IPhones don’t come cheap. The iPhone X, Apple’s most expensive phone to date, starts at $999.
1. Choose a smaller phone
Larger iPhones and those with more storage capacity are more expensive. You can save considerably by opting for the basic model over a beefed-up version.
A new iPhone 8 with 64GB of storage retails for $699 from Apple, while the 256GB iPhone 8 is $150 more, at $849. You’ll save $100 by picking the 64GB iPhone 8 over the larger, dual-camera equipped iPhone 8 Plus with the same storage capacity, which is priced at $799.
2. Buy an older model
One of the best times to buy an iPhone is in September, when new models are typically announced and older ones are discounted. After the iPhone 8 and iPhone X announcement in September 2017, Apple dropped the price of the previous generation iPhone 7 from $649 to $549.
Used technology marketplaces tend to get an influx of old iPhones around new releases, which drives prices down.
3. Wait for a promotion
Cell phone carriers and electronics retailers offer some of their best iPhone deals during the holiday shopping season, particularly around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. For example, Best Buy’s 2017 Black Friday sale included the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus for up to $200 off with qualified activation on select networks.
Cell phone carriers and electronics retailers offer some of their best iPhone deals around Black Friday.
Fall is a prime time to find savings, but keep your eye out for promotions year-round.
4. Pick a payment plan
The two-year contract is a thing of the past, meaning major wireless carriers no longer offer free or subsidized phones in exchange for commitment to their service. As a result, there is very little difference in phone price from carrier to carrier. Your options: Buy the iPhone outright or get on a payment plan.
Purchasing a phone, rather than leasing, gives you the ability to eventually sell or trade it and put the value toward a new phone. But if you can’t afford the full cost, or don’t want to cough up the entire amount upfront, consider paying for your iPhone in monthly installments. Apple and every major carrier have their own monthly payment plans. Some agreements allow you to upgrade to a new phone after a certain amount of time or once you’ve paid off a specific percentage of the phone’s sale price.
Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program spreads out the cost of the device and AppleCare+ coverage — which includes repairs and software support — over 24 months with 0% interest and lets you turn in your existing phone and upgrade to a new one after 12 payments. Monthly payments for the iPhone X start at $49.91, so after 12 payments, you’ll have paid $598.92 — that’s about $400 less than the phone’s retail price. The AT&T Next Every Year plan doesn’t include insurance, but it offers a lower monthly charge of $41.67 for the 64GB iPhone X and you’re eligible to upgrade after paying 50% of the cost, or $499.99. With both plans, your device must be in good physical and working condition to meet upgrade requirements.
An upgrade plan may be best if you get a new iPhone every year without fail. Shop around and pick the carrier or payment plan that best suits your needs.
» MORE: The best cell phone plans
5. Buy a pre-owned iPhone
Used or refurbished phones often have a stigma attached, but when purchased from a trustworthy seller, they’re actually reliable — and affordable — options.
“Used doesn’t necessarily mean lesser quality of function. A well-cared for phone that has a previous owner will have a lot of life left,” says Ben Edwards, CEO of Swappa, a marketplace for used technology.
A well-cared for phone that has a previous owner will have a lot of life left.
At the time of this writing, we spotted an unlocked 128GB iPhone 7 in excellent condition for $449 on Gazelle. The same model sells for $649 new at Apple. If you can handle one with a few minor imperfections, like scratches or dents, you’ll likely save more. Before you buy a device from a third-party reseller, make sure it’s compatible with your carrier and isn’t broken, stolen or still under contract. Look for websites like Swappa that perform a serial number, or ESN, check on phones or require sellers to upload verification photos. You can also run a check yourself, using tools like CTIA’s Stolen iPhone Checker.
6. Sell or trade in your old phone
If you have an old phone lying around that’s completely paid off, you could be sitting on a pile of cash. This is particularly true with iPhones, which depreciate more slowly than other phones. The Samsung Galaxy S8 lost 54% of its value in the first month after it launched, while the iPhone 8 lost 49% of its value in its first month, according to data from Decluttr, a tech buyback website.
If you don’t need your previous device as a backup, sell it or trade it in. You might end up with a few hundred dollars in cash, gift cards or credit that you can apply toward a new iPhone. You’ll typically get more money for selling a phone rather than trading it in, Edwards says, but it may be more of a hassle.
Estimate the resale or trade-in value of your device through Apple, your carrier or trusted sites like Swappa and Gazelle.