How to Sell Your Phone for the Most Money

If you're looking to sell off your old smartphone for a bit of spending money or to fund the purchase of a new phone, cashing in on old electronics is easier than ever.

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If you’re looking to sell off your old smartphone for a bit of spending money or to fund the purchase of a new phone, cashing in on old electronics is easier than ever. Take your smartphone to a retail store for an immediate trade-in, or sell it online if you don’t need the cash immediately.

So how do you know just what your old phone is worth? We checked all of the major options and priced out what we’d get by selling a 16GB iPhone 5 on AT&T in good working condition. But before we dive into where to sell, here are some general rules of thumb on what these buyers will — and won’t — pay for:

  • Phones on different networks may be worth different amounts. Phones on AT&T or factory unlocked phones tend to be worth the most.
  • Your phone’s current condition has a big impact on its value. Phones in like-new condition earn a premium. Cracked, or otherwise damaged phones, won’t be worth as much. Phones that don’t work at all may not be worth anything. Though some companies will be interested in buying them for parts, most trade-in programs will say no. Anyone who accepts broken phones will be noted below.
  • The older your phone is, the less it will be worth. Gear that’s more than a couple of years old may not be worth anything at all, but you may be able to recycle it for free.
  • Personalization counts against you — a phone with personalized engraving will be worth less.
  • Many trade-in programs want the power cable and sometimes other original accessories. If you don’t have these, the phone will be worth less.

Now that you know what to expect, let’s look at the trade in programs available and what they’ll pay.

In-store trade-in programs: Immediate credit

In-store programs are the easiest way to get value for your device. All you have to do is take your phone to the local store and hand it over. You’ll get a gift card for the phone’s value immediately — or if you don’t agree with their assessment, you can take your phone back and walk away.

The trade-off for convenience is price. These programs typically don’t pay top dollar, and all of them pay you via a gift card, meaning you have to spend your money there.

In-Store Trade-in Services

How it works What they’ll take What they’ll pay for a 16GB AT&T iPhone 5 When they’ll pay*
Apple Store Take your iPhone into a participating Apple Store (Apple is currently rolling out the program) and you can trade it in for an Apple gift card. iPhones Around $250 as an Apple gift card, which must be used immediately toward the purchase of a new iPhone Immediately
Best Buy Take your gadget to your local Best Buy with your original Best Buy sales receipt — yes, they’ll only take items you previously bought at Best Buy — to your local store and talk to a representative. iPods, laptops and mobile phones $330 as a Best Buy gift card Immediately
RadioShack Take your phone to RadioShack and let an employee evaluate it. RadioShack also accepts some broken electronics. Mobile phones, cameras, MP3 players, camcorders, tablets, laptops, video games, game consoles, GPS, e-readers, camera accessories $300 as a RadioShack gift card Immediately
Walmart Take your phone to Walmart and hand it over to an employee to evaluate for trade-in. Walmart also accepts some broken electronics. Mobile phones, tablets, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, cameras and camcorders, car audio components, GPS units $315 as a Walmart gift card Immediately
AT&T If you’re an AT&T customer, you can give your phone back to AT&T for a modest return value. Just take your phone to the nearest AT&T location and hand it over to an employee to get a price quote. The program accepts some broken gadgets, too. Mobile phones and tablets $300 store credit Immediately
Sprint If you’re a Sprint customer, you can sell to Sprint for a modest return value. Take your phone to the nearest Sprint Store and hand it over to an employee for a price quote. Mobile phones and tablets $240 store credit Immediately
*Prices as of week of 9/16/2013

Which site should you choose? Since all of these retailers pay in gift cards, the choice you make is really based on where you want to spend your money.

Better deals for those who can wait

If you don’t need cash right now, a wide variety of online sales sites often give you better pay and options beyond gift cards. However, if the trade-in site disagrees with your assessment of the quality of your device, they may not pay as much as you expect — and you could be stuck with the lower rate or paying extra to get your phone back.

Online Trade-in Services

How it works What they’ll take What they’ll pay for a 16GB AT&T iPhone 5 When they’ll pay* If they don’t think your device is worth the quoted value
Amazon Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your gadget in. A wide variety of electronics, video games, movies, and music $283.50 as an Amazon gift card Within 10 business days of receiving your gadget When you submit your trade-in, you can choose what you want to do if it’s worth less than you thought — either have it returned, free of charge, or sell it for the lower price.
Walmart Go to the Walmart website and answer a few questions about its condition. Walmart provides a prepaid shipping label. Walmart also accepts some broken electronics. Mobile phones, tablets, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, cameras and camcorders, car audio components, GPS units $300 as a Walmart gift card Immediately, with credit approval Walmart will email you if they value the phone less than the original estimate, at which point you can request the phone returned at no charge.
Apple Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, and Apple will ship you a prepaid mailing box to send it in with. Mac desktops and laptops, iPhones, iPads $310 as an Apple Store gift card After receiving your gadget You can accept the lower price or have your phone returned to you, free of charge.
Best Buy Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your gadget in. Computers, iPods, laptops, camcorders, e-readers, game consoles, handheld game consoles, camera flashes and lenses, mobile phones, cameras, tablets, video games $330 as a Best Buy gift card Within 10 days of receiving your gadget You can accept the lower price or have your phone returned to you for the cost of shipping.
eBay My Gadgets eBay’s My Gadgets program lets you tell it what tech you own, giving you an average price paid for similar items and helping you set up an auction and print a shipping label (paid for by the buyer) if your item sells. Everything Average price around $400  (before eBay takes its 10% cut) As soon as three days after the sale Since it’s an auction site, you might not get as much as eBay’s average offer. However, you can set the sale up however you like, with a fixed price for the item or a high starting price for bidding.
Gazelle Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, and Gazelle will ship you a prepaid mailing box to send it in with. Gazelle offers a generous 30-day window to send in your gadget once you’ve agreed to sell it. Mostly Apple products but also other mobile phones and tablets $300 via check, PayPal, or Amazon gift card Within three to five business days of receiving your gadget You can accept the lower price or have your phone returned to you, free of charge. If you disagree, you can also request that your phone be re-evaluated by a manager.
Glyde Glyde combines the high prices of an auction site with the ease of use of a trade-in site. They’ll suggest a price based on the item’s condition and list it on their website for sale. When it sells, Glyde sends you a kit to package and mail it to the buyer. Glyde does charge fees, but the final price is still higher than you’ll find on a trade-in site. Mobile phones, MacBooks, tablets, video games $361.00 (after fees) by check or direct deposit in to your bank account Within two to three days of receiving your gadget If someone buys your phone and finds it isn’t in the condition they expect, they can return it to Glyde who will return it to you, free of charge, so you can relist it. However, if you get repeat returns on your item, Glyde will ask you to pay part of the cost of shipping — usually around $5.
NextWorth Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your gadget in. Once you’ve decided to send your gadget in, you have a generous 30-day window to ship it, which means you can sell it for a locked-in price now but send it in once you’ve gotten a new phone set up. Mobile phones, laptops, iPods, iPads, digital cameras, tablets, e-readers, video games, game consoles $316 via PayPal, check, or Target gift card Within a business day of your gadget’s being inspected If the difference in cost is less than $10 or 10% of the original quote, NextWorth will pay the originally quoted amount. If the difference is more, you have the option to sell for the lower amount or have the item returned to you free of charge.
RadioShack Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your gadget in. Mobile phones, cameras, MP3 players, camcorders, tablets, laptops, video games, game consoles, GPS, e-readers, camera accessories $250 as a RadioShack gift card They’ll mail a gift certificate once they’ve received your gadget You can accept the lower price or have your phone returned to you, free of charge.
 

USell**

Unlike other services, USell brings together offers from a network of professional buyers, giving you the best offer for your phone or tablet, without the hassle of shopping around. Once you accept an offer, you are sent a pre-paid shipping kit with tracking included. Mobile phones, tablets, iPods, video games, game consoles, Macbooks, cameras, camcorders, $302 via PayPal or check Depends on the service that buys your device Free return shipping if the product assessment doesn’t match.
AT&T If you’re an AT&T customer, you can give your phone back to AT&T for a modest return value. Just select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition—including its serial number—then print a pre-paid shipping label to send your gadget in. Mobile phones and tablets $300 as an AT&T Promotion Card Within 4 weeks of receiving your gadget Once you send it to AT&T, you’re stuck with whatever AT&T is willing to pay—they won’t return your phone.
Sprint If you’re a Sprint customer, you can sell to Sprint for a modest return value. Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a pre-paid shipping label to send your gadget in. Mobile phones and tablets $240 as credit on your Sprint bill Within 3 Sprint billing cycles Once you send it to Sprint, you’re stuck with whatever Sprint is willing to pay—they won’t return your phone.
T-Mobile If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you can sell your phone back for a decent price—albeit only as credit towards future T-Mobile bills. Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a pre-paid shipping label to send your gadget in. Mobile phones $283.00 in credit towards your T-Mobile bill Within 3 T-Mobile billing cycles Once you send it to T-Mobile, you’re stuck with whatever T-Mobile is willing to pay—they won’t return your phone
Verizon Select what you’re trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then Verizon will send you a pre-paid shipping container to send your phone to them in. Mobile phones and tablets $259 as a Verizon Wireless gift card Within 2 weeks of receiving your device, with the gift card sent by email Once you send it to Verizon, you’re stuck with whatever Verizon is willing to pay—they won’t return your phone.
*Prices as of 9/23/2013 except the carrier prices, which are from the week of 9/16/2013
**Powers Techlicious Trade-in

Before you sell

Before you ship your gadget off, back up your device with iCloud, if you have an iPhone, or the Helium app, for Android devices. Then, remember to reset your phone to factory settings so that whomever you’re selling to doesn’t also wind up with your contacts and family photos. Remove cases, screen protectors, the microSD card and your SIM card.

Whatever you choose, good luck navigating the trade-in marketplace!

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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