Tips for buying a used phone on Swappa Local

Tips for buying a used phone on Swappa Local

Buying a used phone is a great way to save money, while still getting a quality device. Today, the options for buying used tech can seem overwhelming, but with the recent launch of Swappa Local, you officially have the best reason yet to get out there and starting selling your used tech locally.

Once you find a used phone to purchase locally and you meet with the seller, it’s important to check the device to make sure it matches how the seller described it. This way you don’t find yourself leaving with a stolen device, or a device that doesn’t work.

When you buy a used phone on Swappa Local meetup, use this checklist to make sure the smartphone is exactly what you expected (and was listed) before you take it home with you. Let’s dive right in.

Used phone and tablet buyer checklist

✅ Activate the device

As soon as you receive the phone, insert your SIM card and check for network compatibility with your carrier. If the SIM works with a device, within about 20-30 seconds the network in the upper right hand should display a couple of bars or LTE. Learn how to remove or switch the SIM card for an iPhone.

✅ Make a test call

After you activate the phone, make a test call. A test call should help you test a lot of things about the phone, including the activation status, the ability to make calls, the speaker, the microphone, etc. Put the person you’re calling on speakerphone too to check the sound quality.

✅ Check the Wi-Fi connection

If you meet the seller somewhere that has internet access, connect to the Wi-Fi to make sure the phone works as expected.

✅ Check the ESN and its status with your carrier

Before you meet the seller, look to see if the listing includes the ESN/IMEI and if it doesn’t, ask the seller what it is. After you know the ESN, use Swappa’s ESN/IMEI check to to see if the device has been reported lost or stolen, or if the phone is attached to a cell phone plan with an outstanding balance. When you meet with the seller in person, check the ESN in the phone’s setting to ensure it matches the ESN in the listing so you know it’s the same phone.

✅ Check to see if the device is erased and not linked to the seller’s online account

Make sure the phone is completely erased and that it’s not tied to an iCloud or a Google account. On iPhones, make sure the seller turned off the Activation Lock so you can set up the phone with your information. If the seller still needs to do this, they can turn off Activation Lock by entering the correct Apple ID and password. Sellers can learn more on how to turn off the Activation Lock by following the instructions in the linked post.

✅ Check the screen

Carefully inspect the screen for any scratches or problems that were not advertised.

✅ Check the device body

Look over the device for dents or defects that were not advertised.

✅ Check for water damage

Each device has slightly different instructions for checking the “moisture indicators” so use Google for your specific device.

✅ Take pictures

Test the camera and take pictures with both front and back cameras. Make sure the camera works and there are no artifacts or discoloration that shouldn’t be there.

✅ Record a video

Test the camera quality and microphones as you record.

✅ Charge the device

Use your own charging device to ensure the ports and battery work as expected.

✅ Check the sound

Use headphones to check the sound including the up and down volume buttons. Also be sure to test the sound without headphones.

✅ Check the overall functionality

Inspect and test the functionality of the device, including:

  • Connect the phone to a Bluetooth device you bring with you
  • Test GPS
  • Test the touch ID
  • Set up and test the fingerprint scanner
  • Set up and test Face ID

    Other helpful tips for buying tech in person

    ✅ Bring the right amount of cash

    Make sure you have the right amount of cash so you can pay the seller, after you’ve carefully inspected the phone.

    ✅ Add a selfie on your profile

    People like to see exactly who they’re doing business with and to increase the likelihood of a sale, use a recent photo of yourself and upload to your profile/avatar. This will also help your buyer identify you in a public place.

    ✅ Restrict all communications to your Swappa sale page

    Whether the selling service you’re using has options for texting, emailing, or in-app messaging, you always want to make sure you’re frequently checking on your communications. On Swappa Local, we strongly advise that users keep all communications on the sale page once a listing has been purchased, while avoiding emails or text messages. This ensures Swappa staff is kept the loop and helps us better resolve disputes should they arise.

    ✅ Give yourself plenty of time for the meetup

    You don’t want to feel rushed as you inspect the device, and setting the expectation with the seller is important so they know you’ll be reviewing the device before they get paid.

    For other devices like video games and consoles, smart watches, smart home tech or any other used tech, remember to thoroughly check the device to make sure it matches the description of the listing, as well as the photos in the listing. Check all important features like making sure the device turns on, there are no major damages, etc.


    If you’re not interested in local meetups, you still have other options. You can find the best deals on used tech — and have them shipped directly to you — by shopping in Swappa’s online-only marketplace.  For those looking to buy a used phone and not wait for shipping, Swappa Local is your best bet. We make it safe and easy to buy a smartphone locally by performing background checks on the IMEI (electronic serial number) for you. Hit the button below to shop our selection of gently used phones on Swappa Local.