5 tips to save money when buying a phone

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra beneath an iPhone 15 Pro Max
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

A smartphone can be a very expensive purchase, especially if you want a high-end model like an iPhone 15 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, but there are ways to reduce the cost.

That can mean waiting for the ideal time to buy, getting some money out of your old phone, choosing a different handset to the one you might have been considering, or various other things.

To help you out, we've highlighted five tips for saving money when buying a phone.

1. Wait for the big sales

Amazon Prime Day packages in front of a door

There are often big discounts on Amazon Prime Day (Image credit: Amazon)

Many smartphones can often be found for reduced prices during sales, with the biggest two arguably being Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day.

Black Friday 2024 is set for November 29, while the next Amazon Prime Day will happen sometime in July – though to get the most out of that you need to be an Amazon Prime member.

In any case, while lots of phones will be sold at a discount during these events, not every model will, so it’s worth considering whether there are any other phones you might want instead of your first choice, so you have some options.

You could also take a look at which devices were discounted on previous Black Fridays and Amazon Prime Days, to see whether your preferred handset is likely to be this year. 

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra was heavily reduced at Black Friday 2023, so there’s a good chance the Galaxy S24 Ultra will be at Black Friday 2024. Check out our Black Friday phone deals page and our Amazon Prime Day phone deals page for some of the discounts we saw last year.

2. Shop around for the cheapest prices

Samsung Galaxy S24 in violet from back

The Samsung Galaxy S24 (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

If you don’t want to wait for a sale then it’s worth at least shopping around, as not all stores or carriers will charge the same amount for a phone. Some may also have offers outside of the major sales periods listed above, so keep an eye out for that too.

To easily see what the best options are at any given time, you can just head to our best phone deals, best iPhone deals, and best Samsung phone deals articles. 

And beyond comparing current prices, you can also use tools like Camel Camel Camel to view price history on Amazon, so you can see if prices there are likely to drop, and you can use this to set up price drop alerts too.

3. Trade in your old device

iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (Image credit: TechRadar)

One easy way to take the sting out of the price of a new smartphone is to trade in your old device towards it.

Many carriers offer trade in programs, and sometimes they even have special deals where you’ll get increased credit when trading in your old device.

But if you’re buying a new phone outright or from a carrier that doesn’t do trade-ins, then there are also other companies that will give you money for your old phone. Amazon and Apple for example offer trade-ins, and then there are companies that specialize in this.

In the US, this includes the likes of GadgetGone and igotoffer, while in the UK there are companies like Mazuma Mobile and Music Magpie. Or you could always go to eBay and try and sell your phone to a person. Just make sure you factory reset your phone before doing any of these things.

4. Buy a pre-owned handset

Google Pixel 8 review back angled

A pre-owned Pixel 8 could be almost as good as a new one (Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Just as you can sell your old phone to save some money on a new handset, you could also choose to buy someone else’s old phone, since this will be cheaper than a new handset.

While you could just head to eBay and buy a pre-owned device, it’s typically safer to buy a phone that’s been professionally checked and refurbished. These sorts of devices can be found on Amazon, or from specialist sites such as Back Market in the UK, among other places.

Generally a refurbished phone will be fully checked and come with a warranty period. In many cases they can almost appear like-new, though the site you buy from will likely detail any issues with the product.

And buying a pre-owned or refurbished handset can be a lot cheaper than buying a new one, even when the device is in near-new condition. Just make sure to read the description carefully and look at any provided photos, so you know exactly what condition the phone is in.

Then, when you receive it, it’s worth doing your own checks – notably of the battery health, the cameras, and that the microphone and speakers function. Look carefully at the screen too, in case there are any dead pixels or other issues. If you spot a problem that wasn’t listed, then you should send it back for a refund.

5. Get an older model

Apple iPhone 14 lock screen

The iPhone 14 could be a good alternative to the iPhone 15 (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Ok, so you might not want to buy a pre-owned handset, but it’s equally worth considering a new but older model. So rather than buying an iPhone 15 you could buy an iPhone 14 for example.

Generally, not too much changes on phones in just one year, so you won’t necessarily miss out on much by picking the previous model – or even one that’s two years old, but you will probably pay a lot less.

If you buy an iPhone or most recent Samsung or Google phones then you’ll also be getting many years of software updates (usually around five on iPhones and seven on the latest Samsung Galaxy and Pixel models). So if the model you’re looking at is eligible for those long-update periods then it will still be supported for a long time even if it’s not the latest version.

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James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.