How To Buy a Used Smart Phone (Complete Guide)

How To Buy a Used Smart Phone (Complete Guide)

It’s very dangerous to buy used cell phones whether it be on eBay or on your local classifieds.

There are good amount of things you should be aware of. This guide will help you know what to look for before buying used cell phones. 

ESN’s and IMEI’s are unique identity numbers to each phone. IMEI numbers are used by the GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) network. Verizon (CDMA) uses IMEI numbers for their 4G LTE phones. ESN or IMEI both identify the phone.

ESN/IMEI Numbers # are 15-17 digits long



You can find your ESN/IMEI :

Most iPhones IMEI numbers are on the back of the phone (except older models) & the back of the box (Apple)



Open your dialer and type in *#06# using the keypad.(Apple/Android)

Open Settings menu. The number is also found in

Settings > About Device > Status (Android)

 Under the battery (Android)                                                                                         


CLEAN ESN/IMEI – the phone is eligible to be put on a network

BAD ESN/IMEI – the phone cannot be registered on a network


  • lost and stolen
  • Its still on another account.
  • They owe a balance on the phone. Cell phone companies no longer do contracts, they lease phones. So with that being said the ESN/IMEI is BAD until the phone is paid off

People usually don’t post the ESN/IMEI number inside the post when selling a phone. So in your best interest to ask the seller for the ESN/IMEI number.

You can call your service provider to check and see it the ESN/IMEI number is clean & can be used with them.

You can enter the ESN/IMEI on a third party website such as : – to check if the phone has a balance, blacklisted, reported stolen &/or activation status – to check iCloud lock

Left : Good ESN/IMEI     Right : Bad ESN/IMEI


iCloud lock

It has become even more dangerous to buy a used iphone especially. The reason is seller’s apple ID is linked to their iCloud account. The terms sellers use are :


  • iCloud Locked
  • Activation locked
  • ios locked
  • Find my iphone locked.

BEWARE ! If you see any of these on the listing do not buy, If you do not know the sellers iCloud information you will not be able to use the phone even if you reset the phone. Make sure the seller does a full reset of the phone including the iCloud so you are able to input your own.

BEWARE the seller can reset the phone and the phone could lock ready to be activated but the iCloud could still be attached PLEASE check the ESN/IMEI number to verify the iCloud has been completely removed.

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Comment (1)

  • TIM Reply

    Make sure all the accessories are intact. If they aren’t, find out what it would cost you to buy each accessory and use that as a bargaining chip to reduce the price.

    May 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

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