Options abound for selling used mobile phones

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Apple's latest iPhones begin shipping later this month, a move bound to inspire many fans of the popular smartphone to ditch their current models in favor of the bigger, sleeker iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.

It's a ritual familiar by now to most smartphone users. Every couple of years, new models boasting more features and improvements compel users to trade up.

Often that means turning in your older phones for a credit from your carrier. But selling your phone online or to companies that buy back used models can often offer a better return than your wireless provider.

Here are some ways to cash in on that soon-to-be mobile relic:


When selling your phone online, think of it like a house. Homes generally sell for about the same price as comparable houses.

If you list the phone on eBay, the site will suggest a price range based on recent sales of the same model.

Details such as the model, memory size and whether you have the original packaging, manual and peripherals, such as the charger, factor into the potential sale price.

"The real key here is the condition that your phone is in today," said Jeff Somers, vice president of verticals for eBay North America. That means cosmetic factors such as scratches mean a lot.

For the most recently available iPhone model, the 5S, with 32 gigabytes of memory and in excellent condition, eBay suggests a buy-it-now price of $359.

If it's brand new, however, the site suggests the phone could fetch as much as $650. If it's used, but in good condition, $329; in fair condition, $300 or so.

2. LIST IT SOONEST, a portal for selling mobile phones, says iPhones typically depreciate about 20 percent in the six to eight weeks after a new model is announced.

So if you plan on buying the new iPhone, which begins shipping Sept. 19, consider selling your older phone right away.

Many iPhone users have already begun doing so.

In the week leading to Tuesday's announcement, eBay registered a 30 percent bump from the prior week in U.S. sales of the 32-gigabyte iPhone 5s. The model was selling, on average, for $510. The sales included used and new models sold by online merchants and individuals.

EBay is hoping to lure iPhone owners looking to sell their phones before trading up. The company is offering a $100 coupon to U.S. sellers if their smartphone doesn't sell by Oct. 24.

You can see the fine print on the promotion here:

Don't want to wait for a buyer? will make an offer for your old phone based on its condition, your phone carrier and other information. A 32 gigabyte iPhone 5S on AT&T, for example, was recently going for $270 in good condition.

(If you're an Android owner, your phone has value, but probably much less. Apple's phones have consistently held their value better than competitors'.)


Wireless providers often will buy back your older phone, as long as it's still functioning, when you trade up to a newer model. You generally won't get as much as you could from selling it online, however.

Still, there are some advantages. You won't have to wait until a buyer comes along.

Also, for a family on a group plan, it might make more sense to give the older model as an upgrade to someone else with a more outdated phone, says Jeff Blyskal, senior editor at Consumer Reports.

"Let's say one of the family members wants to buy the iPhone 6, so you can give the existing phone that person has to someone else in the family," he said. "That's one way to do it so you don't lose the phone and you still have the value of it."


If you're still hanging on to your flip phone from 10 years ago, getting money for it even in a trade-in may be difficult. But you can still wring some value out of it if you donate it to charity.

Several charities work with phone recyclers and sell your donated phones to them.

A nonprofit group called Cell Phones for Soldiers will take your "gently used" phone and sell it to recycling company ReCellular. It will then use the proceeds to buy calling cards for soldiers.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence works with another recycling group in a similar manner. About 60 percent of the phones it collects are refurbished and resold. The money goes toward supporting the coalition.


Unlike just a few years ago, the design innovations on the newest smartphones are not as significant from one model generation to the next.

Cameras, displays and battery life have been improving only slightly.

That means the phones that came out last year or the year before are probably just as feature-rich as the latest models.

"These are often incremental improvements now," Blyskal said. "You have to judge whether it's really worth it."

The iPhone 6 may be an exception. It will have a bigger display than previous iPhones, an improved camera and new operating system. In addition, Apple is including its new mobile payments system.

Still, if you can put off upgrading a few months, you are likely to find a previously owned version of the newest models for sale online. The market for your older model likely won't be as strong, but then again, you'll be saving off the retail price on your new one.