Tips: Purchasing Devices from a Private Party

There are a variety of considerations when deciding to purchase a used iPhone, but three that are my main concerns based on personal experience.

  1. Check the IMEI (ESN) number. The IMEI number, which is sometimes referred to as the ESN can be checked online on such sites as If the number is bad that means the phone has been blacklisted or locked for some reason and cannot be activated by the current owner. Some reasons for a phone’s ESN being bad would be that the phone is currently activated for someone else, that there is money owed on the phone by someone or it has been reported lost or stolen.
  2. Make sure the software isn’t attached to someone else’s account. Make sure iPhones are not still attached to someone’s iCloud account and Android phones are not attached to someone’s Google account. If they are, you will need the holder of these accounts to enter their username and password and sign out of their accounts before the phone is fully functional to you or anyone else.
  3. Make sure the phone does not have water damage. This is often difficult or impossible for a common person to detect. Specifically with an iPhone, if you are able to get the phone in hand, check with a local repairshop and see if they would be willing to spend 5 minutes opening the device to check for signs of water exposure.

As with purchasing a used car, trust is key. Try to buy from someone you know directly or indirectly and who you think you can trust. There are a lot of people out there trying to unload unusable devices and if you are not careful you will be taken advantage of and lose a good chunk of cash.