HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget)

Category: Gadgets

Smartphones become obsolete almost as fast as the news these days. If you like to stay on the bleeding edge, you'll upgrade your tech gadgets at every opportunity. But what's the best way to get cash for your used electronics, without getting scammed? Here several ways you can sell an unwanted mobile phone, tablet, computer or other gear...

Selling Your Used Electronics

Are looking to sell your smartphone or tablet? Some carriers take old models as trade-ins, but sometimes you’re stuck with a piece of electronics you can no longer use. Fortunately, there are several ways to turn your old phone into cash. If you have an unwanted tablet, Kindle, laptop, game console, or digital camera, you can sell those too. Here are some options to find out how much your items are worth, and sell them to the highest bidder.

Gazelle is one such option. Answer a few simple questions about your phone and get an offer for it. Mail your phone to Gazelle using their postage-paid label delivered to you electronically. When it passes Gazelle’s inspection, you receive money via check, Amazon gift card, or Paypal. Note that Paypal will take a cut of the money sent to you.

Sell Your Electronics for Cash

Gazelle takes tablets as well as phones of all operating systems. It accepts Apple computers and iPods. It does not accept Windows PCs, Linux x86 boxes, or basically anything made by Intel. I sold a used Motorola Droid via Gazelle, and got a check in the mail 10 days later, for the agreed amount. You can buy used electronics from Gazelle, too. The company resells and re-buys a gadget until it cannot be sold anymore, then sends it off to a recycling center to be torn apart for its useable components. Gazelle is into both kinds of green: Money and Mother Earth.

Usell deals in used phones, especially iPhones and Samsung models, and also deals in iPods, iPads, game consoles, video games, and even non-electronics such as textbooks, kids’ clothing, women’s clothing, and gift cards. I say “deals” because Usell doesn’t buy anything; it acts as a broker between device owners and a network of resellers. Usell takes information about your device; puts it out to resellers on its private network; and gets back to you with a list of offers, if there are any. If you accept an offer, you ship your phone to Usell and it’s forwarded to the reseller-buyer. You get paid when Usell gets paid by the reseller-buyer.

If the reseller-buyer pays, that is. There are reports online of long-delayed checks; checks for a fraction of the agreed upon amount; and checks that never arrived. While ultimate culpability for such scams lies with the reseller-buyer, Usell may not be exercising sufficient due diligence in choosing its partners. They do have a rating system for the buyers, so be sure to choose one that has at least four stars and lots of positive reviews.

NextWorth is a similar service that buys used electronics for cash. They will purchase smartphones, tablets, e-readers, digital cameras, mp3 players, video games, game consoles, Apple and PC laptops, and even calculators. Aside from the wide variety of items, a few things that differentiate NextWorth are their 30-day price lock on quoted offers, and the option to get paid instantly by bringing your device to a participating Target department store.

With services like Gazelle, Usell, and NextWorth, it's important to be honest and realistic about the condition of your device. If you say it's "like new" and send them a scratched-up phone with no accessories, you're likely to be unhappy with the payment you receive. I suspect that a large portion of the unhappy customers of these services are those with unrealistic opinions about the condition of their gear.

Which Way Is Best?

By way of comparison, I got quotes from all three of these services on a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 (White, 16GB) smartphone, in good but used condition. NextWorth offered $144, Gazelle $145, and Usell $150. Next, I tried an AT&T iPhone 5 (16GB). NextWorth offered $320, Gazelle $300, and Usell $305. For some reason, the mobile carrier to which your phone is assigned makes a big difference. In the cases above, Sprint phones were usually quoted at about 60% of the offers for the same phone on AT&T or Verizon. In a few cases, T-Mobile phones got significatly higher offers. Usell was the only one of these three that offered to buy feature phone (non-smartphone) cell phones.

Of course, you can always sell the device directly yourself. Craigslist is free; just post an ad in your local market, watch the offers flow in, pick a buyer and – go meet a stranger in a strange place with a few hundred bucks worth of gear in your hand? Yeah, you have to be careful. Stick to public places to make exchanges. I'd go with the police station parking lot, or someplace where there are obvious video cameras rolling. NEVER give a stranger your home address! Some people bring a large friend or two along. Under no circumstances should you deal in anything other than cash handed over in person; counterfeit check and money order scams abound on Craigslist. But thousands of phones and other electronic devices change hands safely via Craigslist every day.

If you don’t know what your used device is worth, eBay can help you find out even before you put an item up for auction. Among the many search parameters found on eBay, “sold items” is probably the most valuable. It will show you the true market value of items like yours that actually sold. With a good feel for what’s realistic, you can set your starting price low but not too low, high but not too high.

Cracked or scratched display? A chipped case corner? A phone that does not work at all? Not a problem; list it anyway and take what you can get. A lot of people buy damaged and non-working electronics for parts, or something.

Just don't be like the Australian woman who posted an online ad looking to buy two iPhones. She got a response, and met in a McDonald's restaurant with a seller offering "two Apples." She paid $1200, took the iPhone boxes home, and only later discovered they contained actual apples, instead of iPhones. Yes, it's a true story!

And then there's Kelly Filkin, who got slammed by Judge Judy for taking hundreds of dollars for a phone advertised on Craigslist, and mailing the buyer just a PICTURE of the phone. Watch this classic Judge Judy episode for the greatest barbecuing of a dumb crook in the history of television. Incidentally, I looked up Ms Filkin a couple of years after this episode aired. Sure enough, she was in jail on fraud charges.

Have you sold a used phone? Tell me about your experience by posting a comment below...

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Most recent comments on "HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget)"

Posted by:

Joseph Fischer
12 Sep 2013

A convenient way to sell your old phone is to trade it in at the store where you buy your new phone. You might not get quite as much for it, but the security and convenience could make up for that. Most stores will transfer your information from the old phone to your new phone and then wipe the data from your old phone for you. Check the store's website to see if they publish estimated trade in prices online.

Posted by:

Doug Jennings
12 Sep 2013

Bob. The links on the page are incorrect.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Oops, forgot the HTTP-COLON-SLASH-SLASH! Fixed now, thanks.

Posted by:

Lee Kane
13 Sep 2013

After getting discouraged by the riskiness of buying a used Galaxy S3 on Craigslist or ebay, I had a great experience buying a phone recently using
There are no fees for sellers, they use Paypal, and they claim to pay more quickly than ebay. For buyers, they verify that every phone has a clean ESN (is ready for activation), and that none have cracked screens or water damage. They review and approve every listing.
It felt refreshingly clean compared to wondering whether getting mugged or buying a defective phone was more likely. Too bad they only list mobile devices.

Posted by:

25 Sep 2013

Does anyone have any experience using Glyde?

Posted by:

02 Oct 2013

Gazelle is sending me $190 for my AT&T iPhone 4S 16 gig. The check is enroute as I type this. They keep you up-to-date step by as you send in the postage paid Fedex box. You can get an extra 5% if you choose to take your payment as an Amazon gift card. This allowed me to upgrade to the new iPhone 5S 32 gig for a net of $109 with a new 2 year contract. Not a bad deal at all!

Posted by:

Marie Martin
12 Nov 2013

Another best website for selling your used and even broken cell phones is . I sold my phone over there last month and they paid me more then any other site.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget) (Posted: 12 Sep 2013)
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