Selling a used phone: do’s and don’ts

by: Edgar CervantesApril 14, 2015
1K

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Many of us tech geeks go through smartphones like they are disposable. It’s hard to resist the urge to unbox, caress and turn a new handset on for the first time; especially when we see updated smartphones with awesome specs and features coming out every few months!

See also: How to recycle your old phone

Life is hard in the tech world, even more so for our wallets. This is why it’s smarter to sell older and make up some of your cash, instead of going through a complete upgrade. This will help you finance your next acquisition and make another gadget enthusiast happy. After all, it makes no sense to just hoard all these expensive phones, it’s better to hand them over to someone who will give them better use.

banner-galaxy-s4-vs-htc-one-displayOn the flipside: Buying a used phone: do’s and dont’s29
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Selling is a science, though. Remember a lot of people make a living out of trading, and others become experts in the subject by studying it for years. How can the regular Joe embark on this adventure? I have sold plenty of phones and can say no bad experiences have crossed my path. In fact, I have no horror stories to tell at all, whether it’s from buying or selling pre-owned handsets. I have heard plenty of scary tales, though, which is why we want to give you all the necessary tools to make these transactions as smooth as possible.

The tips listed below will have you well armed for the used gadget marketplace. And though this guide is focused mostly on phones, most steps should apply to tablets, gadgets and even non-tech products. Let’s dig right into the goods!

Moto G4 Plus -9See also: Best cheap Android phones (March 2016)434

Be detailed and honest

There are two types of buyers: those who know what they are looking for and those who are browsing to see what could convince them. Regardless of which kind of customer you happen to run across, it will always help to be as detailed as possible. Oh, and please don’t lie about your product’s condition or capabilities. Be honest! These person-to-person transactions require a lot of trust. If I ever notice a seller lies about something, as small as it may be, chances are I won’t continue dealing with him/her.

Is the smartphone very worn out? Maybe you have kept it in a case and protected by a screen cover since day one. Make sure to tell people your situation and let them know if there are any issues with the phone. Look for any scratches and tell them what you have found. Believe it or not, I find this gives you better chances, even if the phone is more damaged than usual, as people already have an expectation of the device’s condition the first time they see it – they can’t be disappointed. If they find scratches or cracks you failed to mention, they will just feel cheated.

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I also like telling people what the phone is all about. It may take a bit of work, but remember most buyers are not always turning to sites like Android Authority, keeping up with all the latest news in tech. They may have no idea what your phone can do for them, so give them a little run-down of what you think are the coolest features. What makes this phone stand out?

Furthermore, I find it cool when sellers actually bother to list the general phone specs. In a way, you have to think of it like making a mini review. Hey, you could probably even look up our own review of whatever handset you have and link them to it!

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By the way, people also like knowing why you are selling your smartphone. Are you upgrading? Are you looking for something newer? Don’t like it anymore? Is it an issue related to the handset?

Time is money!

And we mean that in every sense of the word. Remember smartphones age amazingly fast these days. Most flagship smartphones are considered old in just a few months, so be quick about your sale. Don’t just purchase a new phone and think: “well, I can just put the other one up for sale later”. Put that baby online right away! The longer you wait, the further your phone’s value will swirl down the drain.

Also, try to sell it before the newer generation version of your smartphone is released. People love hearing that the phone they are buying is the “latest flagship” from the manufacturer. I have a special trick you can use. I keep an older smartphone around at all times, which I use in between other handsets I buy and sell.

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When announcements or strong rumors of a phone I want start showing up, I go ahead and sell my older device, only to stick with my replacement phone for a while. This ensures my older phone will sell faster, easier and at a better price. Then I just wait until the newer phone is actually released and upgrade to it.

Where to sell

Now you know the fundamentals of internet selling etiquette. It’s time you go ahead and put that phone online for the world to see. It’s time to figure out which platform you want to sell your beloved smartphone through. Here are our favorites!

Gazelle

Gazelle is likely the safest route for selling your used smartphones, but they will also probably offer the lowest rates. You can get significantly more selling the phone yourself. The thing about Gazelle is that it’s guaranteed money with no risk. You just tell them about your phone, get an offer, ship it to them and wait for the magic to happen. If all goes well, you will get your payment in the form of a check, Amazon gift card or PayPal. Simple, right?

Sell your phone on Gazelle!
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Go to your carrier!

Very often your own carrier will offer trade-in value for your old handsets. Like Gazelle, though, these are not always the best deals. They are mostly for people who value their time and efforts more than money, but still want to get something for those older devices.

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Swappa

I will tell you right now that Swappa is hands-down my favorite place to sell smartphones. Guess what? You can usually get more money for your technology when using this website. Why? Because Swappa is a proven method for phone trading. These guys will verify every single listing and make sure there’s nothing fishy going on. If the buyer reports anything suspicious, the money will be returned straight to his PayPal account.

People will definitely pay more money for that peace of mind. I know I would! But don’t be too trusting of everyone, regardless of how secure a site is. Our very own Andrew Grush once had to deal with Swappa and Paypal for months to get a refund for a phone that was never delivered to him. In short: Swappa has your back, but resolving issues can sometimes take time.

Sell your phone on Swappa!
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eBay

Is Swappa not working for you? eBay is where you go next. For starters, eBay has one of the largest audiences in the world. Your chances of selling anything are multiplied just by using this site, which is known by the vast majority of connected users.

It also helps that eBay happens to have your back, as well. PayPal and eBay will help you get your money back, shall anything go wrong. This is why people tend to trust it.

The one downside is competition. You would literally be competing with the whole world, so chances of you having to sell your phone for less are higher. The benefit is that more people will see it and that phone will likely be sold faster.

Sell your phone on eBay!

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Craigslist

While a bit more dangerous and wild, Craigslist is one of the most popular selling and trading networks around. It is almost all over the world and promotes local deals. And because everything is done in person, it is easy to check for yourself that everything is ok.

Just make sure there is nothing shady going on and that the buyer seems legitimate. You know… don’t listen to the “King of Ethiopia” and people trying to have you ship the phone to faraway lands. Those scammers are trying to rip you off!

Otherwise, it’s a great place to find people who can buy your phone! Some say there is nothing like a face-to-face deal, and Craigslist is all about that. Not to mention the fact that it’s insanely popular.

Sell your phone on Craigslist!
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Social networks, word of mouth, etc.

You would be surprised to see how many of your friends are probably looking to get a phone just like the one you are selling. I always write a Facebook post or tell friends and family about the gadget I am trying to get rid of, just in case they may find value in it. I usually sell it for cheaper to them, just because they get that special discount, but at least I know I am dealing with someone I trust. Any social network works, by the way. I have used Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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Meeting in person? It’s dangerous out there!

I have always said it – Craigslist and other similar selling points are like the wild west of the internet. You better walk in with your hand on your gun, because it’s a dog-eat-dog situation in there! You don’t know what kind of buyers you may encounter, so here are some things to watch out for.

For starters, I will never, ever invite someone to come to my house… unless I am selling something that is obviously too big for me to carry around. I always meet them at a very public location like a restaurant or cafe. Better yet, sometimes I ask them to meet me at the carrier store. This will give both the buyer and seller peace of mind. While there, they can check the ESN and see if the phone has been blacklisted or not. Plus, shady people won’t go to such an official place to try and play some dirty games, right? It makes both parties more comfortable.

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Remember to let the customer ask all the questions he/she wants. They are buying a product that is likely worth hundreds of dollars! Of course they want to know everything about it. Just be there for any questions or concerns they may have. Try to be friendly and leave them some kind of contact number “just in case any issue comes up”. Sometimes I tell people I will help them claim the warranty and that kind of stuff, if they ever need it. By the way, I have never had to do it, but making yourself available helps people feel more secure about that purchase.

How much do you want for your phone?

This is one of the most important parts in the process of selling your phone. How much is that thing even worth? There’s a plethora of factors that come into play, and sadly there is no direct answer to this question. A lot of it is supply and demand, really! Swappa and eBay will usually recommend a reasonable price, which is very helpful, but that is not the case with other platforms like Craigslist.

My first step when trying to figure out a fair price is checking how much the phone would cost new. I usually check out the carrier, Amazon and other popular retailers that carry the same exact version. After that, proceed to seeing how much it usually goes for used. You can check Craigslist, eBay and other sites. Then simply compare your phone to others and factor in your device’s current state.

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Oh, and try to come up with a price you won’t accept less than. Remember, you are likely going to find people who will try to bring the price down. In fact, I encounter these buyers almost every single time. Stick to your guns and don’t give in after a certain point. You don’t want to be ripped off, either. Do go a bit lower in price if you feel the customer deserves that, though.

Wrapping up

Just take your time, watch out for shady people, stay honest and always think about the well-being of both your customer and yourself. If you keep these things in mind, we can almost guarantee you’ll end up having a positive experience. But there is a small chance things will still go wrong, even with all these precautions. It’s the risk of selling your used gadgets!

If you would rather go the safer route, you can always trade in your phone to a carrier or go with something like Gazelle. What is your favorite way to get some cash for your older devices? Do you go the simpler way or hustle a bit to get more cash?

Regardless, we hope this will help you have a more pleasant smartphone selling experience, and please hit the comments with all your thoughts! Do you have any other tips for your fellow techies?

  • Colton Blumhagen

    Swappa is pretty much the only option. It Gets you the most money & is the safest.

    • Karly Johnston

      I like Gazelle better, they do everything for you but the range of devices they sell aren’t on the level. The guys who buy on Swappa will leave you hanging with no feedback and can renege on a Paypal transaction months later.

      • Colton Blumhagen

        I’ve sold 5 phones on Swappa & have yet to have any issues. The problem is Gazelle is they have to make a profit too so they offer way less than the phone is worth.

  • Richard

    I always use Craigslist.
    Things can get bought and sold same day.
    Local and you can inspect/have them inspect the device in person.
    Also cash. Don’t have to deal with paypal or other money services.

    • Probablynot

      Craigslist is best for honest sellers by far, or at least it’s best if you don’t want the risk of a shady buyer saying you sent them a brick and taking their money back.

    • Craigslist is fairly location-dependent. When I lived in the SF bay area, just about anything I listed disappeared within a day or less.

      Now Thai I’m back home in Ohio, it takes a bit longer. That said, I do still like the site.

  • Eric

    Another advice I’d give is to post great looking photos of the phone from all angles. I always do this for every device I sell and it also gives you a chance to highlight any flaws or show how mint condition the phone is. Sure, you can just say it’s “mint”, but having multiple photos showing it off definitely goes a long way.

  • peerpressure

    I’m looking for a new/used no-contract phone in the sub $250 range. I like the smaller screen sizes, so 5.2 at the most. And it has to have a good camera. I currently have the Fire phone, and while it’s decent at a lot of things, the camera is not. Blurry photos 50% of the time. Anyone have a phone that fits those specs that they just love?

    I’m looking at the OnePlus X, but half of the reviews say that the camera is bad, so I will wait on that one. Maybe just needs a software update.

  • TJ

    Craigslist by far. No waiting, no PayPal or other services. Cash only.

  • David

    I change smartphones once or even two times a year. Always love technology trends. Old phone give my younger brother or sell.
    But selling is rather difficult process and may take some time. That is why I prefer to use special services ( http://www.klymen.com/ ). Last time I sold my Samsung Galaxy S4 for a few days. And very pleased with this.