Yesterday, someone searched for that and found my post on cell phone insurance and self-insuring. However, I don’t think I answered that question fully in that post. Yes, it talked about things you can do ahead of time to make sure you have money to replace the phone (like putting away the same amount in an ING subaccount or somesuch). But now about how much it costs to replace an uninsured cell phone.
First, check the warranty to make sure it’s expired. If it’s only been a few months and the phone died of “natural causes,” you might be able to get it replaced for free.
Otherwise, as I see it, you have three main options:
1. Renew the contract. Probably the cheapest option is to go to your local provider’s store and get a new contract. Most 2-year contracts get you a major discount on the phone, or perhaps even a free phone…depending on which model you choose. But go over all the fees with your provider before signing, they may have activation fees and the like.
Advantages: If you were staying with the provider anyway, this gets you a new phone for comparatively little. You shouldn’t have to pay the early termination fee because you’re staying with them and they want to keep you (be sure to ask about it, though).
Disadvantages: You’re staying with the same provider, even if you were planning to switch. You can’t shop around for the best contract deal. Your monthly service price may go up because that’s what they’re offering now, as compared to when you signed the contract.
2. Buying a used phone. If the cell phone is compatible and “unlocked” (meaning is ESN…electronic serial number isn’t assigned to a particular group), switching phones may be as easy as slipping in the SIM card from your current phone. Here’s a pretty decent article on activating a used phone, if you decide to go this route.
Like buying anything online, buying a used phone is a risk. Ideally, you’d be able to get your money back and whatnot if it didn’t work. Follow your usual safe eBay/online buying rules…whatever you’re comfortable with. People may be selling the phone because it’s a dud or they may be selling because they got a new one and it’s just old.
Double check with your cell phone company before doing this, make sure that you can activate a used phone. Call, since store employees may not be familiar with it, but you can easily be transferred to the right person in the service dept if you’re on the phone.
2.5 Saving your old phones. Like self-insuring, this is something you have to think of ahead of time. But it’s still a good idea if you’re a cell phone user. If you get a new phone with your contract renewal, put the old one somewhere safe. I donated my last one to a women’s shelter…so there may also be a good reason not to keep it.
If you’re using the same provider, it should be pretty easy to switch SIMs. (But call your provider if you have any problems.) Give this a shot before purchasing new equipment. There’s no point in spending the money if you’ve got something perfectly good that’ll work.
Ask your friends, too. See if one of them has an old, undead cell phone they’d be willing to give or sell you.
3. Buying a new phone. Without renewing your contract, this will probably cost a lot. The phone I got for $15 with the contract retails for $200+. So yes. Replacing an uninsured cell phone may cost an awful lot. But it doesn’t have to…so think carefully before you take this step.
For more on cell phone insurance and refurbished electronics, try these posts:
– What Happened to My Cell Phone? by Madison at My Dollar Plan
– Save Money on Refurbished Electronics by Patrick at Cash Money Life
– and the 17 awesome comments on my last cell phone insurance post.
Edit: Isn’t it embarrassing when you mess up something in the post title? I fixed it now. It was from a previous version of the title, which I rewrote but left a word in the wrong…case?