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Selling a used phone: Do's and don'ts

The best way to upgrade is by selling your old phone.

Published onMarch 11, 2022

Tech geeks go through smartphones like they’re disposable. It’s hard to resist the urge of unboxing, caressing, and turning a new device on for the first time. The smartphone life isn’t cheap. It’s a good idea to think about selling phones as part of your upgrading habits. This makes it easier to finance your next phone and will make another gadget enthusiast happy.

We have heard plenty of scary stories, which is why we want to give you all the necessary tools to make these transactions as smooth as possible. These tips will have you well-armed for selling phones. Most steps should apply to tablets, gadgets, and even non-tech products too. Let’s dive in!

See also: These are the best Android phones you can buy right now

1. Be detailed and honest

There are two types of buyers: those who know what they are looking for and those who browse to see what could convince them. Regardless of which kind of customer you sell to, it’s always helpful to be as detailed as possible. Don’t lie about your product’s condition or capabilities — be honest! These person-to-person transactions rely on trust. If I ever notice a seller lies about something, as insignificant as it may seem, chances are he is willing to lie about more important things too, and I won’t continue dealing with him.

Is the smartphone worn out, or have you kept it in a case since day one? Make sure to tell people your situation and let them know if there are any issues. Look for any scratches and tell them what you have found. Believe it or not, I find this gives you a better chance of selling phones, even if it has more damage. When people already have a realistic expectation the first time they see the device in person, they won’t be disappointed. If they find scratches or cracks you failed to mention, they will likely feel cheated.

I also like telling people what the phone does well. It may take a bit of work, but most buyers don’t keep up with all the latest news in tech like we do. They may have no idea what your phone can do for them, so giving a little run-down of the coolest features is helpful.

Related: Should you buy a used smartphone?

It would be best if you also listed general phone specs. In a way, you have to think of it like making a mini-review. You could look up our review of whichever handset you have and link them to it!

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

2. Time is money!

Remember, the smartphone market moves amazingly fast these days. Most flagship smartphones are considered old in just a few months, so be quick about selling phones. The longer you wait, the further your phone’s value will swirl down the drain.

The longer you wait, the further your phone's value will swirl down the drain.Edgar Cervantes

Try to sell the phone before a newer generation is released. People love hearing the phone they are buying is the “latest” of its kind. When announcements or strong rumors of a new device I want start showing up, I sell my primary phone and use a secondary phone for a while. This ensures my older phone will sell faster and at a better price. Then I wait until the newer phone is released and upgrade.

3. Looks matter!

The truth is I’m less likely to buy a phone when I see bad photos of a dirty device. It just makes you wonder how much the previous owner treated the phone if the images he’s using to sell it show dirt and smudges. It’s an uncomfortable sight, so please clean the device thoroughly and try to take the nicest pictures you can. We’re sure this will help you get more possible buyers.

Here’s some help: How to clean and disinfect your phone properly

4. Where to sell phones

Now that you know the fundamentals of internet selling etiquette, it’s time you go ahead and put that phone online. Here are our favorite platforms for selling phones!

Selling a used phone on Gazelle

Gazelle is one of the simplest ways to sell your used devices. You usually won’t get as much as if you sold your device yourself, but you’ll save time, headaches, and the process is as seamless as it gets.

Simply go into the website and tell the company about your device and its condition. You’ll get an offer right away, which you can choose to accept or decline. You can then ship your device to Gazelle for free, and the team will inspect it. If everything is as expected, you’ll get your payment in the form of a check, PayPal transfer, or Amazon gift card.


You’ve probably seen these ATM-like machines around local stores. These are by far the easiest way to sell your phone. You can use the website to lock in an offer. After this, all you have to do is factory reset your phone and take it to your local ecoATM kiosk. After a few steps, you’ll get your money in cash, right away. You can also do the whole process at the kiosk, if you wish.

Go to your carrier or manufacturer store!

Very often, your carrier or smartphone manufacturer store will offer trade-in value for your old handsets. Like with Gazelle, these are not always the best deals. They are primarily for people who value their time more than money but still want to get something for those older handsets.

Selling a used phone on Swappa

Swappa is my favorite place for selling phones. You can usually get more money for your technology when using Swappa’s 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, PayPal ensures you are protected.

People will definitely pay more money for that peace of mind. Just 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 never arrived. In short: Swappa has your back, but resolving issues can take time.

Selling a used phone on eBay

eBay is where you go next for selling phones. It has one of the largest audiences in the world, which multiplies your chances of selling virtually anything. eBay will help you get your money back, should 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 the chances of you having to sell your phone for less are higher.

Selling a used phone on Craigslist

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

More: The best shopping apps for Android

Make sure there is nothing shady going on, and the buyer seems legitimate. Don’t listen to the Nigerian princes trying to have you ship the phone to faraway lands — they want to rip you off!

Some say there is nothing like a face-to-face deal, and Craigslist is all about that.

Selling a used phone through social networks, word of mouth, and more

You would be surprised to see how many of your friends are looking to get a phone just like the one you are selling. It’s common for me to write a Facebook post or tell friends and family about the gadget I am trying to get rid of, just in case they find value in it. They usually get a special discount, but at least I know I am dealing with someone I trust. Any social network works, but I find Facebook the best for this.

Facebook also has its own marketplace, which is actually a trendy hub for selling and buying all kinds of used (and new) products. Hit the link below to check it out.

5. Meeting in person? It’s dangerous out there!

Craigslist and other similar selling points are like the wild west of the internet. You don’t know what kind of buyers you may encounter. Here are some things to watch out for.

Craigslist is like the wild west of the internet.Edgar Cervantes

I will never invite a stranger to come to my house — unless I am selling something too big for me to carry around. Always meet them at a public location like a restaurant or coffee shop. Better yet, ask them to meet you at a carrier store. This will give both the buyer and seller peace of mind. They can check if the phone has been blacklisted and activate it immediately. Plus, shady people won’t go to an official store to play dirty games.

6. Make the customer feel comfortable

Remember to let customers ask all the questions they want. They are buying a product likely worth hundreds of dollars, so of course, they’ll want to know everything about it. Just be there for any questions or concerns they may have. Try to be friendly and leave them your contact number “just in case any issue comes up.” Sometimes I tell people I will help them claim the warranty if they ever need it. I have never had to do it, but making yourself available helps people feel more secure about purchasing.

More: The best budget phones you can find right now

7. How much do you want for your phone?

Figuring out how much your product’s worth is one of the most important parts of selling phones. There are many factors in play, and sadly there is never a direct answer. A lot of it is based on supply and demand.

When trying to figure out a fair price, my first step is checking how much the phone would cost new. I usually check out the carrier, Amazon, and other popular retailers with the same version. After that, I check how much it usually goes for used. Craigslist and eBay are great for this. Then it’s simply a matter of comparing your phone to others, factoring in your device’s current state.

When selling phones, customers will try to bring the price downEdgar Cervantes

Oh, and try to come up with a minimum price. You are likely going to find people who will try to bring the price down. I encounter these buyers almost every single time. Stick to your guns, and don’t give in after a certain point. You can be flexible, but you also don’t want to get ripped off.

Happy selling!

It’s important to take your time, watch out for shady people, stay honest, and always think about the well-being of both parties. If you keep these things in mind, we can almost guarantee you’ll end up having a positive experience. There is always a small chance things will go wrong, though, even with all these precautions in mind. It’s the risk of selling phones! If you would rather go a safer route, you can also trade in your phone to a carrier or use something like Swappa or Gazelle.

Also read: Buying used Pixel phones: How to save money and avoid the pitfalls

We hope this will help you have a more pleasant smartphone selling experience, and please hit the comments with all your thoughts! What is your favorite way to get some cash for your older devices?