The Used iPad Guide: How to and What Model to Buy

Is that used iPad really worth it?

Buying a used iPad is a great way to save a bit of money, but just like when you shop for a used car, you need to know a few things for the process to go smoothly. You also want to get a good deal on the iPad, which means picking out a model that isn't obsolete and sells for a reasonable price

Apple has sold more than 400 million iPads as of early 2020. Many of them are still functioning and are waiting for a new home—yours.

Where to Buy a Used iPad

If you have a friend, a relative, or a friend-of-a-friend who is selling an iPad, you have this part solved. Buying from someone you know reduces the stress of the exchange. You still need to buy the right iPad for a reasonable price and review what to do during and after the exchange. Other possibilities include:

  • Refurbished from Apple: A refurbished iPad is one that was returned to Apple and repaired. If you buy a refurbished unit directly from Apple, you save money and—more importantly—receive the same one-year warranty from Apple as a new iPad carries. However, you may be able to buy at a lower price elsewhere.
  • Buy from eBay: One great thing about eBay is that there exists a layer between you and the buyer. This lets you rely on eBay if the item you receive isn't the same as the description. However, be aware of any shipping costs.
  • Buy from Amazon: Yes, Amazon has a used marketplace. If you search for an iPad, you can see both new and used prices. The used price is the cheapest overall cost, which combines both the cost of the iPad and any shipping costs.
  • Buy from Craigslist: The internet version of a classified ads section of the paper, you can buy and sell almost anything on Craigslist. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when you buy on Craigslist. If you are thinking about buying an iPad from Craigslist, read this Craigslist guide, which goes over specifics about the Craigslist process.

Which iPad to Buy

While it is important to decide on the best place to buy a used iPad, the most essential part of the process is making sure you buy the right iPad for you. You don't want to get stuck with an iPad that is limited within a year or two.

The current 2020 lineup consists of the following:

  • iPad Pro, 4th generation, 12.9 inch and 11 inch
  • iPad Air, 3rd generation, 10.5 inch
  • iPad, 7th generation, 10.2 inch
  • iPad Mini, 5th generation, 7.9 inch

These are the models that cost the most, are the most powerful, and offer the most features. They are also iPads that Apple will support for years to come. The nearer you come to these models and generations, the more longevity you can expect from a used iPad.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro
Apple
  • Don't buy the original iPad. Just don't. The original iPad is a glorified paperweight these days.
  • Skip the iPad 2, iPad 3, and original iPad Mini: These iPads are all considered obsolete, which means Apple no longer supports them with updates to the operating system, and many new apps do not work on them. In terms of processing speed, they are all identical. The iPad 3 has faster graphics to support the Retina Display, but it performs similarly to an iPad 2. Unless you are paying less than $50 and mainly want a way to browse the web, your money is better spent on a newer iPad.

The 3rd-generation iPad's life span was just 221 days. It was the last iPad to support the old 30-pin dock connector. It was replaced by the iPad 4 with a Lightning connector.

  • The iPad 4: The 4th-generation iPad is also obsolete; proceed with caution. It is best used as a web browser or an e-book reader. If you find one cheap enough and your needs are minimal, it may be worth it, but like other early iPads, it no longer supports new apps or app updates to older apps.
  • The 5th- and 6th-Generation iPad. If you can't afford an iPad Pro model, the recent versions of the iPad are your next best bets. They are new enough to enjoy a decent life span and are cheaper than the iPad Pro models.
  • The iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4. This series of iPad models represents the iPad Air and iPad Air 2, with the 7.9-inch iPad Mini models mimicking their bigger brothers in terms of features and processing power. The iPad Mini 4 is the equivalent of an iPad Air 2, while the Mini 2 and Mini 3 are essentially the same as an iPad Air. With the 7th-generation iPad available new for just $329 from Apple, look for a deep discount on these older models. While they won't support the Apple Pencil or the smart keyboard, they do just about anything any other iPad can do. However, only the iPad Mini 4 is still supported by Apple; the other models are classified as obsolete.
  • The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 9.7-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro. The previous models of the iPad Pro are still wicked fast. You can expect Apple and developers to support them for years to come. They are more expensive than older models, but they have longevity.

What to Do During a Purchase

If you are buying from Craigslist or a similar person-to-person purchase, there are a few things you should do before exchanging money. You don't want to get home only to find out something is wrong with the device.

  • Examine the iPad to see if it appears to be in good shape. Check the screen for any cracks and the case for any dents. A small dent in the outer casing of the iPad isn't a big deal, but any crack on the screen is a deal breaker. Do not buy an iPad with a cracked screen, even if it is only a small crack outside of the normal display. A small crack tends to lead to a bigger crack, and you may be surprised by how quickly that small crack can turn into a shattered screen.
  • When you are buying on Craigslist, check the model number advertised to make sure it matches the iPad model you are buying. If the person you are buying from seems uncertain of the model or if you are uncertain of the person you are buying it from, double-checking the model number is a good idea. You can find the iPad's model number by opening the Settings app, going to General, and choosing About. You can compare the model name against the list of models.
  • Launch a few apps, including the Notes app, which gives you an opportunity to use the on-screen keyboard. If you have Wi-Fi access, open the Safari web browser and go to several websites.
  • Plug the iPad into a wall outlet and confirm the battery icon in the upper-right corner shows a lightning bolt, which means it is charging. This indicates the port at the bottom of the iPad is in good working order.
  • After you check everything out, reset the iPad. Even if the iPad was restored to factory default when you picked it up, you should reset it again before the purchase is complete. It doesn't take long to reset, and it is worth the hassle in knowing that all of the important switches, such as Find My iPad, are turned off when you take possession.

After You Buy a Previously Owned iPad

As important as it is to turn off Find My iPad when you are buying a used iPad, it is just as important to turn it on again after you take possession and set it up for your use. The setup process should prompt you to do so, but if it didn't, turn the feature on by going to Settings and flipping the Find My iPad switch. Find My iPad doesn't just locate the iPad if it is missing; it also allows you to put it in lost mode or reset it remotely.