By Taylor Martin | July 10, 2013 4:22 PM
Buying a new smartphone isn’t always as simple as waiting for your upgrade date, making a trip to the carrier store, and coming home with a shiny, new phone. Maybe you had a few unexpected bills. Or maybe you haven’t been working as much lately.
You may want a new phone, but can’t exactly afford it right away.
Fortunately, along with the great smartphone boom came an entirely new sort of market – an aftermarket for used cell phones.
Smartphones, unlike the feature (dumb) phones of yesteryear, tend to hold their resale value much more generously. A two-year-old flip phone might be worth a max of about $50, whereas a smartphone will usually retain much more of its original retail value after the same amount of time. A smartphone, originally somewhere between $500 and $700, might resell for anywhere from $50 to $300 two years later.
Of course, resale value depends on a bevy of different factors: brand, popularity, availability, condition, region, etc. When you’re talking a resale value that resides in the hundreds – not tens – of dollars, figuring out what to do with all those old phones becomes much easier.
Instead of simply tossing them in the bottom drawer on your desk or that shoebox filled to the brim with old gadgets, reselling quickly and obviously becomes a viable option. In fact, selling your old phone and upgrading (not necessarily in that oder) practically free of charge is more plausible than ever.
There are at least a half dozen services currently in existence which allow you to bring in your old phone and put the value of it towards your new phone.
All four of the major wireless providers here in the States offer a trade-in or buy back program, in which your current phone is appraised (based on a few, generic questions), and you are given a set value that can be used towards your next phone purchase. And there are some third-party services, such as Best Buy, Amazon, Gazelle, NextWorth, and many more retail locations, which offer gift cards (and sometimes even cash, at a reduced rate).
However, there is a widely known fact about these services: you’re never going to get as much for your devices through them. All buy back and trade-in programs exist for the sake of consumer convenience – it can be paralleled with trading in a car versus selling it privately. If you know what you’re doing, you will generally walk away with more money by selling privately. Likewise, if you take a little more time, you can typically make more money by selling your phone than you can through a buy back or trade-in program.
The real problem is: who do you sell to? Better yet, where do you sell your old phone?
The age-old method is simply posting a classified ad on Craigslist, which is fine, as long as you don’t mind sketchy, back alley deals where you might get stuck with a shiv. (For the record, I’ve dealt with several Craigslist deals, and I’ve survived each one unscathed. But make no mistake, they’re always sketchy.)
If you’re slightly less adventurous and prefer a safer, more regulated method of selling your old smartphones, you’re also in luck. There are at least three services which have fairly positive reviews and run a much lower risk of participants getting stabbed in a dark alley.
The first and oldest method is none other than eBay. It’s a quick an easy process of setting up a new item to sell, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get the closest to your device’s actual resale value. But there are some problems. There are typically so many similar listings (either of the same device, or a different one) on eBay, your phone may not draw any attention. And if it does and your phone sells, eBay takes a fairly hefty chunk of the pot.
Another service is uSell, which helps you find the best deal from instant buyers. This service is similar to other buy back programs, but uSell itself acts as a middleman of sorts. It’s extremely quick and simple, but the going rate of your phone is definitely going to be diluted.
Lastly, there’s Swappa. This has more of a classifieds ad feel to it, where you post the phone you have and the price you want to sell it for. Swappa charges a small $10 sale fee, but the downside is this method isn’t always instant. In fact, it can take weeks (or much longer) to sell your device, depending on what it is and what sort of demand there is for it.
The fact of the matter is: there are countless ways to make a buck and offload all those old drawer phones you’re no longer using. Not every phone will draw a fortune, but if you have a handful of old phone, all of them together might amount to enough cash in your pocket to buy that phone you’ve been waiting for.
No matter what you use the cash you make for, it’s certainly better than an old phone that’s losing value and collecting dust … unless, of course, there’s some sentimental value in play.