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Ready for a new phone? Here are the easiest ways to sell your old one

That old smartphone of yours has value! Don’t just toss it or let it sit in a drawer.

Ready for a new phone? Here are the easiest ways to sell your old one
[Photo: Eirik Solheim/Unsplash]
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New-phone season is fast approaching, and selling your old phone is a great way to make some extra cash or offset some of the up-front cost of a new one. And it’s easier than you think!

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For this exercise, we’ll examine the trade-in values of the Google Pixel 5 handset, which debuted almost a year ago and came in just one storage configuration, making it easier to provide a baseline for how much to expect from various sites, services, and retailers. Prices are accurate as of early September 2021.

Direct trade-ins: the path of least resistance

Take it from me, a lazy, lazy man: Offloading your old phone while you’re buying a new phone is about as straightforward as it gets.

Most mobile carriers offer trade-in deals at the time of purchase, as do many manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. And it won’t be hard to find these trade-in offers, as they’re almost always part of the checkout process when you’re buying your new phone.

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If you’re buying online, you’ll get a padded envelope or box in the mail that you can use to send your old phone back. You’ll also receive instructions for wiping the data from your old phone and resetting it before you box it up.

You might also be able to take care of the entire transaction right away in person if you enjoy the thrilling experience of brick-and-mortar retail shopping.

What happens next depends on the company you’re dealing with. Some might give you an up-front discount on the phone and some might credit your bill, so check beforehand to see how you’ll get paid.

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For best results, of course, your old phone should be in working condition and devoid of showstopping cracks and scratches. Some companies, such as Apple, simply ask if the phone is in “good” condition, which means it turns on, the buttons work, the cameras work, there are no dents or scratches, and the screen isn’t cracked.

Oh, and be honest here. Don’t try to pull a sneaky by saying your phone’s in great condition and then sending in a lemon. Your payment could be reduced or the trade-in offer rescinded altogether.

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Here’s a look at the maximum Pixel 5 trade-in values from various manufacturers and mobile providers:

Buying directly from the manufacturer can net an extra hundred bucks, give or take, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping for a new phone. Oddly enough, Google wasn’t offering to buy back the Pixel 5 when I checked.

Retailer trade-ins: Convenient but miserly

Maybe you don’t want to buy a new phone from the manufacturer or a wireless carrier. Maybe you don’t want to buy a new phone at all! In that case, most big retailers offer trade-in programs as well.

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The process is similar to the process outlined above, except that you’re trading in your old phone for store credit toward anything the merchant sells, not just a new phone.

Here are the maximum values for a Pixel 5 trade-in by retailer.

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So with these programs, you’re trading a bit of cash for the convenience of store credit. The heart wants what it wants, right?

Phone-buying sites: Results may vary

I recently switched from the Samsung Galaxy S21 to the Google Pixel 5a (which is excellent, by the way). For some reason, I could not, for the life of me, find anyone in the above two groups willing to trade for my Samsung phone.

I was looking for the path of least resistance, but it was not to be. Alas, I found myself venturing out to the cold, dark, windy internet to see if I could strike a deal.

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Now, there are a bajillion “sell us your old phone for cash” sites. Some are reputable. Some are fine but fickle when it comes to valuing your phone once you’ve sent it to them. Some are dodgy. Some actually just facilitate a direct sale between you and another person.

Search for reviews of these types of sites before you agree to a sale, especially if your phone’s not in perfect shape. The biggest recurring complaint seems to be that after sending a phone in, it gets valued lower than the initial quote and then it’s a customer service battle to either get the quote increased or have the phone sent back to you.

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I’ll drop some of the more established ones in here that don’t require you to sell to someone else. I mean, your phone will eventually end up in someone else’s hands, of course, but you won’t be part of the transaction and you won’t have to manage or monitor a listing.

Here are the max Pixel 5 values:

So except for EcoATM, we’ve got some pretty decent prices here and you’re being paid in actual money, which can be exchanged for real-world goods and services.

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For what it’s worth, I found Gazelle to offer the most for my Galaxy S21 ($392, thank you very much) and the process was pretty painless. I entered a few details, including its condition (“good” but not “excellent”), and opted to have them send me a box, which I can then use to send the phone back to them. Alternatively, I also had the option of using my own box and printing out a label myself, but remember: I’m lazy. I’ll wait a few days for the free box.