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Where Should I Sell My Smartphone to Get the Most Money?

Adam Dachis , Gawker Media

Where Should I Sell My Smartphone to Get the Most Money?

Dear Lifehacker,
I want to get a new smartphone, but I don't have an upgrade and so I need to sell my current one for enough money in order to make this purchase affordable. Where's the best place to sell it so I make the most money?

Sincerely,
Phone Funder

Dear PF,
Where you sell your smartphone depends on a few factors, such as timing, local demand, the type of device, and the device's age. For example, Apple will release a new iPhone (or two) in a couple of weeks and the current version will lose value in an instant. If you own an iPhone, you don't want to sell in advance and have nothing for a couple of weeks. Some sellers, like Gazelle, offer a price lock if you commit to them in advance of the announcement. Apple's also rumored to offer a trade-in program to bring more iPhone buyers to them. Convenient services rarely get you the greatest price, however, so you have quite a few options to weigh. Before you can do that, you need to examine your smartphone to figure out what kind of selling service will work best. After that, you can start weighing specific options.

Follow Product Cycles

Where Should I Sell My Smartphone to Get the Most Money?

Product cycles play a large role when selling a smartphone. Obviously a new model has a greater value than an older one, so you want to sell yours prior to the announcement of the latest and greatest replacement. With iPhones you have an easy job. New devices come out in September and all the rumor mills tend to post the exact date of the announcement about a month prior. Android and other devices take a tiny bit more research because your device can lose value with the announcement of another completely different smartphone. For example, Google's latest Nexus phone can get quickly overshadowed by a new player from manufacturers like HTC and Samsung. Still, the process remains the same: you need to watch the hype.

When new phones are imminent, news hits the blogs first. If you read any blogs regularly, you probably know this already. Once you see a hot new smartphone coming along, you need to start planning your upgrade and figure out where you want to sell. Unless you have a backup phone for the transition period, you want to sell prior to the release but not so far an advance that you have no smartphone (or any phone, for that matter) for a week or more. How do you do this without a backup? You sell a few days before the announcement or use a resale service that offers price locks in advance.

Since we've only seen Gazelle offer price locks with the iPhone, let's set that option aside for now. You can't sell your phone locally if you want to sell prior to the announcement because that sale takes place instantly. If you sell online, however, you have a few days before you have to ship the device. If you don't offer expedited shipping, you can simply hold on to your device and use a faster/more expensive shipping option once the new smartphone sees release and you can get your hands on one. Of course, few devices get released the day of the announcement. You take a risk by selling a few days in advance because you might have nothing to buy. If a resale company doesn't offer a price lock, you may have to take a hit and sell for less once the new phone becomes available.

Understand How Location Plays a Role

Where Should I Sell My Smartphone to Get the Most Money?

Local sales tend to earn you less money in general because people like to haggle and they can do it easily without a middleman. That said, if you sell on Craigslist or some other local listing service, you don't pay a fee and can afford to sell for less because you get the exact amount you agreed upon with the buyer. You also get the money immediately and don't have to wait for a selling service to send you a check or disburse the amount to your bank. Although local selling has its own advantages and disadvantages across the board, you also have to consider location. Where you live affects what you can earn from a smartphone sale if you go the local route.

You have two major categories of geographical disadvantages when making a local sale: big cities and small towns. If you live in a popular, tech-friendly city like New York or Boston, you'll have to compete with other sellers. Big cities tend to have a bit more competition with sales and that drives the price you can earn down. The same goes for online sales, so the surplus of devices may not matter enough. You should have no trouble selling your old phone locally if you live somewhere with lots of potential buyers, so at least you have options. Smaller towns, on the other hand, have lower demand. You might have trouble selling even a popular device if you have few potential buyers. Cities like Minneapolis and Portland, however, meet nicely in the middle. You have a good amount of demand without a huge amount of competition whenever a new release rolls around. Before you sell locally, compare the average sale price in your area to what you can get online (after fees) so you can rule out the option that won't earn you the most.

Consider the Age and Condition of Your Device

Where Should I Sell My Smartphone to Get the Most Money?

Obviously the age and condition of your device plays a huge role in its worth. If you took good care of your phone and have no cosmetic or functional damage, you can sell it without issue. Price drops pretty quickly with age, however, so you can only get so much with an "old" phone.

Old, unfortunately, means more than two years. After that period, even many extended warranties expire. After the first year, you generally lose the included coverage from the manufacturer. If you can sell a device under warranty-even if the remaining time only amounts to a couple of weeks-you increase the buy-ability of your smartphone. While you might not make more money, you will give buyers more peace of mind-they have recourse should you sell them a lemon-and that makes you a more attractive seller.

If you have no warranty, however, you want to sell before your device falls two generations behind the latest and greatest. Once that happens, people start to forget about your smartphone. While you could still sell the thing for a decent amount of money online, older phones won't go for much locally and you'll have fewer buyers to choose from. If you want to sell your phone for a good price, you can't keep it for too long.

Pick the Right Place to Sell

Now that you know how various factors can affect where you can sell your smartphone, let's take a look at specific services and when they work best.

  • Amazon gives you one of the most convenient ways to sell your phone with few drawbacks. You simply find your device on their site, click a little button that says "Sell on Amazon," and enter a few details. About 15 minutes later you have a listing and someone may buy it. You ship the item yourself (or let Amazon handle fulfillment), confirm the shipment with Amazon, and request that they transfer the funds to your bank account (less their fees). The process takes very little work, you only sometimes have to communicate with buyers (via email), and you get a high-profile listing on the world's largest online retailer. Of course, you compete with other listings on the same page and this competition can drive prices down. While Amazon may make things convenient, you won't make the most money unless you have an item in high demand. Even then, other options may earn you more.
  • eBay gives you a great marketplace for your items but with less predictability. With auctions you might earn more than expected, but you might also earn less. Also, eBay auctions tend to take the most effort to post and manage. Fortunately, eBay figured this out and started a service called MyGadgets. You simply list what you own and it tells you how much you can make if you sell it based on current eBay price trends. If you want to sell, My Gadgets will aid in creating the listing. While not always the best option, you should turn to eBay for gadgets in extremely high or low demand. When you can't find a product anywhere else, people often turn to eBay to locate the impossible.
  • Craigslist makes local sales relatively quick and easy, but you have to haggle with people and deal with a lot of flakey buyers. Some to prefer to avoid the headache of local sales for these reasons, but if you have a high-demand device you can make the most on Craigslist and get your money right away. While you can list a smartphone for as much on any local sale site, you avoid fees and therefore can afford to sell for less. When you have a device that's next to impossible to get, however, you can make a killing by selling locally and won't have to entertain hagglers.
  • Gazelle offers price locks on iPhones but, as far as we've seen, not on any non-Apple devices. If you want to trade in your iPhone and lock in a good resale price, they give you over a month before you have to abandon it. Gazelle actually offers a very good buy-back price on iPhones before the next device gets announced and has one of the most convenient programs. iPhone users should definitely consider it, and other smartphone owners should weigh it against other options. They don't pay much for old phones, but Gazelle sometimes offers competitive pricing on newer devices.
  • Facebook Marketplace kind of combines the plusses and minuses of a local and an online seller. Run by oodle, you post a listing similar to how you would on Craigslist but without limiting yourself to locals. You also have the advantage of sharing the posting easily on Facebook for friends to see, should they want to buy your smartphone. While it might provide some additional exposure beyond your local area, it isn't as popular as Craigslist. It won't hurt to post here, but you should do it in conjunction with other options.

These five options don't represent every single place you can sell, but rather provide an overview of the spectrum. You can sell your smartphone to buyback programs other than Gazelle (e.g. uSell and Cell Circle) and use several other selling services to do it yourself. While you can rule out a few options based on the previously detailed factors, you won't know where you can make the most money without checking your options and comparing prices. Just don't forget to factor in fees with online sellers and haggling losses with local ones. Also, you can list an item on more than one place simultaneously and remove any leftover listings once you sell your phone. While you can estimate how much you'll earn, you can never know for sure. If you want to make the most when selling your smartphone, you need to take the time to play the field. Good luck!

Love,
Lifehacker

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Photos by Bruce Rolff (Shutterstock) and Andrey Arkusha (Shutterstock).

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