The best ways to sell or trade in your iPhone


With new iPhones just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your upgrade plans. You no doubt want one of the newer models — but you’ve probably already paid a pretty penny for one of the old ones. 

So what’s the solution? Sell your current iPhone to subsidize the new one. Here’s the best place to sell iPhone devices in the most profitable manner possible.

Disclaimer: CNET may receive a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.






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Do it right now

When selling iPhones, the closer we get to new iPhone preorders, the less your earlier iPhone model will be worth. According to trade-in site Gazelle’s general manager, Yanyan Ji, the most recent iPhone model drops as much as $100 in value after the new iPhone is released, and the previous iPhone model can drop between 10 and 20 percent.

MusicMagpie, a UK-based tech trade-in site (which operates in the US as Decluttr), notes that while Apple phones have the lowest depreciation of any brand, iPhones will lose as much as 25 percent of their value immediately following the announcement of new models.

If you have backup mobile devices — or can borrow one — sell your phone right now. If that’s not an option, some sites (including Gazelle) give you a grace period of up 30 days before you send in your smartphone.

Before you sell

Whether you sell your iPhone by yourself or trade it in to a third-party company, there are a few things you should do to make sure your data is safe:

  • Back it up: Back up all of your important data — including contact, photos, videos and apps — using Apple’s iCloud service or a third-party cloud storage service.
  • Turn off Find My iPhone: Find My iPhone is a security feature that must be turned off before you sell your phone — or nobody else will be able to use or reset it. To turn off Find My iPhone, open the Settings app on your iPhone and go to iCloud > Find My iPhone and toggle it off.
  • Wipe it: Sign out of all apps, services and connected accounts (like your iCloud account). Then, open the Settings app and go to General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings to erase everything from your iPhone. Once this is complete, you can also go to General > Reset > Reset All Settings to restore the iPhone to factory settings, just in case.
  • Remove the SIM card: Don’t forget to pop out your SIM card, which you’ll likely need for the new phone to keep your existing number and service.

You’ll receive the most money for your phone if it’s in tip-top shape, but you can still do well if it’s in “good” condition: No cracks in the screen, no big dents or scratches in the casing, no water damage and everything is working well (meaning the phone turns on, holds a charge and so forth).

What if your iPhone is damaged?

If your phone is damaged you can probably still get something for it, even if it doesn’t turn on. It’s not worth it to repair a cracked screen before you sell, but if your screen is only slightly damaged — a small hairline crack in the corner, for example — you may want to sell it on your own instead of trading it in. An individual may be willing to overlook superficial screen damage for a good price.

Option 1: Sell it yourself

Selling iPhones by yourself will usually net you the most profit, but it’s not without risks.

Craigslist

Craigslist is the riskiest option, but you will receive cash for your device. The biggest challenge here isn’t finding customers — it’s getting them to show up. Be prepared for flakes.

If you do decide to use Craigslist or another in-person option, make sure you meet your buyer in a well-lit, public place (many police departments offer their parking lots as transaction sites). For the smoothest transaction, make the agreement clear prior to meeting — your customer should know the price, condition of the phone and its wireless carrier in advance.

eBay

If you don’t mind putting in a little work — listing, shipping and paying a small sales fee — eBay is a better place to sell than Craigslist if you have a used iPhone for sale. Because eBay offers its buyers purchase protection, people are more comfortable buying from strangers.

The downside? Fees. eBay charges a sales fee for products that are sold through its site: 10 percent of the final value (selling price). If you accept payment through PayPal, it charges a fee of 2.9 percent (4 percent if sold internationally) of the final value.

To price your device, search for your model on eBay and check the “sold” listings. At the time of writing this article, these are the ballpark going rates for various used iPhones on eBay:

The main downside to selling your iPhone on eBay is the potential risk of buyers’ remorse. eBay offers both the seller and the buyer protection, but tends to side with the buyer in the event of a dispute. Scammers know how to take advantage of this. You can minimize your risk by documenting everything and if you ship your device through a trackable ship service with proof of delivery.

Option 2: Use a service

Trading in your device for cash, store credit or gift cards is often the least profitable option, but you also won’t be liable for any issues with the device once it leaves your hands and you ship it. (Plus, if your iPhone is in less-than-great condition, some companies will still take the device — even if it doesn’t turn on at all.) Trading in your iPhone instead of selling the device is a great option if you’re willing to give up a little profit for a quick and easy process, convenience and peace of mind.

There are traditional trade-in options like those offered by Apple and Best Buy, and then there are buy/sell marketplaces such as DecluttrGazelle, Glyde, NextWorth and Swappa

Don’t want to spend time jumping from store to store getting a quote? Head to Flipsy, which compares trade-in values on around 20 buyback stores. It shows you the payment methods, price-lock duration (that’s how long you have before you need to send the phone in) and price based on condition. (Unfortunately, because each buyback program and store is little different when it comes to “condition” definitions, Flipsy doesn’t drill down beyond phone model, carrier and storage.)

Just for reference, here are some sample trade-in prices from Apple, Best Buy and Gazelle:

Apple’s trade-in program

Apple’s trade-in program doesn’t have any deals on the iPhone 8 or iPhone X online yet. But if you have an older model, this trade-in program is a potentially easy way to make your way to a new one, as trades net you Apple Store credit. 

Apple’s estimated trade-in quotes (which vary depending on model and condition) for its trade-in program are as follows: 

Best Buy Trade In

In the past, Best Buy offered some of the better trade-in prices on cell phones and tablets, but it’s important to note that with Best Buy’s trade-in program, your money for the device is paid out in Best Buy gift cards. That’s fine if you’re a Best Buy fan, or plan to buy your next iPhone there, but it’s not an ideal trade-in program if you’re looking to buy your iPhone or other device elsewhere.

Best Buy’s trade values are based on carrier, color, capacity and, of course, condition. A few examples:

  • iPhone 8 (64GB) on AT&T, silver, good condition: $285
  • iPhone 7 Plus (128GB) on Sprint, gold, good condition: $290
  • iPhone 6s (64GB), unlocked, space gray, good condition: $0 (yep — Best Buy won’t give you a dime for this model)

Gazelle

Gazelle is a third-party buy-back company that offers straight cash (via check or PayPal; they also have an Amazon gift card option) for your device. Even scratched/broken iPhones might be worth something; an iPhone 7 with clearly visible scratches and cracks might be worth as much as $90.

Gazelle’s program tends to offer less for carrier-locked phones, so you may want to unlock your device before selling your phone. A few examples of current trade-in prices:

  • iPhone 8 (64GB), unlocked, flawless condition: $350
  • iPhone 7 Plus (256GB), unlocked, flawless condition: $330

Have you ever sold or traded an iPhone? If so, what process or program did you use, and how was the experience? Was it easy?

First published Aug. 22, 2016.

Updated Aug. 13, 2019



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