A Guide to Buying Cell Phones in Bulk

Did you know that most once-owned smartphones will still have two to four more users before reaching end-of-life status and getting recycled? Thanks to trade-in programs and customer returns, among other channels, there is a huge demand for secondary market cell phones. Buyers can acquire used and returned cell phones via online auction sites like B-Stock. In fact, mobile is a behemoth of a category to get into if you’re a reseller or wholesaler. From used iPhone returns to trade-in Samsung Galaxy units, buying cell phones in bulk generates steady business for mobile resellers!

In this article, we’ll go over:

  • The mobile category
  • How cell phones reach the secondary market
  • Benefits of buying cell phones in bulk
  • Best practices for buying cell phones in bulk
  • Best practices for reselling cell phones

The mobile category

​​In 2022, the number of global smartphone users is estimated to be 6.6 billion! Smartphones on the secondary market are just as hot of a commodity—cell phone returns and trade-ins, especially.

The products that make up this category may be small, but they are in fact mighty. Because there is a high demand for this product category, a mobile reseller, wholesaler, or exporter can build quite a lucrative business. According to CCS Insight, second-hand smartphones reached $13 billion in revenue for organized commercial resellers in 2021.

Here are some top mobile manufacturers that make up this category:

If you’re considering getting into the mobile resale game, you will need a steady source of inventory! Start browsing cell phone liquidation auctions on B-Stock!

View Mobile Auctions

How cell phones reach the secondary market

Mobile manufacturers and carriers have a few reasons for selling excess stock via online auctions. Inventory includes store demo models, overstock, aging units, warranty replacements of damaged and defective units, and store returns. Let’s break down a few ways that mobile inventory makes its way to the B-Stock platform:

1. Trade-in programs

Consumers in the market for a new cell phone will visit retailers like Verizon and AT&T to trade in or trade up. Trade-in programs through the carriers are a leading cause of mobile inventory entering the secondary market via resellers and wholesalers that buy these cell phones in bulk.

2. Insurance and warranty phones

Cell phones that come back damaged or defective are another cause for returns and replacements. Damaged cell phones are less expensive to acquire by mobile buyers looking to harvest parts, sell inventory to repair shops, or refurbish and resell themselves. Therefore, there is still a demand for insurance and warranty replacement phones on online auction sites.

3. Buyer’s remorse and store returns

Say a buyer stops by AT&T for a new Galaxy phone but later realizes they want to wait until the next model drops. So, back to the retailer it goes. Manufacturers like Apple will also give consumers 14 calendar days to return an item from the date they received it.

Buyers who acquire cell phones in bulk at steep discounts will later introduce mobile inventory into the secondary market.

Benefits of buying cell phones in bulk

Flexible lot sizes

Cell phone lot sizes range from dozens to hundreds—any size lot you’re interested in can be found on B-Stock Supply or one of our private cell phone marketplaces. Simply bid what you’re willing to pay for that lot size!

The mobile upgrade cycle is quick

There are plenty of new models released every year, which lays the groundwork for trade-ins and upgrades. Even though new iterations add performance upgrades and fresh features, last year’s model will still remain usable and desirable for years to come.

Exporting opportunities

There is a huge demand in emerging countries for used smartphones. If you sell overseas, it’s best to offer large quantities (versus single units) to save time and money on shipping costs. For more exporting know-how, be sure to catch up on Export Education: An Introduction.

Cell phones are an everyday necessity

Cell phones are a necessity. People now depend on their smartphones for things like home security, banking, shopping, work, play, and more. Consumers know they don’t necessarily have to pay top dollar for a great device and will often opt for a pre-owned model to save money.

Best practices for buying cell phones in bulk

Understand the grading systems

Understanding the mobile device grading system is critical. An item’s condition directly affects how much you will pay for inventory and what profits you can fetch for said goods. A mobile repair shop, for instance, may pay a lot less for Grade E (or salvage) inventory from which to harvest parts while another buyer who sells to end consumers may be looking for a vastly different price for Grade A (like-new) inventory.

Wireless device grading scales criteria and definitions are published by CTIA Certification. You can find more details on types of cosmetic defects allowed per surface area and in total here. Please see a brief summary of the grading system:

  • Grade A: Like-new condition
  • Grade B: Light wear and tear
  • Grade C: More aggressive wear and tear
  • Grade D: Heavy cosmetic damage with cover lens cracks.
  • Grade E: Heavy cosmetic damage with display internal structure damage.
  • Grade N: Not Graded

Be mindful of restrictions

When purchasing mobile inventory, you will want to be mindful of certain specifications like ‘Carrier Lock Status.’ This means cell phones could be unlocked—and be used with a SIM card from any carrier—or locked. For example, if T-Mobile devices are specified as ‘Carrier Locked’ they may only function on T-Mobile’s network. Unlocked phones will not be restricted to one wireless carrier. This will be pertinent information to include in your product listings on selling platforms like eBay.

Apple iPhone 11 - Pre-Owned Good Condition

Create a network of contacts

Creating relationships in the industry will help you to expand your inventory sources. For example, knowing you can do business with either David in Florida or Jim in California to fulfill specific orders expands your reach geographically.

Note: If you’re purchasing mobile inventory from a new source, it wouldn’t hurt to do a small order first. That way, you can test a batch of inventory before making a sale.

Best practices for reselling cell phones

Decide who you want to sell to

You can sell to other businesses via wholesale or sell mobile inventory directly to consumers. Smaller buyers may individually list cell phones on resale sites. Bigger buyers are likely selling inventory to other businesses since they’re purchasing quantities in the thousands. This can look different for each buyer depending on purchasing power, contacts in the industry, and who the end consumer will be.


If you can clean up or refurbish lower-grade inventory then you can potentially make higher profits. You can also outsource the repairs if you can’t perform them yourself. Used cell phones will be worth more if you put time into fixing a cracked screen or replacing an old battery with a new one.

Be aware of upcoming new releases

Selling phones is easier to do before new models get released. Apple generally announces new models in September, and then preorders open shortly after. So don’t hang on to your used mobiles too long, because as soon as a new one is announced, phones begin to drop in value. Consider when you can make the biggest bang for your buck—but know you always have a steady demand for used phones no matter what.

Buy trade-in and returned cell phones on B-Stock

Registered buyers can find top brands and the latest models of mobile devices on B-Stock from leading carriers and manufacturers. You also have flexible purchasing options on B-Stock, so your business can purchase any condition cell phone and lot size needed. Start buying cell phones in bulk when you register today!

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