Compare and Recycle
22/07/2022

Phone Rental: Will You Save or Lose Money on a New Phone?

a pink and a blue smartphones laying face down on a pink and blue background

With e-waste reaching record heights every year and being aware of the fact that 57.4 million tonnes were generated in 2021 is enough to rethink how we buy, use and dispose of smartphones. There's an urgent need to keep personal electronics in circulation to reduce the demand for Earth's finite resources. While phones as subscription services isn't a thing yet, there are companies that you can rent a phone from. While from environmental standpoint there are claims made we can agree with, financially this smartphone consumption model is unfortunately a waste of money most of the time. So to ease off your decision making we compared the costs involved with owning a phone through rental, buying on a contract or purchasing outright.

In this article:

The basics of phone rental and what to expect

Phone rentals are a relatively new concept in the UK, however retailers offering rent-a-phone service are sprining right, left and center. In its nature renting a phone is similar to a lease where you pay monthly to use the phone. Rental periods vary depending on the retailer, but majority offer 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months. At the end of a rental period you can either:

1) Return the phone to the retailer and upgrade to a newer model 2) Carry on renting it and paying the monthly charges 3) Keep the phone by paying the buyout fee

If you choose to upgrade, you will need to return the phone you've been renting in the condition you first got it. For those unable to return the phone or who decided to keep it, a fee reflective of the phone's current market value needs to be paid.

How much does it cost to rent a phone?

The price of a phone rental will depend on which model you'd like to rent and for how long. Monthly payments for 3 - 6 months rentals can be as high as £60, whereas 24 - 36 months long lease can cost in the region of £30 per month. While monthly payments for a phone rental in comparison to having it on a contract with a network might seem lower, you shouldn't forget that phone rentals don't include any SIM plans. So this is going to be an additional cost on top of your monthly charges for renting a phone to be able to actually use it.

The comparison of phone ownership costs

At Compare and Recycle, we're all about comparing available options and decided to break down total costs associated with 3 different ways you can own a phone: keep it after the rental agreement is up, buy it on a contract or buy it directly from the manfacturer outright. In order to have a fair comparison, our calculations of owning a phone outright or through rental include SMARTY's rolling SIM-only plan for £8/pm with 12GB of data, unlimited texts and calls and EU roaming.

We've compared two retailers in the UK, Raylo and Ooodles, offering rent-a-phone services for the below smartphone models. To calculate the total cost of owning a phone after the rental agreement is up, we've taken:

  • Retailer's monthly charges for renting the phone
  • A one-off fee to be paid to keep the phone
  • SIM-only plan
Phone ModelRental
Length
(months)
Average* Cost
of Ownership
With Rental
Manufacturer's
Price
Outright
Cost
Outright**
Contract
Cost***
Rental
VS
Outright
Rental
VS
Contract
New iPhone 13
128GB (Midnight)
12£847.38£779£875£887.64

£27.63
(3.16%)

£40.27
(4.54%)

New iPhone 13
128GB (Midnight)
24£1,018.76£779£971£936

-£47.76
(-4.92%)

-£82.76
(-8.84%)

New Samsung Galaxy
S225G 128GB (Black)
12£919.88£769£865£1,073.64

-£54.88
(-6.34%)

£153.77
(14.32%)

New Samsung Galaxy
S22 5G 128GB (Black)
24£1,093.76£769£961£839.76

-£132.76
(-13.81%)

-£254
(-30.25%)

New iPhone 13 Pro
Max 128GB (Graphite)
12£1,251.38£1,049£1,145£1,343.64

-£106.38
(-9.29%)

£92.26
(6.87%)

New iPhone 13 Pro
Max 128GB (Graphite)
24£1,473.76£1,049£1,241£1,368

-£232.76
(-18.76%)

-£105.76
(-7.73%)

New Samsung Galaxy S22
Ultra 5G 128GB (Black)
12£1,340.88£1,149£1,245£1,535.64

-£95.88
(-7.7%)

£194.77
(12.68%)

New Samsung Galaxy S22
Ultra 5G 128GB (Black)
24£1,532.26£1,149£1,341£1,224

-£191.26
(-14.26%)

-£308.26
(-25.18%)

*Average cost of ownership when renting includes monthly rental payments, purchase price of the phone to keep it and SIM-only plan.

**Cost outright includes phone’s retail price on 18.07.2022 and SIM-only plan.

***Cost of the contract is based on the cheapest deal on 18.07.2022 from UK networks without upfront costs.

Quick findings:

  • Renting a phone is only worth it for a very short term (12 months and less). If you're not a frequent upgrader and tend to keep phones using them for 2+ years, you risk losing hundreds of pounds.
  • Owning a phone through rental costs on average £104 more than buying outright.
  • 24-month phone rentals are financially worse than having a 24-month contract with a network provider.

If you are looking to get yourself a brand new iPhone 13 Pro Max (128GB), owning it with a Rent-a-phone service after 24 months is £232.76 more expensive than buying it directly from Apple and having a SIM-only plan. Similarly, the cheapest iPhone 13 Pro Max contract for 24 months will work out to £105.76 in savings versus renting the iPhone and keeping it.

In case with a new iPhone 13 (128GB) our calculations have revealed that you will be £47.76 worse off renting it for 24 months than buying it outright with a SIM-only plan and £82.76 worse off than 2 years paying monthly for a contract.

Renting a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G (128GB) and purchasing it after the rental term is guaranteed to lose you £308.26 in comparison to having it on a contract. Choosing to rent it for 24 months instead of owning it outright will result in £191.26 down the drain.

Buying a Galaxy S22 5G (128GB) outright and having a rolling SIM-only plan separately is the most savvy choice, as keeping it after 12 months rental will cost you £54.88 more. However, renting a Galaxy S22 for 12 months and paying in the region of £352 - £419 to keep will save you £153.77 rather than having it on a 12-month contract.

Is it best to rent or buy a phone?

Choosing to buy or to rent a phone will mainly depend on how long you're going to use the phone for. Our comparison of phone ownership costs highlights how crucial it is to do the maths before making a decision and not to get tempted by low monthly phone rental payments.

Your first option to consider is buying the phone outright, especially if you’re planning to keep the phone for 2 years or more. Buying a new phone or a refurbished phone outright is the most budget-friendly option, with savings of at least £70 compared to contracts and £104 compared to owning a phone through a rental service. Another benefit of buying the phone is that you own it and when you’re done with it you can sell it on and recover some of its leftover value, keeping the phone in circulation.

If you're a frequent upgrader and swap phones every 3-12 months, renting a phone and returning it after the lease ends is a good option for you. However, with the current lack of innovation in smartphones and no significant differences between new generations, frequent upgrades don’t make sense financially and environmentally. Therefore owning a phone outright and using it for at least 2 years will help you to save hundreds of pounds and reduce your carbon footprint.

Antonia

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