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iPhone trade in: The best ways to sell or trade in your old iPhone

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With new iPhones just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your upgrade plans. Of course you want one of the new models — but you’ve already paid a pretty penny for one of the old ones. 

Solution: Sell that old iPhone to help subsidize the new one. Here’s how to get rid of it in the most profitable manner possible.


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Do it right now

The closer we get to new iPhone preorders, the less your earlier 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 previous models 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 a backup phone — 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 phone.

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 iCloud). 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 get 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 your iPhone by yourself will usually net you the most profit, but it’s not without risks.

Craigslist

Craigslist is the riskiest option, but you will get 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 option than Craigslist for selling your used iPhone. 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 shipping your device through a trackable 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. (Plus, if your iPhone is in less-than-great condition, some companies will still take it — even if it doesn’t turn on at all.) Trading in your iPhone instead of selling it is a great option if you’re willing to give up a little profit for 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 quotes? 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 buy-back 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 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 values (which vary depending on model and condition and are accurate as of Sept. 10, 2018) are as follows: 

Best Buy Trade In

In the past, Best Buy offered some of the better trade-in prices, but it’s important to note that your money 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 ideal if you’re looking to buy 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 tends to offer less for carrier-locked phones, so you may want to unlock your phone before trading it in. 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 method did you use, and how was the experience?

First published Aug. 22, 2016.

Update Sept. 11 2019 at 06:00 a.m. PT: Adds new pricing and trade-in information.

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