Getting a new mobile is always exciting, but with many of us tightening our purse strings lately, it can be daunting too.

Smartphones have always been a pricey investment, and with each new model released it seems that the prices increase – and even paying monthly isn’t as cost-effective as it once was.

Though our mobiles are an expensive everyday item we can’t live without, most of us are guilty of being drawn in by a shiner, newer model every couple of years. And even though we’ll usually pay more for the latest phones, we do it – and our old device is relegated to the junk drawer.

While our mobile bills creeping up isn’t great – especially during a cost-of-living crisis – it’s also bad for the environment. You might not have stopped to think about the effect that constantly replacing your phone has on the planet, but the truth is that every phone battery contains hazardous materials that are bad for just about everyone when they leak.

Though we have plenty of ideas on how you can save a bit of money, mobile leasing is one way we can save and make eco-conscious decisions with our devices – since most phones are designed to have a lifespan beyond our 2-to-3-year contracts anyway.

Never heard of it? Read on to see if it’s the right move for you.

What is mobile leasing?

Mobile leasing is still in its early days, but the idea is fairly straightforward. Instead of paying for your device as part of your contract or buying a new mobile outright, you rent one instead.

Mobile leasing companies supply unlocked, SIM free devices from brands such as Apple and Samsung, and you pay a monthly rental fee to use the phone. All you have to do is choose between a 12 or 24-month contract, and then pop your SIM in when it arrives.

Plus, you also get a warranty on your new device for up to 24 months, and if you decide the new handset isn’t right for you, you can cancel the contract within 30 days for free.

It might be a new idea, but it’s catching on fast – and some retailers, like Affordable Mobiles, are already offering it as an alternative option to traditional contracts.

How does mobile leasing work?

It’s a bit like a subscription service, for mobile phones. The specifics can vary from company to company, so we took a look at how it works to lease from Affordable Mobiles, powered by Raylo Pay.

Mobile leasing services usually offer a broad range of brand new and refurbished models, each of which is available with a 12 or 24-month rental contract. It’s actually really similar to your usual mobile phone contract, except mobile leasing is SIM free, so you’ll need an additional SIM only contract with the network of your choice.

However, having two contracts (one for your phone, and one for your data, minutes and texts) will still work out cheaper than the traditional bundle contracts you’ll see elsewhere. This is because the price of the handset is a rental-only price, and when you reach the end of your mobile leasing contract, you don’t own it – you have to return it. But you can also swap it for a newer model.

It’s also worth mentioning that refurbished models go through a series of strict checks and tests to make sure they’re in the best possible working order – and they come with a full warranty for the term of the rental contract. This way, mobile phone waste is reduced, and each device is used for its full 6-year lifespan before being responsibly recycled.

How much does it cost?

Here’s an example of how it could work for you:

You could lease an iPhone 13 for £24.99 a month for 24 months and pay nothing upfront for the device.

Then you could pick an Unlimited Data SIM only contract from Three for £14.75 a month. All in all, your monthly mobile bill would be only £39.74.

To get the same device and data as part of a contract with a network like EE, the monthly cost would be £60, plus £20 upfront for the device*. So, leasing would save you over £20 every month, with no upfront costs.

What happens when the mobile lease ends?

Once your mobile lease ends, you have a few options as to what to do next.

  1. If you really like the handset you have, you can keep leasing the same phone on a new contract. You also have the choice to buy your mobile for a non-return fee, which decreases for every month you’ve leased the phone.
  2. If you’re interested in upgrading to a new model, you can trade it back into the mobile leasing company and get a new device. Plus, there’s no fee to upgrade.
  3. You can return the phone, no problem, no questions asked.

What’s great about this process (no matter which one you choose), is that all returned phones are refurbished and leased out to other customers once you’re done with them. Which is much better for the environment and reduces the number of phones that get sent to landfills.

What are the benefits of mobile leasing?

We’re glad you asked.

Mobile leasing is an excellent option for the planet and your wallet – even though it might seem a bit strange if you’re stuck in the cycle of replacing your handset every 2 to 3 years just because it’s what you’ve always done.

Most mobiles are only used for 40% of their average lifespan, which means there are lots of phones sitting in our junk drawers that aren’t living up to their potential. In fact, it’s estimated there are about 125 million of these phones in the UK alone.

If each one of these devices can potentially be used for 6-7 years (200% longer than we normally use them for), switching to a rental contract could do a lot for the environment, and help you to save too.

One mobile leasing company, Raylo, even predicted that if all mobile phone users across Europe switched to a rental contract, it would save 8.9 million tonnes of CO2 each year – which is about the same as taking 6.6 million cars off the road per year.

If the environmental benefits aren’t quite selling it for you, then you can look at it this way: you pay less for the phone you’re using because there’s never an upfront cost for the device, and the monthly payment is less than the RRP (Recommended Retail Price).

Plus, you can get the best possible deal on your data plan since you can use the rental mobile with any SIM, from any network. And then upgrade for free at the end of your lease.

Is mobile leasing right for me?

Whether mobile leasing will work for you depends on how you currently use your mobile, and your current situation.

  • If you love getting your hands on the latest tech and gadgets when they’re released but hate seeing your contract steadily increase across the years, then leasing is probably a great idea for you. Especially if you can’t afford to pay for a new handset outright.
  • If you’ve got a drawer or box full of old handsets that are abandoned each time a new handset is released, then renting will work out better for you and for the environment.
  • If you like to keep your handset at the end of a traditional contract, then mobile leasing might not be for you – unless you’re happy to pay to keep it, as this is always an option.

· If you’re a fan of quick and easy, a rental contract might not be right for you. Leasing means you have to put more effort into finding a SIM contract. It’s not bundled in with the device like in traditional contracts – but there are some fantastic deals out there, so it’s worth looking at before you decide.

*Prices accurate at the time of writing.