- You’ll have freedom to switch companies at any time
- That could save you even more money in the long term
- We compare prices among various online sellers
If you’ve shopped lately for a new phone, you know how easy it is to end up spending $1,000+ to get the latest device — only to be stuck in a contract for a year or more.
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How can you save hundreds of dollars?
The option to save hundreds of dollars when buying a cell phone is to purchase an unlocked phone online.
Moreover, it will give you the freedom to switch carriers at any time, which could save you even more money in the long run.
In this article, we will compare prices among several major online sellers to find deals on unlocked cell phones.
Keep reading to see where you can get the best overall deal, also following the tips from ClarkDeals.com.
What is an unlocked phone?
An unlocked phone is a cell phone that you can use on multiple networks.
If your phone is unlocked, you’ll be able to switch easily between different service providers.
That means you’ll always be in control of your phone bill, and you’ll be able to change carriers at any time to get a better deal.
If you’re shopping for a new phone and you plan on using one of the big three cell phone providers, the provider will most likely offer better deals on phones than you could find on your own.
The perfect candidate for an unlocked phone
But if you switch carriers frequently, you’re the perfect candidate for an unlocked phone.
“The beauty of an unlocked phone is that you are a free agent,” says money expert Clark Howard. “You can go anywhere.”
Any unlocked smartphone you buy is going to work on GSM networks such as AT&T, T-Mobile or smaller carriers that use the same towers (MVNOs).
However, if you’re going to use an unlocked phone on a Verizon or Verizon reseller network, you’ll have to make sure that it’s CDMA-compatible.
If it doesn’t have a warranty, is it not advisable?
Warranties and return policies will vary on unlocked phones depending on where you buy them and whether they’re new or refurbished.
For that reason, it’s important to read the information provided by the seller before you make your final purchase.
If you find that a particular phone won’t be covered by any warranty or insurance, that doesn’t automatically make it a bad deal.
Just consider paying your phone bill with one of these credit cards that provide cell phone protection to ensure you’re covered.
The best places to buy unlocked phones
I researched the online prices for several popular phones — new and used — to see how major vendors’ prices stacked up against each other as of August 2023.
As you can see, the prices for unlocked phones generally stay in the same range across retailers and independent sellers.
However, you’ll find enough of a difference to make it worth your time to compare prices.
When you’re looking for an unlocked phone, it’s important to decide in advance whether you want a brand-new device or one that has been refurbished.
While you can get a new unlocked phone at a reasonable price, you will find better deals on used and refurbished models.
Best Buy carries more than 200 unlocked cell phones that you can browse online.
If you know what phone you’re looking for, you can use the search bar to see if Best Buy has it in stock. Or you can use the filters on the side of the screen to narrow your search.
While you’re browsing phones online at Best Buy, note that most of the initial prices you’ll see are offered with same-day activation, even with unlocked devices.
If you plan to activate your phone at a later date, you may see a slightly higher price. The prices in the comparison above indicate the higher “activate later” prices.
Amazon is another great place to shop for an unlocked phone.
You’ll find new and refurbished devices available directly from manufacturers as well as from independent sellers at good prices.
Like Best Buy’s website, you can search for the specific device you’re looking for, or browse the available selection by filtering your results with the tools on the left-hand side of the screen.
Amazon carries all the major cell phone brands, and many of the phones are eligible for free two-day shipping if you’re a Prime member.
You’ll find more than 1,000 unlocked phones online at Walmart.com.
The retailer carries phones made by Apple, Samsung, LG, BLU, Motorola, Google and more.
In addition to searching for a specific phone and browsing by brand, you can also narrow your search results by condition, screen size, price and carrier compatibility among other filters.
In August 2023, Walmart offered the best price I could find on a new unlocked Google Pixel 6a. Walmart also offered a great deal on an unlocked iPhone 12 during my most recent price comparison.