Clark Howard: No contract phones without the sticker shock

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Ready to go without a contract on cell service, but feeling sticker shocked by the prices on new phones?

I’ve got some choices you need to know about.

If you were to buy a new iPhone 6, you’d pay $650 for the basic model if you’re going non-contract. But with a contract, you get it for $200 and then the wireless company bakes the loss they take on subsidizing the phone at a cheap price into the 24-month contract. So you ultimately pay a huge additional amount per month for service.

But people who are really thrifty buy reconditioned iPhones and save big money when they go non-contract.

Same thing in the Android world. The Wall Street Journal says the OnePlus One that you buy no-contract for $299 is an amazing phone. It’s only available for sale on Tuesdays. (Don’t ask me why).

The OnePlus One can only be used on T-Mobile, AT&T and others that run on GSM. That’s just one example.

Motorola has a variety of phones you buy no-contract that start at $100 and go up from there, like the Moto e, Moto G and Moto X. T-Mobile and AT&T sell another affordable phone no-contract called the ZMax from ZTE, for $200 to $250. And Huawei sells a phone that is the biggest of the “phone-tablets” for $295 no contract.

The Apple story is more difficult. If you want to go no-contract and hold down the monthly price, you’re going to have to buy a 5C. You can get one new for $280, but reconditioned ones start at $100 or so.

Before you get into selecting a phone, you’ve got to decide whose service you want. Then you look for phones that work on that service. The best deals are on phones that work on GSM. The next cheapest are phones that work on Sprint.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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