Save, make, understand money

Household Bills

Seven ways to save on mobile phone costs

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Mobile phones are considered an essential part of everyday life, from keeping in contact with family and friends, to surfing the internet in the palm of your hand. But they can be expensive to repair or upgrade. 

Before you splash the cash on a new model, take some time to research whether you could save money with a few tweaks. As well as cutting back during the cost-of-living crisis, it could also help the environment too.

Reena Sewraz, Which? Money expert, said: “No one wants to fork out hundreds of pounds on a new phone, especially as the cost-of-living crisis continues to put pressure on household budgets. Unfortunately, this kind of spending is often out of our control as our devices can pack up or need replacing at inconvenient times.

“However, there are ways to cut the costs of a new phone. If you can afford the upfront costs of buying a phone outright, then consider a Sim-only plan which normally works out cheaper in the long run.

“The biggest savings can often be found by opting for a refurbished or second-hand device, provided you buy from a reputable retailer. You could also repair your old phone, or trade it in for cash, or a discount.”

Below, consumer champion Which? shares seven top tips to help you save money on mobile phones and high contract costs amid the cost-of-living crisis:

1) Buy a Sim-only deal

Buying a phone outright and getting a Sim-only deal can often work out cheaper than buying a phone on a contract. Although not everyone will be in a position to pay the upfront costs for a device, today’s mid-range and budget handsets can offer great performance and a wide range of features. These deals can also be accessed by customers who have unlocked their phones at the end of the contract.

Sim-only deals can be more flexible, with several providers offering one-month rolling contracts. This allows customers to switch providers to take advantage of better deals, and also avoid hefty price rises that affect longer-term contracts. See the Which? phone contract calculator to help you work out if a contract or Sim-only deal is better for you.

It also has a comparison tool to compare deals, which allows you to filter by overall cost. You may see unfamiliar networks offering the cheapest deals, but they piggyback off the same networks as the top four providers Many smaller providers also consistently perform better for customer satisfaction in Which? surveys.

2) Look beyond top brands and models

Whether buying a new or used phone, it is worth looking beyond the big brands. As an example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G on sale for less than £300 scored highly and received Which?’s Great Value stamp.

Those who prefer Apple or Samsung could also pay less for certain models. The iPhone SE is Apple’s most affordable model and scored highly in Which? tests. The 2022 version can cost £449 – more than £600 less than the iPhone 14 Pro. Samsung’s alternative, the Galaxy A33 5G, costs less than £330 and also warranted a Great Value recommendation.

3) Buy refurbished

You could consider a refurbished handset instead of a brand-new one. As well as being more environmentally friendly, it can also help you save. For example, an iPhone 13 costs £749 bought new from Apple, but you can find a refurbished one for around £550 from CeX, with a two-year warranty.

Buying a refurbished phone from a company rather than an individual gives the buyer more consumer protections. Apple has its own online shop for refurbished devices and Samsung sells Certified Re-Newed phones. Both brands supply these models in new boxes with instructions and accessories, plus a one-year warranty.

Alternatively, you can buy from second-hand specialists such as Back Market, MusicMagpie or Envirofone. Devices typically come with a one-year warranty and will be graded depending on how many cosmetic faults they have. Meanwhile, some mobile networks such as Giffgaff, O2 and Vodafone sell refurbished, too.

4) Trade in your old phone

You could bag a discount on a new phone by trading in an old one. It often doesn’t matter if the phone is a different manufacturer’s model, many retailers offer trade-ins on any phone.

You can get an instant quote via Samsung, while Apple offers a trade-in on your old iPhone and lists the maximum it will offer by model on its website. Network providers also offer trade-ins. For example, Vodafone allows customers to trade in their current phone in return for a bank transfer, credit or monthly saving on their bill. EE also has a trade-in site with average savings of £170 across phone, tablet or smartwatch deals.

5) Get a family or shared mobile plan

Combined Sim plans offer discounts and perks that could save money, such as rolling over and sharing unused data if there are multiple people in the household.

The downside is that it may be harder to switch to another provider in the future, as it is an extra hassle for everyone to change from a shared deal. Family plans work best if everyone uses a similar amount of data. Group plans are available from BT, EE, Sky, Smarty and Tesco Mobile.

6) Check reviews before buying

It’s important to check reviews before splashing out on an expensive phone. If there are annoying problems with a new device, or it needs upgrading after a year or two, it might not be worth what you spend on it.

7) Repair your old phone

If you’re looking to replace your old phone because of a cracked screen or because of the dwindling battery life, you’ll save a lot of money by repairing instead of replacing, and again, it’s better for the environment. A new battery could cost less than £20, and replacing a display less than £100. See the Which? guide on how to repair your mobile phone.