers would never buy a more expensive model if they looked at the total price tag.
Researchers have done that homework with phone leasing plans. In one analysis, researchers found that leasing the phone for 24 months added almost $200 to the (already high) price of the iPhone XS Max. Researchers also found that this plan could come with hidden fees for:
Damage. At the end of the lease, you're required to bring the phone back in its original condition. A scuff or ding could cost you.
Missing parts. Lost your earbuds or charging cords? You'll have to replace them.
Replacement. If you choose to keep the phone at the end of the lease, you might have a fee to pay.
It's also crucial to remember that payment plans begin with a credit check. Companies need to ensure that you'll meet your financial obligations even when times are tough. If you have too many credit checks in a short time period, you could struggle to get a new loan, or your interest rates could go up. If you're hoping to buy a home within the next few months, this could be incredibly damaging.
Buying Used: The Benefits
Can you bear to use a phone that belonged to someone else? If so, purchasing a used device could be the right option for you. In time, you may forget all about the original owner, and you'll come to think of that phone as yours and yours alone.
A used phone obviously has a previous owner, but it doesn't have to be decades old. Some people toss their devices after just a few months of use, and others give theirs back to manufacturers when they don't work as expected. Your phone may be used, but it could be young.
A used device doesn't cost as much as a new version, and that could represent a huge savings for you if it allows you to make a purchase without borrowing money.
Research from Consumer Reports also suggests that used-phone buyers are happy with their purchases. This study involved people who bought refurbished devices, meaning they were fixed or rebuilt by the manufacturer before they went up for sale. Of those buyers, 82 percent were highly satisfied.
Buying Used: The Drawbacks
New products come with some bells and whistles the old versions just can't touch. Some of those perks could be so important to you that you're willing to pony up the higher price to get them.
Consider warranties and protections. If you lease your product or buy it new, you're likely to have options when your phone stops working. If you've worked with a buyer on a site like eBay, you may have none of these protections available. If you're someone who consistently breaks devices, that lack of protection could grow incredibly expensive.
Next, consider your investment value. Phones are worth less each year, and some phones’ value drops quicker than others. Researchers say that some of the best options include:
Apple. iPhones hang onto value more than others, but even so, they're worth about 57 percent less a year after their release.
Motorola. They may not be flashy, but they hang onto their worth. That could be due to their low original price point.
Google. Consistent software upgrades mixed with beautiful design help these devices keep their value. They also come packed with exceptional cameras.
Even so, when you're buying a used product, you're already lagging behind. If you hope to get back the entire price you paid a week or a month from now, you're likely to be disappointed.
Which Is Right for You?
Your smartphone is as individual as your fingerprint. What's stored on your phone is different than what's stored on any other phone. Ditching the old and moving to the new is a big decision, and it's not one you should take lightly.
Explore your options in detail, and make sure to ask plenty of questions of any purchase partner. Then, examine your own finances and think hard about what you can realistically afford.
A process like this isn't as sexy as leaping for the item you want on impulse. But you're likely to make a smarter decision you won't regret in time. And that's worth the effort.
If you end up deciding to buy used, we have a great selection of used iPhones up for sale on our store.
Should I Pay Cash for a New Car? (August 2017). U.S. News and World Report.
Is Buying the New $1,100 iPhone in Installments Worth It? (September 2018). Policy Genius.
3 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Finance. (November 2017). CNN.
Should You Buy a Refurbished Phone? (March 2019). Consumer Reports.
The Android Phones With the Best Resale Value in 2018. (September 2018). Android Police.
7 Phones With Great Resale Value. (January 2018). T3.