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How to sell your old cellphone

If you've recently upgraded to a new smartphone, several options will keep your old device from collecting dust – and they will put a little cash in your pocket. But remember: Sell your cell quickly before it depreciates.

By MSN Money producer Oct 1, 2013 8:31PM

Young woman using smartphone (© Tim Robberts/Taxi/Getty Images)This post comes from Tricia Romano at coupon website RetailMeNot.


Back in the day, we used to buy one TV, one telephone and one computer and keep those things until they fell apart or became totally obsolete. Today, technology moves so fast that a cellphone you buy on Monday is already considered outdated by Friday. But with two-year contracts preventing frugal consumers from switching expensive gadgets every six months, it's become necessary to sell or trade your device for the optimum amount of cash before upgrading. After all, who has a couple of hundred dollars just lying around? Not me.


There are several ways to get rid of your gadgets. Just keep in mind: For iPhones, timing helps maximize your profits. Selling right before or just after a new iPhone is being released is best.


No. 1: Let someone else do the work for you


Numerous sites specialize in selling off or trading your cellphone; among them is, which finds the best cold, hard cash offers you can get for your phone. For instance, my iPhone 4S with 32 GB of storage can nab me between $95 and $155. Choose a vendor, and then redirects you to that company and provides instructions regarding shipping, packaging and getting paid.


Be sure to also check with competitors like Gazelle, YouRenew or MaxBack. That iPhone 4S gets me $165 on Gazelle, $170 on YouRenew and $205 on MaxBack. Note that the quoted price is not guaranteed. If the company decides that your device is in less than tip-top shape, you may get less cash. However, one friend of The Real Deal was quoted $10 for her 8 gigabyte 3G, but was given $40 after the company,, saw what good shape it was in. So it can work both ways. Also, noteworthy: That same friend got $95 for her 16 gigabyte 4S, which was a surprise since she'd gotten it wet and it wouldn't turn on. Lesson: Your phone is still valuable even if you were a less-than-responsible owner.


No. 2: Sell it to your wireless carrier


Before going any of these routes, though, check with your own cell phone carrier. For instance, Sprint has a buyback program in which that same 4S got an offer around $150, and that credit is automatically applied to your next phone when you choose to upgrade. You can sell up to five phones per line in a 12-month period, which means if you have another decent phone handy, it could save you even more cash toward your new — but soon to be outdated — gadget.


No. 3: Sell it back to Apple


Apple's Reuse and Recycling program turns your old device into an Apple Store Gift Card, which can go toward another device or more media. Apple works like the first option listed above — using a company called PowerOn to process the recycled gadgets. This fall, it is rumored, that in addition to this already existing program, you'll be able to bring your old phone directly to the store to trade it in for the newer model — with a new contract. According the Los Angeles Times, Apple Stores will be offering between $120 and $250 in credit toward a new iPhone, including a two-year contract.


No. 4: Sell it yourself


If you're feeling ambitious, you can always handle things yourself the "old-fashioned" way, and list your phone on eBay. A cursory search on eBay shows that my 4S goes for anywhere from $250 to $500. (You'll always get more money if you have the phone's original box and accessories.) It's more of a hassle to sell through eBay, and you have to be aware of scams, which are very commonly directed at small electronics sales. But if you do your homework, you can make more than double what the online sales companies will offer you.


If you prefer to sell your gear and keep it local, nothing beats good old Craigslist. Here, it seems that my white iPhone is rare and is getting advertised for as much as $350. The advantage of Craigslist is that you can do the deal in person and meet face-to-face. The disadvantage is that it might be more time-consuming than clicking a button and getting a shipping box and some cash wired to your PayPal account.


Word of warning


There's at least one person who thinks you shouldn't sell your device at all. Robert Siciliano, a security consultant and identity theft expert, says that he was able to lift all kinds of personal data from cellphones after they'd been factory reset.


"I found just about anything you can imagine someone would have in a digital format," Siciliano tells NBC News. "I found family photos, personal documents, court documents, child support documents, user names and passwords, Social Security numbers and birthdates. I found employee records and tax documents. I also found a lot of pornography."


When it comes to deleting data, BlackBerry owners can take some solace. Siciliano reports that BlackBerry devices wipe out the most amount of information, while the more popular Android models leave the most data behind.


 More from RetailMeNot:



Oct 2, 2013 2:28AM

The Veterans Administration takes old cell phones and sends them to active duty soldiers in the various hot spots around the world. why not help somebody that's already helping you.

Oct 2, 2013 6:09PM
I got an idea, just keep the old phone if it is still working.  such a freaking waste to "upgrade" to the next model year after year after year.  moronic waste of money.
Oct 2, 2013 3:32PM
Someone we know works in cyber security and told us not to sell, giveaway or throwaway our cellphones because personal information can be lifted from them.
Oct 2, 2013 3:59PM

I don't feel a need to upgrade my phone just because a new flavor is released. I fully understand how  planned obsolescence serves a purpose within manufacturing and retail but my trusty iPhone 4S serves me just fine especially with the recent enhancements offered by iOS 7.

Oct 2, 2013 3:26PM
Careful, some of these places will take your phone and claim its water damaged because a paper disk inside changed color. This can happen due to extreme temp change or high humidity. They then resell your phone!
Oct 2, 2013 4:42PM
I use a large hammer to repair my old cell phones. I've never lost any data using it. I do the same with old computers and will do the same when I finish with this IPad my wife bought me. Not going to take a chance on someone getting my information. BTW, we've been with Lifelock for about 5 years now, between them and the shredder we feel safe.
Oct 6, 2013 11:39AM
hammer and fire are the best way to do it correctly

Oct 2, 2013 5:06PM
I think people should opt for selling their phones to other people instead to commercial resellers or phone carriers.  Pushing the phones back into the hands of businesses is what allows them to keep the prices so high for phones that have been outdated by 2 or more generations.  We are allowing them to control supply portion of the supply and demand relationship.
Oct 6, 2013 3:37PM
My phones are pretty useless when I decide to get rid of them. They all get a bullet through them to be sure nobody can get any info off them. It's called security.
Oct 6, 2013 8:48AM
Anyway you go you will be screwed.
Oct 6, 2013 9:00PM
I sold my old iphone that had a totally smashed screen to gazelle. They sent me the box to send it to them in, gave me the quoted price, and were fast. I saw other sites that quoted prices a bit higher than gazelle, but a lot of reviews from people stated they received nothing or significantly lower amounts than quoted. I didn't want to upgrade as my phone was working fine, but I was going to spend more money to repair an old phone (replace the screen) than to get a brand new one (which made absolutely no sense). At that time I also realized what a rip-off the insurance I got with the phone company was as the deductible was going to cost me more than a brand new phone as well.
Oct 2, 2013 4:22PM
sent my phone in and never seen a dime
Oct 3, 2013 10:37AM
I did it, used generic site or something.  Got $110 for my 3G and that paid for the upgrade to 4.  Recycling the rare earth elements is good for the planet, which is an added bonus.  You remove your sim card first, so I don't see any issues.
Nov 2, 2013 1:35AM
I just sold another iPhone 5 to Buymax at and once again they were the faster option of any big guys like Gazelle or Usell. I can honestly recommend Buymax as the highest and fastest paying buyback company Ive seen yet. 
Oct 27, 2013 12:22PM
Sorry.. just seems to be the easiest lol.
Apr 3, 2014 11:31PM
Sell my phone online at

People who buy these phones want to be cutting edge, and chances are the phones they already had were pretty fancy. TheFinancial Times of London estimates there is $5 billion in unwanted phones sitting in people’s drawers at home. Don’t let those unloved phones gather dust! In addition to old standbys like Craigslist and eBay, you can try these sites when you want to sell an old phone: my personal fave for Android devices 

Oct 14, 2013 11:31AM
I've just sold my iPhone 4S at after seeing them on NBC News. I have an iPhone 5 as well, but now they have discontinued them I may hang onto it :P
Oct 6, 2013 8:25PM

Even if you delete all the info on your phone or computer or tab. That same info is still there, So the photos or vids anything and everything on that gadget is still there. And yo can buy a program for $45.00 to read and get that info on your gadgets. So the nude pics will be out in public and on the net. But dont worry once you sell the device you no longer own the freaky pics they are owned by the people that paid for your device. The best thing to do is destroy your device yourself. Even if you get it wet or dumped in the pool the info can still be taken off that device. The same thing the FBI uses you can buy your self and get the same info.

Oct 2, 2013 4:43PM
OMG.. this article is about "How to sell your old cellphone" how the hell did Obama get into this
Oct 27, 2013 12:21PM
I just used BuyMax at <a href=""></a> and they were surprisingly fast seeing as they also paid way more than Gazelle or U-Sell. Stick with the article topic.. BuyMax is my recommendation for selling your used phone online quickly.
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