The best used smartphones are a great way to save money, and in this economy ever penny you save is a win. A shiny new flagship might be a satisfying purchase, but the used market helps you save money without sacrificing too much functionality and performance.
The best phones always get a generous price cut when their successors launch, and those are great places to start. And with some people religiously upgrading year after year, it's easy to pick up a gently-used handset for a much more affordable price. Whether you want a shiny iPhone, a Samsung, or something else entirely, these are all the very best used smartphones you can buy right now.
The iPhone 13 may not be relegated to the iPhone 14's shadow, but that's no reason to dismiss last year's model out of hand. Especially since, as people have been quick to point out, the difference between the standard iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 models aren't that great.
Both phones still have the A15 Bionic chipset, with the iPhone 14 Pro range getting exclusive use of the more powerful A16 Bionic. The iPhone 14 does get an extra core in the GPU, mind, but the difference isn't as stark. Both phones also come with the same display and dimensions, though the iPhone 13 has a one hour shorter battery life and no autofocus on the front-facing camera.
Then again it's also much cheaper, especially if you pick up a used model. Apple isn't selling refurbished iPhone 13s yet, so the coveted Apple guarantee means paying the full $699 price tag.
However third party vendors do sell the phone for noticeably less — though your quality will vary from device to device. While a lot of prices seem to be around the $500 mark, that's still $200 cheaper than a brand new device.
Of course if you're not ready for an iPhone 13 just yet, keep your eyes open. Now that the iPhone 14 range is here, prices are only going to decrease. More so as we close in on the iPhone 15's launch window later this year.
What you'll pay for a used iPhone 13
Read our full iPhone 13 review
The iPhone SE 2020 is already a great value phone, but picking up a used model means you can save even more on Apple's budget iPhone. Your savings will be limited, considering the phone's $399 MSRP, but now that the iPhone SE 2022 is here the second generation model's price is going down.
You can have an iPhone 8-inspired design, but with some of the same hardware as the iPhone 11. There's the powerful A13 Bionic processor, wireless charging, a 12MP camera that uses computational photography to great effect, water resistance, and a solid nine plus hours of battery life based on our testing.
What you'll pay for a used iPhone SE (2020)
Read our full iPhone SE (2020) review.
Samsung is typically not one to make huge changes from one flagship to the next, so you're not missing a lot if you opt for a Galaxy S22 instead of a shiny new Galaxy S23. In fact, on paper, the only major changes are in the processor and battery department.
The S23 does have the overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, and the minor battery increase has led to over two and a half hours more battery life. But the cameras, screen charging specs and software is pretty similar. Which is no bad thing, since the Galaxy S22 performs rather well in those areas.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review
The Galaxy Note range is dead, but only in name. Instead the Galaxy S Ultra range has risen in its place. If the S23 Ultra isn't for you, then the S22 Ultra can get you a lot of the same great stuff at a fraction of the price. That includes support for the S Pen, a 108MP main camera, 45W charging and a glorious 1-120Hz adaptive display.
It even has a 40MP selfie camera, which is much higher resolution than even the S23 Ultra can offer — even if the newer handset does have a better battery life and a 200MP camera. Still if you want a large screen phone with stylus support, and don't want to pay full price for the latest model, this is a great option.
What you'll pay for a used Galaxy S22 Ultra
Read our full Galaxy S22 Ultra review
The Google Pixel 6 has a lot going for it, but it always felt overpriced for what it was. Thankfully the launch of the much more impressive Pixel 7 means the price has started dropping, and will likely continue as people start to offload their older devices.
The inclusion of Google's own Tensor sensor offered a nice upgrade from the Snapdragon 765G employed in the Pixel 5. It's been built to offer better security and machine learning capabilities, which offers an array of upgrades ranging from improved cameras to text recognition. The Pixel 6 also offers a unique design, excellent photography and the first in-display fingerprint sensor on Pixel
What you'll pay for a used Google Pixel 6
Read our full Pixel 6 review
OnePlus produces some fantastic phones, though they certainly release a lot of them. Which is why picking up last year's OnePlus 10 Pro is always worth thinking about. With the OnePlus 11 on sale, you can expect to find the previous device for a lot less than it would have cost you this time last year.
Not only does OnePlus throw in an incredible display, fast charging, 5G and a powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, you also have some incredible battery life. Not quite as much as the OnePlus 11, but still pretty high On top of that Oxygen OS has proven itself to be one of the cleanest versions of Android you can buy.
The camera's a significant improvement over what came before, even if the telephoto lens tops out at 8MP resolution. It even offers wireless charging, something OnePlus decided wasn't worth having this year.
Read our full OnePlus 10 Pro review
Now that the Pixel 7a is here you're going to start seeing the Google Pixel 6a drop in price. So $499 was a little too pricey for you, then you'll want to keep your eyes peeled. The Pixel 6a is one of the best cheap phones, with a bunch of impressive features in a conveniently-affordable package.
It's got a large 6.1-inch display, sub-6GHz 5G, wireless charging, a dual camera setup with 64MP main and 13MP ultrawide lenses, and a 13MP selfie camera. The battery is also pretty great, lasting 10 hours and 5 minutes during our testing regiment. Not to mention the fact that it's powered by the Tensor G2 chipset with all the AI-powered features that comes with.
Read our full Pixel 6a review
How to pick the best used smartphone for you
Deciding which used smartphone to buy is a bit harder than choosing a new phone, for obvious reasons. Aside from the fact you want to ensure the particular device you're looking at is in acceptable condition, you also have to consider whether or not the model you're interested in will be up to the task to handle what you expect to throw at it.
Flagship smartphones are more powerful than many of us realize, and so even if you buy a device that's two years old, you're still likely to get a phone that's more than powerful enough to handle everyday tasks. From browsing social media apps and websites, to GPS navigation, video and music streaming and snapping photos.
Where you might begin to see an older phone sweat pertains to those really taxing use cases, like playing the most strenuous, graphically rich mobile games and 4K video recording. Additionally, if the battery in an old phone has never been replaced with a fresh unit, it's likely deteriorated to the point where it won't last very long on a charge — another factor to consider.
You also have to be mindful of the status of software and security updates on the device. This is a particular area in which it pays to buy an older iPhone, because Apple supports its handsets for far longer than the standard 2-3 year policies Android phone makers commit to. In fact, the iPhone 8 — a device that released in 2017 — can still get iOS 17, the upcoming version of Apple's mobile operating system. The best case scenario on Android is the four years of updates Google reserves for its own Pixel devices and Samsung devices bought after 2019.
How we test smartphones
Every smartphone Tom’s Guide evaluates is tested for several days in real-world use cases and benchmarked with a gamut of performance-measuring apps. In terms of performance, we used Geekbench 5 to measure overall speed and GFXBench to measure graphics performance.
We also use our own video editing test in the Adobe Premiere Rush app to see how long it takes to transcode a clip, which we run on both Android phones and iPhone to compare performance.
We use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy, and our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by continuously loading live webpages over a 4G or 5G network. We set each phone to 150 nits of screen brightness and try to use T-Mobile's network each time in order to achieve comparable results across phones.
Lastly, we explore the software, test gaming performance and conduct live camera comparisons with rival handsets — and each of these factors play a part in our comprehensive verdict.