An increasing number of Australian telcos are offering pre-owned smartphones on contract plans
Pre-owned phone plans are often significantly cheaper than equivalent new handset plans
Most pre-owned phones come with a warranty protecting you against unforeseen failure
What is a pre-owned phone plan?
As the name implies, pre-owned phone plans provide you with a second-hand smartphone that you pay off over the course of a fixed-term contract. These phones typically undergo a refurbishment process to ensure they are suitable for ongoing use.
Pre-owned phone plans also include a mobile service with a monthly supply of calls and texts as well as an allotment of data.
How is a pre-owned phone plan different to a new phone plan?
Signing up to a second-hand phone plan gets you a handset that has seen some form of prior use before making its way into your hands. To ensure that use didn't impact the phone's functionality, most telcos subject each device to an inspection and certification process, guaranteeing that it's still capable of performing all the tasks it could when it was new. This is why you'll often see them referred to as refurbished phones.
There are, of course, some concessions involved when purchasing a refurbished phone. You may have to accept some level of cosmetic damage, though this should not impact the phone's performance in any way. You won't be covered by the manufacturer's warranty, either, but most telcos make up for this by providing their own warranty against faults and other issues, as long as you didn't cause them through accident or misuse.
Most other aspects of pre-owned phone plans are the same as regular phone plans. You own the handset after your contract term is complete and cancelling your contract early means paying out any remaining handset fees in one go. Some telcos even give you the option to trade back your second-hand phone for a more recent model if it no longer meets your needs.
Considerably cheaper than buying new
Inspections and warranties ensure each phone functions as it should
Second-hand goods are covered by Australian Consumer Law guarantees
Some pre-owned phones may sport light cosmetic damage
You're typically limited to older smartphone models
How to compare pre-owned phone plans
Warranty protection. Telcos offer a range of protections with their refurbished smartphones, so it's important to compare them when considering which telco to sign up with. Along with different periods of warranty cover, they may also vary on how they treat claims outside of the warranty period, with some telcos extending coverage indefinitely provided the phone is still in good working order.
Inspection process. Most telcos selling second-hand smartphones conduct some form of inspection and/or refurbishment procedure before certifying a handset for sale. This procedure typically boils down to ensuring a phone is fully functional, but some procedures are more thorough than others. If you're concerned about the condition of your prospective second-hand smartphone, comparing each telco's inspection procedure is a must. To help with that, we've compiled our top tips for buying a refurbished phone.
Coverage. As with new phone plans, network coverage is a key consideration when comparing different telcos. The Telstra network usually offers the greatest coverage and highest speeds, but it also tends to cost more than equivalent plans on the Optus or Vodafone networks. If coverage is an issue in your day-to-day life, be sure to check which network each pre-owned phone plan operates on.
Monthly inclusions. Most phone plans come with unlimited standard talk and text these days, making data the primary point of distinction. Plans can include anywhere from 1GB up to 200GB per month. The price scales just as steeply, so you'll want to ensure you're only paying for the data you need. If you don't know how much data you need, you should check out our mobile data usage calculator.
Matt Sayer is a technology writer and editorial engineer for Finder, combining industry expertise with data-driven solutions to help people make better decisions. His extensive portfolio spans investigate reporting on the roll-out of 5G, statistical analysis on the legacy of E3 and guides for popular products like mobile phones and smart speakers. Matt has a Bachelor of Computer Science from RMIT University and is passionate about finding ways that technology can better our lives.
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