How to save money when you buy a new iPhone

Key Points
  • You can save money when a new iPhone, but you need to be strategic.
  • Know when it's a good time to buy and sell an older iPhone.
  • One option is to trade in your old iPhone toward the cost of a new one.
Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
Andrew Evers | CNBC

To quote Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold'em."

While prices for high-end iPhones have climbed past $1,000, there are many good options that cost less, if you're willing to hang onto your current device a bit longer.

Looking for sales, buying refurbished phones or just showing some patience is what's required if you want to save some money. Apple is great at providing software and hardware support for phones that are several years old, and most people don't need every new feature.


Shoppers queue up outside Apple's store in Regent Street, London, for the new iPhone models.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

The best thing you can do right now is to wait to buy a new iPhone. Apple is expected to introduce new models in September, which means it will drop the price of older phones. If you don't need the latest and greatest, you can save money by buying this year's model at a discount.

Apple, for example, still sells the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. It might phase out the iPhone 7 and drop the iPhone 8 to its lowest price yet. If it still sells this year's iPhone XS, iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max, those will also come down in price. The only reason not to wait is if you're trading one in. But more on that later.

Buy refurbished

The iPhone 8 Plus camera's portrait mode is fun! Here's my dog.
Nina Raja | CNBC

Consider buying a refurbished iPhone. This is often a phone that's been turned in for repairs and fixed but isn't brand new. Apple has an entire section of its site dedicated to refurbished products, and they all still come with a one-year warranty. You won't find the latest iPhone XS or iPhone XS models, but that's OK, since Apple keeps its older phones updated on the latest software.

A refurbished iPhone X with 256GB of storage costs $899, a big discount from the $1,149 that it cost at the time of launch. Or there's the iPhone 8, which you can get refurbished for $729 — $120 cheaper than buying it new.

Wait for sales

A man holds the Apple iPhone XS and XS Max during a product demonstration following the Apple launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, September 12, 2018.
Stephen Lam | Reuters

Apple doesn't typically offer sales on iPhones, but other stores do. Best Buy frequently discounts iPhones throughout the year for various sales, including Black Friday. Right now, it's offering $100 off the iPhone XS Max if you activate your new phone on Sprint, AT&T or Verizon. The retailer has sales on other Apple products that pop up periodically. Earlier this month it had an anniversary sale, and you can probably expect something similar around Labor Day.

Trade in your old phone says the device on the left is an iPhone 8 mockup. It’s on top of an iPhone 7 Plus on the right.
Source: Zach Epstein, BGR

If you own your phone outright — that is, you don't owe anything on a payment plan — you can trade in your iPhone towards the cost of a new one. Amazon, Best Buy and other online retailers will tell you how much they're willing to pay you for your old device. Apple accepts trade-ins, too. If you trade in an iPhone 6s, for example, you can get an iPhone XS for $849, a $150 discount. Apple increased the value of its trade-ins last November, when an iPhone 6s was only worth $75 toward a new phone.

Sell your old phone

CNBC | Erin Black

Finally, if you think you can get more for your old phone than Apple, Best Buy or Amazon will offer, you can try selling it. I've had the best luck using Swappa, where you can set a price and see if people are willing to pay what you think it's worth. The site also tells you the selling price of similar models so you know the going rate.

It all depends on the model. The iPhone 6s is selling for about $110 to $150 right now, so if you have an iPhone 6s, you're better off just trading it in to Apple and putting that cash towards a new phone. This is one time you won't want to wait since Apple may decrease what it's willing to pay for an old phone once the newer models are out.

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