How to sell your Android device: tips and mistakes to avoid

by: Nate SwannerJanuary 9, 2013

Android for sale

Have you ever heard of a thing such as “too many gadgets”? It’s a foreign concept to some. Some people love having all manner of gadgets and toys around the house. Sometimes they’re collectibles, or perhaps they’ve got a purpose beyond just being in a collection.

Maybe you have an Android smartphone which isn’t wanted anymore, or are just tired of seeing it lying around your home and want to give it a good home. If that sounds like you, the good news is that someone is ready and willing to take that device off your hands.

Somewhere out there is someone excited to find that exact device you’re ready to let go of, and they’ll pay for it… but what is the best way to go? Should you go the Craigslist route and drive yourself mad with flaky buyers and low-ball offers? Ebay is always an option, but it’s so large and impersonal. Can you actually get your device sold for a decent price amidst the companies and power sellers?

If you’re interested in selling your device, you definitely have quite a few options. The first thing to understand is effective selling requires knowing both your market and product. The fastest way to make good money is to have a device that falls into one (or both!) of two major categories: classic and collectible, or cutting edge.

Where can you sell these Android devices? What’s the best way to go to make some money from your old Android smartphone? Don’t worry, we’ve done the homework and can get you started on the right track.

old android

Poor little fella


Are you sure you want to sell?

Before we get started, let’s think about this big ‘ol leap you’re about to make. First, are you really sure you want to sell that device? There are a lot of really good alternatives to making a few bucks, and often can be written off on taxes. Sure, more cash in the pocket is a good thing, but so is a little good will. Paying it forward will benefit you more than monetarily.

Make it a ROM testbed

You’ve got options if you’re not quite sure about selling. Depending on what type of user you are, you may want to hang on to the device. You can always root it and play around with custom ROMs and themes. Rooting is a great way to learn a lot more about devices, how they work, and get your hands eDirty.

Turn it into a home phone

Another option is using it as a home phone. No monthly plan on that old device, you say? No problem! If you have a Google Voice number, you can download an app named GrooveIP which allows you to make calls via WiFi. This is a good option for those looking to have an alternate device in the house to make calls from. It doesn’t use minutes, and no carrier support is needed. That app will, of course, work on your current device also.

Give it to charity

If we’re talking about a phone, there are always charities in need. One national charity, Celll Phones for Soldiers, uses your donated phone to keep soldiers overseas in contact with their families here in the States. If you know a soldier, or the family of one, you probably understand how taxing it is for everyone involved to be out of touch.

Another good charitable option is a local women’s shelter. Those shelters are usually occupied by at-risk ladies who, for one reason or another, may need a device to dial 911. A great way to help out and keep the good will in your community.


Somebody sold their Vertu…


So you want to sell, huh? Alright, let’s get started.

In selling your device, you have a lot of options. Some of those options consist of a lot of legwork on your part with questionable return. Some options require you to do little more than mail your device, but you’re going to pay for it (and I don’t mean the shipping cost). Deciding whether or not you need to make a quick buck or want to maximize your profit is key to success.

Craigslist is an option, but…

Craigslist is a catch-all of classified nonsense. Plain and simple, craigslist is where everyone goes for cheap stuff they want. Just remember that it’s for cheap and want, not fair price and need. Craigslist is full of flakes who will make low-ball offers and feign interest. If Craigslist is something you’d consider, check the classifieds section in your area and see what a median price is for the device you’re selling. Have an absolute minimum you’ll accept in mind, as you’ll almost never get asking price. Your negotiation tactics will be tested, so stare yourself don in the mirror a few times before going into battle on Craigslist.

A better idea

If you’re not willing to suffer the slings and arrows of classified selling, you’re not alone. There are quite a few sites that are designed to separate you from the device you’re looking to sell, and they all have pros and cons. Some sites will purchase your device outright, and some will simply give you dedicated forum in which to post a classified ad. It may cost you financially, but it could be your best option, too.

The sites we’ll discuss are well known and reputable. They’ve sold or brokered many deals, and have an established presence in the pre-owned device sales arena.

Ebay – hit and miss

In doing my best to give you an accurate idea of what you’ll be getting yourself into, I’ve taken the liberty of pretending I was you. I want to get rid of my Samsung Galaxy S3. I’m pretty sure we have a 16GB white phone on Verizon, because we do… right? Whatever the case, that’s the phone I looked into. I mean, we just got the Nexus 4 (by some miracle) so we don’t need this old phone anymore.

The first site I looked into for us was the ubiquitous Ebay. We’ve all gone to Ebay to look around at what they had to offer, and maybe even purchased an item or two. Ebay is a staple, but also a waiting game of epic proportions. It’s nerve racking, this Ebay auction game. In looking into our device, it seems as though the median price is about $350 for a phone in decent shape. We could sell at that price and probably get some interest, but that depends on how well we present it.

Ebay is a great option for having control over your selling experience, but it can cost you. You’ll have to pay for just about every option you want to include. More pictures are an upcharge, so is a “Buy it Now” option. If we’re looking to maximize exposure and have a listing that looks great, we’re looking at a cost of $20-30. That cost is not dependent on the device selling, either. If we choose Ebay, it could end up costing us with no return. Let’s just keep looking, okay?

ebay screenshot

Ebay is always an option, but it has its drawbacks

I just want to get rid of it!

Okay, I hear you. You want to do this quick and easy.


The second site I checked out was Swappa. It’s really straightforward, and super easy to use. In form and function, it’s like a hybrid of Craigslist and Ebay; free to list, but it’s got a form you fill out and the listings all look the same. The popular method for Payment seems to be Paypal, so if we’re going to choose this or Ebay we should make sure we have a PayPal account set up. A really popular and dedicated forum to sell our device may just be what we’re looking for, but let’s not stop shopping just yet.


Swappa is probably the most popular smartphone selling site


Gazelle is a good site, but seems to be a little Apple-centric. I laughed when I saw the homepage: a bunch of Apple products and then a listing for “Cell Phones” that encompassed the rest of the market. This would be a good option if we were looking to make a decent profit quickly. I told it about our Galaxy S3, and it shot back an offer of $256. Not too bad, right? I mean, we don’t have to create a listing and the offer is not based on the device selling. I’m starting to wonder about the offer, though. If the Ebay median price is about $350 for our phone, we might be selling ourselves short. A good option, but let’s just look around a little more and think about it, okay?

gazelle logo

Gazelle: Trade in, Trade Up, Get Paid

Smartphone Trade-In

Hey, I know this shopping trip is getting a little tiresome, but I found another site we should look into. It’s called Smartphone Trade-In, and works a lot like Gazelle. I put in our device specs, and it offered us $250, which is almost the same as Gazelle. If we want to make a quick buck, we have two really good options. Both are easy to use and offer free shipping. Gazelle will even give us a free box if we need it.

I guess the difference is that Gazelle will pay us via PayPal or Amazon Gift Card, which is kind of cool. Smartphone Trade-In sends a check, and they claim to send them out within two days of receiving the device. Gazelle claims equally quick payment, so it’s a bit of a toss-up. I won’t lie, I’m a little annoyed Gazelle lumps Android in with “Cell Phones”, but what do we care? We’re just trying to make a buck, right?

smartphone trade-in logo

Less well known, but might be worth a check

New kid on the block

Seems like just about everything comes from a vending machine lately, doesn’t it? Well, selling your device is no different. There is a new option for selling your device called ecoATM. You simply visit one of their kiosks, and your device will be evaluated fully. After being scanned, poked, and prodded, your device will be assigned a value. You can accept the offer and the kiosk will pay you on the spot, or you can refuse and go on your way. The video below is from the ecoATM website, and showcases just how easy this process is.

If ecoATM sounds like perfection to you, you’re not alone. A kiosk that will give you cash on-site? Awesome… unless it runs out of money. The machine won’t take your device if it’s out of cash. They also require you to give a thumbprint and scan your driver license. While this is consistent with second-hand dealer laws, some people may not be comfortable giving a giant ATM their personal info. Many people also report offers well below average, so be careful before you let this machine eat your device.

Wrap up

When selling a device, consider what you want. It’s clear you no longer want it, but what do you want out of this whole situation? Selling can be a lot of work, but you may get more for your device than you think. Donating it can be very rewarding, and is a good way to do some good for those in need. On the other hand, you might need the cash. Times are tough, and you’re sitting on a popular device that can bring in some cash.

Your selling options are plentiful, but not without their pitfalls. Ebay is the go-to spot for shopping, and everyone checks it out from time to time. It will get the most site traffic of anything we discussed today. The flipside to that coin is your competition. You will be duking it out with other sellers ranging from brick-and-mortar stores to online retailers who have the stock and selling power to turn your lights out. Sellers like that do a ton of volume, and can keep prices lower. You, on the other hand, are just some independant seller with nothing to lose. Why would anyone buy from you? You have no return policy, and you don’t make a habit of selling devices. There is always a trade-in program like BestBuy has, but their offer of $157 for our Samsung Galaxy S3 was just not worth it.

A site like Gazelle may be the best bet. Sure, you’ll take a hit on the price, but that price is one we pulled from EBay. There is no actual valuation process for electronics, so the market always decides… and the market is fickle. Sure, the median list price on Ebay was about $350, but that isn’t the sold price. The sneaky little “make an offer” option under the “Buy it Now” tab throws a wrench into the mix. Ebay has their listing fee once an item goes on the site, so what goes on after that is of little consequence to them. There is a good chance you don’t have an accurate idea of what the device is worth, and should reconsider your stance on the price.

In deciding what to do with your device, be realistic and do your homework. Condition is everything, so if your phone has a cracked screen or water damage, it may devaluate quite a bit. You’ll still be able to unload it, but it won’t hold nearly the value a well taken care of device has.

Acting as if you were buying the device rather than selling it will allow you to do some important comparative shopping and better evaluate your situation.

  • Garry DeWitt

    Was going to sell my vzw gnex, but that home phone idea seems neat…

  • I will smash it before I sell it. A friend of mine can bring up contacts and pictures on phones that have been “wiped”, android and I phones. I just don’t think it is worth the risk. Home Phone isn’t a bad idea though, I hadn’t thought about that one.

    • it’s a bad idea to sell ANY phone to ANY one!you have no idea how simple it is to get back most of your data after a fullwipe

      • Doan

        How simple is it?

        • very.

          • Doan

            Go on.

          • dreams bud, i ain’t gonna tell you how to get back what you lost on your phone. Google it.

          • Doan

            “Dreams bud”? You act as if you’re holding coveted information above everyone’s head. You aren’t. You do seem paranoid, though. Re-write the entire drive and most people, even with Google’s help, will be unable to obtain any information.

          • It isn’t Exactly That Legal. It’s the same thing as buying a hard drive and retrieving all the 1TB of porn :D

          • Doan

            Is it illegal? If you purchase something, I would assume that all information on it is yours to access as well. What you do with that information, on the other hand..

          • It’s “kinda” illegal, you would be retrieving someone else’s data, not your own. Even if someone sold a phone to you, and it was factory reset, you would still be able to get their data of the phone for what ever you wanna do with it.

  • Pete Smith

    Was going to say that while this is a really good article what would’ve made it great is a section on securely wiping your phone before selling it. But these other comments now have me wary of the whole idea. Smashing it works for me!

    (Actually my original Droid is now dedicated to being my alarm clock in a docking station I bought when the phone was new.)

  • terminus r

    normally I’ll just give it to my relatives, my mom or my aunt, uncle.
    I never sell back phone unless it’s really broken.

    some can still be used as media player device (music, radio fm, etc). just plug a good speaker, then it’s good to go for traveling.

    most issue with old phone are battery and display.
    luckily ally my old phone has removable battery, and finding spare one is still easy.

  • Joseph

    This is a great article. I did some research myself on this because I am a bit lazy when it comes to eBay and “like-minded” sites. I also went local to Game Stop which has a buyback problem but I found them to pay the least of all the options. I settled on a website

    sell my blackberry which is literally the same as Gazelle but seem to be less Apple happy as I was selling several Blackberries. Experience was great, got payment through PayPal the day they received the phones so I can’t complain.

  • copeland lee

    Moreover, there is another thing you should avoid.

    Believe it or not, it is incredibly easy to get personal information from an old phone even you reset to default settings. So before you sell the old phone, erase it permanently to keep your personal data safety. Here is a video for that.

  • Sarah Reeva

    There are so many options where we can sell our old mobiles for cash. I think we should try something like that because these companies provides some great offers for old used mobile phones.