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Should you consider buying a used Apple iPad?

Should you consider buying a used Apple iPad?

January 15, 2015

Introduced in 2010, Apple’s line of tablets currently consists of five iPads. These include the recently introduced iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, plus the iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad mini 2. Four others, the original iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad 4 have been discontinued.

Often, when a new smartphone or tablet is sold, an old one is turned in and then resold. Many of these older devices are in good working condition, making them an ideal choice for those consumers hoping to save some money, or are looking for a secondary device for themselves or a family member.

Not all used tablets are the same. Some have scratches, while others have internal problems that are difficult to find. Some are new models that have been refurbished, while others are in great condition physically, but are not worth buying due to the age of the model.

Buying a used iPad


Regardless of your situation, buying a used iPad doesn’t have to be a scary proposition, as long as you follow some common sense rules.


In the United States, like most areas, there are two types of iPads available. These include Wi-Fi only models, and those that also have wireless Internet capability. These are sold as “Wi-Fi + Cellular” models. Currently, new iPads range in price from $249 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad mini, to $829 for a 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air 2.

Unlike cell phones, you don’t sign a contract to receive access to a cellular connection. Instead, you purchase data on a monthly basis. When new, the cellular models typically cost $130 more than the equivalent Wi-Fi only models.


You should only buy a tablet that is in good condition. These iPads offer reliable Wi-Fi and/or cellular reception, a battery that can go a full day without needing a recharge, and no noticeable scratches, especially on the display.

Where to buy a used iPad


There are four kinds of sources for used iPads: local sellers, auction sites, fixed-priced sites, and through Apple itself. Each source offers its own pros and cons.

Local sellers. Real friends (as opposed to friends you only make contact with online) are the best source when you are in the market for a used iPad. This assumes that you don’t have a problem with negotiating with someone you know. Most times, however, the only way to find local sellers is through sites like Craigslist.

I know plenty of folks who have used Craigslist to both sell and buy used devices. Many claim that this is the best place to find tablets at the lowest price. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to separate the good sellers from the bad. Most times, in fact, the ones with the cheapest prices, are also the ones who never respond to emails.

I have also noticed that tablets purchased through Craigslist are also those more likely to experience problems later on, including reception issues. A good rule of thumb: If a deal looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

One final word: If you do decide to buy locally using a site like Craigslist, be sure to bring a friend along to the public meeting place just to be safe.

Auction sites. On these sites, bidders are the ones who set the price. The fewer the number of bidders, the more likely that you’ll be the auction winner, and the more likely you’ll get the tablet at a lower price.

Fixed-price sites. Ideally, these are the best places to find a used iPad to buy. Sites include Amazon, eBay, Cell Phone City, and Gazelle.

These types of sites sometimes charge the highest prices. However, they are also the ones most likely to offer short-term warranties and/or guarantees on purchases.

Apple. The iPad maker doesn’t actually sell used tablets. Rather, they offer refurbished models through their website. These models had some sort of problem that was covered under the factory warranty. Once the problem is corrected, Apple puts these items back on the market at a modest discount.

My experience has taught me that auction sites are oftentimes the best places to find used iPads at the least expensive price. Of these, sites such as Cowboom are a little bit better, since the site itself is the one selling the item. Sites like eBay are a little bit less secure since individuals are the ones listing the products. Cowboom also offers a return policy for its auctions, while eBay leaves that up to the individual.

Important tips


Warranty: When purchased new, iPads come with a limited warranty that may still be active, depending on the unit. Before making a purchase, see if you can get the device’s serial number. This number can be used on Apple’s website to find the current support and service status of the unit. When getting the serial number before making the purchase isn’t possible, still be sure to check it with Apple once you receive the tablet.

Which model to buy: Apple sends out operating system updates for its line of mobile devices on a fairly regular basis. These updates are compatible with all current-generation devices, and with many past models.

Don’t buy a really old iPad model, since these might not be compatible with the latest operating system. If you are in the market for a full-size 9.7-inch tablet, I would suggest buying an iPad 4 or later for this reason. Those looking for a 7.9-inch model should go with an iPad mini 2 or iPad mini 3. Otherwise, you probably won’t be able to upgrade to the latest operating system version, whose updates often contain security and bug fixes.

Carriers/Network: When it comes to iPads and cellular connections, things can get a little bit tricky. New iPads are sold “unlocked,” meaning that they are supposed to work with any network. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Older iPads are even less likely to work across multiple networks.

If you really want a used iPad with both a Wi-Fi and cellular connection, make sure that the device the seller is offering is usable on your preferred network. Otherwise, I would advise not to buy the item.

Shop around. Be sure to take your time when looking for a used iPad. Because iPad sales continue to fall, finding a used tablet won’t be that difficult. What could take some time is finding a seller you are most comfortable doing business with.



Buying a new or used tablet requires a lot of knowledge and patience. This will be the tablet that you’ll be using for the next few years, so you want to make sure it’s the right one for you. Used iPads are a good choice for those looking to save some money, or need a secondary device. Like other used items, they are also more prone to problems, so please keep that in mind.

Given the broad range of new iPads on the market, however, it might be wiser to forgo the used models and buy new. If you do plan on buying a used iPad, be sure to follow the tips presented here.

Are you ready to begin looking for a used iPad? Local buyers, fixed-price, and auction sites are ready for your business.