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Get The Most Money For Your Used Phone

Selling a used smartphone? Its condition and where you sell are big factors in the price you fetch. Here’s how to get the most money for your used phone.

Do you have an old cell phone you want to trade in? You might make some money back if you do it right.We the People — at least the tech-savvy ones — crossed an invisible line in 2013. It didn’t get much coverage, but ultimately it will prove more historic than the government shutdown, twerking and the Red Sox winning the World Series combined. Curious? The answer’s as close as your mobile phone.

Media giants now see more than 50 percent of their overall digital traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. That’s right. Mobile now dominates. Laptops don’t have nearly the clout they did a decade ago.

Yet this “great news” comes at a price: That is, the race to own the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Windows phone that delivers faster wireless means faster turnover than ever. And that kind of churn gets expensive in a big hurry.

Although it’s common sense to take care of your mobile devices, it’s now imperative in order to preserve the phone’s value when you go to sell or trade it. And as phones get more expensive, the market for used phones is growing like crazy. Here’s where to sell your used mobile and some tips on how to get the most money for your used phone (wherever you sell it).

For starters, if you just want to dump your old device as conveniently as possible and aren’t concerned about getting top dollar, start with The site makes it easy to turn your mobile gadget into cash: just check off the make, model and capacity of it, and Gazelle tells you instantly how much cash they’ll give you for it (assuming you accurately describe the condition). If you choose to sell it, simply add the item to your cart and proceed to checkout.

How to keep your phone in top condition

If you still have some useful life left on your device before you want to approach Gazelle, start taking care of it now, says Anthony Scarsella, Gazelle’s Chief Gadget Officer. “Slap a case on that expensive phone to keep it in good shape,” he says. “The better physical condition of the device come trade-in time, the more cash you will get back.”

As for which cases might do the job well, it’s hard to beat a two-piece case that’s TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). These cases mix a soft silicone sleeve with a rigid plastic brace that fits around the back like a cross. Also, look for that all-important buffer zone that fits over and around the edge of the screen. Cases like the Targus SafePort might run you $50 or so, but you’ll save money two ways:

  1. You’ll avoid expensive repairs should you drop your phone, and
  2. Your phone will be in much better shape and fetch more money when you go to sell it.

Preventive maintenance doesn’t stop there. Always make sure the contacts for charger and sync cables remain clear of dust, dirt and moisture: the same contact spray you use for computers does the trick nicely. (NEVER USE SOAP AND WATER).

And take special care when bringing a mobile device to a beach or play lot, where a few grains of sand can cause gadget grief of epic proportions. Much like other electronics, smartphones and tablets hate heat, humidity, and moisture. (If you’re the outdoor type, consider upping the ante on a case by getting something that’s as moisture and shock proof as possible.)

Getting top dollar for your used mobile phone

Assuming you’re in a hurry to flip your device for the next cool model, Gazelle is easy to use, fast and offers instant cash gratification. That said, you stand a great chance to make more money if you sell the phone or tablet on eBay or Craigslist.

But how do you know what your device is worth? PaceButler puts out a list, updated weekly, that shows what a refurbisher might pay for your phone. Now, add 40 to 50 percent to the price for your phone on that list, and you’ll know what to you can get for it on the consumer market.

Keep in mind eBay will take about 12 percent in seller and PayPal fees, and Craigslist charges nothing for its non-business classifieds, but is targeted to your local market.

Extras matter, too. If you have the original packaging for your tablet or phone, that helps you make a spiffy presentation. Can you throw in a case or two you won’t need any more? How about charger cables? Or wall plugs? The more of these “freebies” you offer for the purchase price, the more attention your listing will attract.

Speaking of attention, you can easily take all that time and energy you spend on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to let your friends know you’ve got a mobile device to sell. Remember: Gadgets + great condition + private sale = highest chance of a nice price for your phone sale.

Above all, keep both of your tech-smart feet planted, and plan for the day you’re going to sell your phone the day you buy it. Sure, it’s a phone, tablet, music player, or glamorous gizmo the day you break open the box. But you should also think of it as an investment that can subsidize your next upgrade. So think before you buy.

Have you ever sold a used phone? Were you happy with the price you got? How’d you sell it?

Published or updated on December 12, 2013

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About Lou Carlozo

Based in Chicago, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor for Reuters Money, a columnist with, and a former managing editor at AOL's Contact him with story ideas for Money Under 30 at, or follow him via LinkedIn and Twitter (@LouCarlozo63).


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  1. Interesting, I’ve never heard of Gazelle, usually by the time my phone is ready to be upgraded it’s not really worth much and I’ve recycled it.

  2. Speak Your Mind