With the sheer power of today’s mobile devices and the consistent release of new upgrades, there’s a good chance that you have one collecting dust in a drawer.
If you’re the type that likes to sport the latest handset, you might even have a few.
With a little effort, you can turn your old phones into a surprising chunk of change.
The key is knowing when and where to sell...
Don't worry though -- we have your back.
Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy retail trade-in or you’re going all in and selling online, we’ve scoured the web for the best tips and tricks to pull in the best price possible.
Not sure where to sell your phone?
We’ll break down some of the best options by type at the end so you can get started in a few clicks.
Now, onward to making some money!
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2018.
Why You Should Sell Your Phone Sooner Rather than Later
If you’re on the fence as to whether or not you should keep your old phone around, we have a few reasons that might change your mind.
The biggest reason? Value.
Much like laptops, cars or anything else with a hefty price tag, your phone is bleeding value by the day.
What’s worth a nice price now could be essentially worthless in a few months.
Unless you have a major reason to keep hold of your old phone, you’re probably better off getting rid of it while the price is good.
For many models, this is a window that lasts about two years.
After that, unless you have a rare variant or a super popular device, you’re looking at a fraction of what it would sell for today.
Next up is risk.
Condition is everything when it comes to fetching a good price for your gently used phone.
Every day that your phone sits in the closet, in a drawer in the kitchen, or hangs out in your purse is another day that the kids might decide to play $400 frisbee, a leak could give your phone impromptu swimming lessons, or you just might drop the thing and shatter the screen.
Even small dings to the case or slight scuffs are slowly shaving money off the top of your potential pile of bills.
Finding the Timing Sweet Spot
So we know that sooner is better than later, but are there any major trends you can keep an eye on to know just when later is?
The biggest thing to keep in mind is release dates for upgrades to your current phone.
If you’re an Apple fan, this means that September is the time to cut your phone loose or lose value.
Android and Windows Phone users won’t have a firm date, but if you keep an eye on our cell phone reviews, you’ll probably have enough notice of a new release to keep a fair portion of your resale value.
From the moment the next model is announced until release day, you can research your options and still make a considerable amount.
However, once the latest and greatest drops, you can kiss a portion of your profits goodbye.
Trade-in sites are one caveat this though. We'll cover those in greater detail in a moment.
Where to Sell Your Used Cell Phone
So now that we’ve covered the why’s and when’s of reselling your used cell phone, we can get into the finer points of milking the sale for the maximum profit.
Sometimes, where you sell your old phone or tablet can impact your earnings just as much as the condition of the phone or timing.
In general, you can sort selling options into one of three categories:
1. Retail Trade-In Sites ($)
Major retailers and many carrier stores will buy back used phones in decent condition.
You bring in your phone, any accessories you might have, and (sometimes) proof of purchase. They’ll do a quick appraisal and offer you store credit in most cases.
Popular options include:
Carrier Stores (Including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint)
These options are certainly the easiest and fastest at your disposal.
Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a price. You’re likely to earn half what you might make going with an online auction or classified site and slightly less than many popular online trade in sites.
But if you need the money in a pinch or you’re itching to upgrade, instant store credit can go a long way.
2. Online Trade-In Sites ($$)
These sites typically offer a few different guidelines for self-appraising your phone.
After listing your phone model, condition, and answering a few questions, the site will give you a quote and send you a prepaid shipping container.
You mail your phone in and, if they agree with your appraisal, the check is in the mail.
Where things get tricky is if they don’t agree with your appraisal.
Always be sure to read the fine print before mailing in your phone.
While many options will allow you to accept a lower offer or return your phone for free, choosing a reputable site or service can help eliminate any risk or concerns.
Sites that buy used phones won’t quite hit the prices you’ll find selling your phone yourself, but they’ll often beat their retail competitors by enough to make the wait worth it.
Popular options include:
Carrier Websites (Including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon)
There are also sites which compare the leading used phone selling sites to let you see who’s willing to pony up the most money.
They won't cover every site out there but they are a great way to get an idea of the value of your phone or add a little convenience to trading in your phone online.
3. Online Sales Sites ($$$)
Online sales sites differ from trade in sites in that you’re making deals with private parties instead of receiving offers.
Whether you’re posting an auction on eBay or listing your phone on Craigslist, these sites require you to put in a little more effort.
However, you’ll get a better price most times as well.
Popular options include:
When using these sites, you’re responsible for shipping your phone or arranging pick-up.
Payment methods vary from cash or check to PayPal.
Most major sites offer forms of buyer and seller protection taking the worry and risk out of the sales process.
These sites all offer excellent exposure -- often giving your ad a worldwide presence -- to ensure your ad is seen. They also offer some of the best chances of getting top dollar for your device.
Of course, with that comes plenty of competition.
But don’t worry...
We’re about to explain how to make your ad stand out and fetch the best price for your phone.
5 Tips to Help You Dominate the Sales Sites
While many of these tips also apply to trade ins, you’ll find them particularly effective on auction and private sales sites.
With so many ads out there and buyers looking to get the best deals possible, each of these tips will add a little something extra to your ad to help you rise above the rest of the sellers.
1. Keep Your Phone in Good Condition and Be Honest About the Flaws
Even if you bought a case at the store, went through screen protectors like candy, and took great care of your phone, there’s a good chance there are still a few scratches or the odd little quirk.
It still works great, but it’s not mint.
When creating your listing, be sure to outline how you took care of your phone.
Provide pictures from as many angles as possible. Take pictures with the screen on and at maximum brightness. If it has a removable cover, pop that off and take a picture of the battery bay.
Snap a pic of everything you can think of... and a few more for safe measure.
This includes the little chip in the bezel that happened before you bought your case or that slight haze from spending a year in the pocket of your jeans with your car keys.
Being honest about the small flaws will create trust and inspire confidence for bidders.
2. Save Your Original Boxes and Accessories
The closer you can get your phone to the retail package, the more money you’ll make reselling down the road.
From the little key used to pop out your SIM card to the manuals and crappy earbuds that your phone shipped with, each of these items is a piece of the puzzle.
Keeping track of them all not only makes buyers happy but shows you cared about your device. Take pictures of everything and be sure to list it in your product descriptions.
Just be sure to mention they are third-party accessories in the listing.
3. Unlock Your Phone and Expand Your Market
Locked phones will only work with a specific carrier.
While this might not be a problem for you, it immediately limits potential buyers unless they know how to unlock the phone.
Regulations in many countries now require carriers to unlock phones upon request as long as you have met the conditions of your contract.
Checking your carrier’s website or calling customer service is the quickest way to find out your official options.
Depending on your carrier, you might run into limitations on the number of devices you can unlock at once or find that they ask for a small fee.
You should have no problem recouping the cost of unlocking in the sale price of your phone.
If you don’t have any luck with your carrier, you can check local mobile shops or even your online classifieds.
Cellphone unlocking is an increasingly common service as the second-hand phone market continues to expand.
Just be sure to research any option you find thoroughly before spending any money.
4. Sweeten the Deal by Including Your Accessories
If you have any of the official accessories for your device, such as dashboard mounts, desk charging docks, or flip cases, consider including them with your listing.
Depending on the design, they might be collecting dust as well.
By including them with your listing, you’re offering convenience to buyers.
Instead of having to order all their own accessories, pay additional shipping, and wait for them to arrive, they can look forward to one quick and easy bundle.
This can add quite a premium to your listing and help it stand out from other listings.
5. Hold Firm on Your Price
If you’re posting on classified sites, such as Craigslist or Kijiji, you’ll inevitably find yourself inundated with low-ball offers looking to whittle you down to nothing for your phone.
If you’ve done your research, you know what your phone is worth.
Don’t give in.
Even if you don’t eventually sell at the price you want, you can always go the trade in route for guaranteed cash or credit.
Adding a little padding to your price will allow for a bit of haggling if needed, but stick to your ground and know your absolute minimum.
You’ve Sold Your Phone… Now What?
After you’ve raked in the chips for your phone, you’re still not quite done.
There are a few steps that you should ALWAYS perform prior to posting your phone on its merry way.
The first is to give it a thorough cleaning and to double check that everything mentioned in your listing is included in your box.
No one wants a smudgy phone or weird mystery crumbs lurking in the battery slot. More importantly, presenting a pristine phone reduces the chances of the seller disputing the condition of your phone.
The second step is to document your phone’s ESN or IMEI.
This is often found on the rear of the device, on the retail box label or inside the battery bay.
Take a picture and keep it somewhere safe. This number is unique to your phone. Should you encounter any issues with scammers or disputes, this information is one of the only ways to verify the device.
Finally, clear any personal data off your phone, remove your SIM card and any additional storage cards you might have installed.
While the manual might make it sound like this is as simple as a factory reset, clever users can still harvest a variety of information from your phone even after a basic formatting.
Android users can use the free Avast Anti-Theft App.
You can initiate a full wipe of an iOS device using your iCloud account.
You should also be sure to remove your phone from your Apple accounts as well to ensure that any access to iTunes data and purchases is prevented when the buyer connects your phone to activate it.
So there you have it!
All that’s left is to break out the cleaning wipes, shine up that old phone or tablet, and start figuring out how to spend your new pile of cash!
There are a number of online sites that will buy damaged phones. While you won't get top dollar, it's more than nothing and you don't have to haggle with anyone.
Popular options include:
Just be sure to read the terms and conditions before sending your phone off for appraisal.
Some companies exclude certain types of damage -- such as water damage -- from their list of accepted issues.
You'll also want to check that they'll cover shipping to their facility and the protections you have in the event they change their mind about how much your phone is worth.
Finally, be sure to wipe your phone completely before shipping it.
While many companies that buy damaged phones recycle the parts, the last thing you want is someone getting their hands on your private photos or personal information.
In most cases, you'll get a similar price whether you head a store or use their online service.
However, if you're in a hurry, going to the store is often faster.
This is because there's no need to wait for you phone to ship, wait for appraisal, and then wait again for your check.
When using a store, you can often walk in, wait for someone to look over your phone, and walk away with cash in hand that day.
However, be sure to check how the store intends to pay you for your old device.
While a gift card might be just as useful for buying a new phone or picking up a few accessories, it won't help if you were counting on a check or cash.
This all depends on how much work you want to put into selling your phone and what type of protections you're looking for in the sales process.
Selling your phone to a store or service often means you'll receive a bit less than if you'd have sold the phone to a private party.
But you don't need to worry about haggling, meeting up in a shady location, or someone contesting the sale.
It's the easier, faster way to go -- but you earn less.
On the other hand, selling to a private party through online classifieds or a similar arrangement might allow you to pocket more money.
But it comes with risks, including having to deal with random people from the Internet, contested payments, dealing with lowball offers and spam, and waiting for a buyer who is serious.
Selling your used phone is a simple way to add some funds to your financial situation and keep a useful phone from gathering dust.
Keep the following in mind to ensure you get maximum value for your old phone:
Try to avoid selling your phone right when a new model drops
Carrier and retail buyback programs are easy but offer less money than other methods
Sites that buy used phones or allow you to sell your used phone are often a good balance of risk and rewards
Using an online classified is likely to net you the most for your used phone, but it's the most work and comes with increased risks
Take the time to clean up your phone before selling -- no one wants a dirty phone
If selling online, take pictures of everything
Unlocked phones sell better than locked ones
Sweeten the deal by including accessories
Always factory reset your phone before selling it
We hope this guide has helped you to cash in on some of your old tech. If you have any questions -- or we missed your favorite used phone site -- let us know in the comments below.
P.S. If you’re looking to pick up some sweet accessories with your new found riches, we’ve got reviews and buyer’s guides for bluetooth speakers, battery packs and more -- complete with in-depth review summaries to save you time and help you find the perfect options for you.
Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty.