Every year that new iPhones and Samsungs come out, there’s a mad scramble to sell off old smartphones to get the new ones.
If you’re not careful, the rush for a new phone will push you into a situation where you’ll take the first deal offered by your wireless carrier.
In the case of the iPhone 8, wireless carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile were offering pretty fair trade-in values, but the big drawback is that they don’t give you top dollar for your old phone and you’re forced to keep your money (and phone) with the carrier.
But let’s say you don’t want to work with a wireless carrier to sell your phone and you’d rather get cash for your smartphone. Which sites will get you top dollar for your used smartphone?
We did some research and found that most sites work one of three ways. They either give you money ($), trade-in value to use to buy a new phone with them (TI) or give you a gift card to use on their site (GC):
- Gazelle: $ + GC
- Apple: GC
- Samsung: TI
- Craigslist NY: $
- eBay: $
- Best Buy: GC
- Swappa: $
- Amazon: GC
Each of these sites offers multiple smartphone makes and models, but we decided to stick with two super-popular phones (Apple, Samsung S series) and one less popular phone (Nexus 6). We also limited our search to phones with 32GB of storage.
In addition to offering different types of phones, each site had their own way of buying phones.
Apple, Gazelle, Samsung, Best Buy and Amazon give you a pre-determined price for your phone based on its condition, while eBay, Swappa, and Craigslist allow you to set the price.
To figure out how much you could get on eBay and Craigslist, we took the average prices of three or four functioning, unlocked phones on the first page of results on each site. For eBay, we narrowed the search to Buy It Now phones, which means you can buy them with one click.
The following table includes the pricing from seven websites for five different phones.
Excluding eBay and Craigslist, the prices listed below are based on unlocked phones in working condition that don’t have cracked screens or major scratches:
|Gazelle ($ + GC)||Apple (GC)||Samsung (TI)||Craigslist NY ($)||eBay ($)||Best Buy (GC)||Swappa ($)||Amazon (GC)|
|iPhone 7 32GB||$270 + $20 GC||$325||$300||$493.75||$509.75||$312||$450||$270.05|
|iPhone 7Plus 32 GB||$300 + $20 GC||$375||$300||$550||$543.75||$315||$542||$300.05|
|Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB||$115 + $20 GC||$150||$200||$271.33||$202.20||$112||$250||$120.05|
|Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB||$115 + $20 GC||$150||$200||N/A||$253.46||$120||$265||$120.05|
|Nexus 6 32 GB||$40 + $20 GC||$100||N/A||$155||$158.73||$65||$160||$40.05|
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone on Gazelle
Gazelle launched its website in 2008 and since then has expanded its business to include buying and selling used phones from its customers.
One of the things that makes Gazelle unique is that you can either send your phone in for free or drop off your smartphone at one of the site’s ecoATMs.
If you choose the online route, Gazelle will send you a box you use to ship your phone. You have 30 days to cancel your order.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $270 + $20 Gazelle gift card
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $300 + $20 Gazelle gift card
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $115 + $20 Gazelle gift card
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $115 + $20 Gazelle gift card
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $40 + $20 Gazelle gift card
The Fine Print
If you drop off your phone at an ecoATM, the price you’re paid for your phone may be different than what you’d get online.
Like all the retail sites listed in this article, how much you get paid depends on the condition of the phone. If Gazelle determines the phone’s condition doesn’t match what you told them, they’ll send you a revised offer for your phone and you have five days to respond.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that Gazelle will verify that the phone you sold isn’t lost or stolen by running it through CheckMEND, “a cutting-edge tool designed to more accurately detect potentially stolen goods,” Gazelle’s website says.
Gazelle uses the United States Postal Service and FedEx to ship your phone.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone to Apple
Apple’s trade-up program started in 2013 and, since then, has made a few tweaks here and there about how much money they’ll give you for your iPhone and phones from a few other brands.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $325
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $375
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $150
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $150
- Motorola Nexus 6 32 GB: $100
You can take your phone into an Apple Store to sell it or you can send it through the mail. Either way, Apple will give you a gift card with their payment on it.
The downside here, is, of course, you are limited to buying your new phone in the Apple Store. However, this isn’t a bad thing if you want to buy a new iPhone.
Pro tip: If you use an Apple payment plan to buy your new iPhone, you’ll have to pay for the phone and for AppleCare, the store’s warranty program.
The Fine Print
You have to be at least 18 years old in order to get a gift card for your smartphone. Also, Apple says that the prices you’re quoted in the store could be different than what you’re quoted online.
The main reason behind that is they use a third-party to handle phone trade-ins done through the mail.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone to Samsung
Samsung’s trade-in program works via online quotes. The money you’re given for your phone has to be used to pay for a new phone through Samsung.
This is, for the most part, how the Samsung trade-in program works.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $300
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $300
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $200
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $200
- Nexus 6 32 GB: N/A
The Fine Print
If you don’t send your phone to Samsung within 15 days of getting your new phone, “you may incur additional charges,” Samsung says.
When Samsung gets your phone, they’ll verify if the phone’s condition reflects what you said. If it’s in worse shape than what you indicated, they’ll charge you $25.
Keep in mind that, if you bought your phone second-hand and it happens to be lost or stolen (blacklisted), then Samsung will not accept the trade-in.
Also, once you send Samsung your old phone, you can’t get it back.
Final point: Samsung says they’ll charge you the full price of your new phone if they find out you’re reselling phones as a side business.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone on Craigslist
All the rules we mentioned in the fine print of the previous section are not valid when it comes to Craigslist. Since the site is basically a classified site, Craigslist doesn’t take responsibility for any transactions. If someone gives you counterfeit money or short-changes you and runs, you’re out of luck.
The good side of Craigslist is that you can usually earn more money from your used smartphone than you can by getting gift cards or trade-in credit from Gazelle, Apple or Samsung.
Also, there aren’t any restrictions on what you can sell. If you’ve got a five-year-old Nokia, you can probably find a buyer. That’s not the case with a trade-in or purchase sites.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $493.75
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $550
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $271.33
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: N/A
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $155
The Fine Print
While you don’t have to deal with all the fine print of selling your phone to a website, you do have to remember the basic principles of smart selling on Craigslist.
First, solidify the payment method and make sure it’s not a long-distance sale. If someone says they’ll pay with a money order or they want you to send them the phone, avoid that buyer; it’s most likely a scam.
Second, don’t accept Venmo as a payment. In our article about scam transactions on Venmo, we reiterate the ever-important point that Venmo’s policies state that you can accept Venmo payments for selling goods or services.
If the payments turn out to be fraudulent, you won’t get any money for your smartphone.
Also, if you’re worried about getting paid with counterfeit bills, either ask to be paid in 20’s or meet the buyer at a bank that can verify the legitimacy of the cash.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone on eBay
Though eBay has been around for a long time, its auction-style marketplace is still very popular.
You have three basic ways to sell your phone on eBay: auction, Buy It Now and best offer.
Auctions allow users to bid on your phone. The highest bidder at the end of the auction wins the phone.
That same fee applies to Buy It Now items, which is a type of selling tool where people can buy your product with one click.
The final selling format is the Best Offer option. This is something added to a Buy It Now sale in which the buyer has three chances to offer a lower price. You have the option of accepting or rejecting the offer or making a counteroffer.
The Prices (based on an average of 4-5 phones):
- iPhone 7 32GB: $509.75
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $543.75
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $202.20
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $253.46
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $158.73
The Fine Print
One of the biggest “catches” to eBay’s auction format is that you aren’t guaranteed to sell your phone for a certain price unless you set a reserve price, which is the bare minimum you need to get in order to sell the phone.
It’s possible that you could list your iPhone 7 and the winning bid could be in the $300-$400 range even if you wanted to sell it for $500.
If you set a reserve price of $400, then you’re guaranteed that the phone won’t sell unless bidding passes $400? However, a reserve price could scare away buyers who are looking for deals and are worried that your reserve price (which is hidden) might be too high.
Reserve fees are $3 for items $74.99 and less and4% for items $75 and above.
eBay also charges a 10% final value fee after the item sells. An iPhone 7 Plus that sells for $505 will have a final value fee of $50.50.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone to Best Buy
You may get thrown off by Best Buy’s trade-in program because it makes you think you have to give them your old phone in exchange for a new one.
However, that’ not the case. Their program allows you to bring your old smartphone into their store or send it to them online.
Both methods offer gift cards in the same way. You give them the phone. They inspect it and give you their valuation. You accept or reject the valuation. If you accept it, the dollar amount of the phone will be put on a Best Buy gift card and given to you.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $312
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $315
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $112
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $120
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $65
The Fine Print
One of the biggest drawbacks of this program is that only certain stores do the in-person trade-in program. Otherwise, you’ll have to send the phone in through the mail.
At the time of publishing, there were 24 Best Buy continental U.S. locations participating in the trade-in program. Twelve of those locations were in New York.
Best Buy won’t accept your phone if the serial number is “removed, scratched off or manipulated in any way.”
The fine print also points out that you can only trade in five cell phones in a 12-month period.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of Best Buy’s trade-in program is that you don’t actually have to get a new phone when you bring in your old one. Best Buy gives you a store gift card you can use for any purchase you make in-store or online.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone to Swappa
Swappa is a one-dimensional alternative to eBay that features some solid metrics to help you understand pricing trends for phones.
You give Swappa the information about your phone, describe the condition, provide the IMEI number and set your asking price.
The site’s historical pricing chart gives you a reference point for how much your phone is worth on the Swappa marketplace.
For example, during our research, we checked Swappa’s price on a 32 GB iPhone 7 Plus. Their historical pricing showed that the 32GB’s price hovered around $536 in May 2017 and dropped to $471 in September 2017.
The suggested sale price Swappa gave us was $399, which, in our opinion, was influenced by the fact that the iPhone 8 had launched and the iPhone X was on the way.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $450
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $542
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $250
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $265
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $160
The Fine Print
Because Swappa is a marketplace involving private buyers and sellers, there are specific rules in place to protect both parties. For example, their fine print states that you are prohibited from selling phones that could fall into any one of the following categories:
- No blacklisted
- No cracked screens
- No water damage
- No outstanding balance or EIP
An important thing to note is that Swappa won’t accept the sale of iPhones with missing liquid contact indicators.
As for fees, Swappa will add a $15 fee to your phone’s selling price. So, if you list your smartphone for $400, it will be listed at $415.
Finally, Swappa claims that every listing on their site is staff-approved via a check of each phone’s ESN number and photos of the phone.
What You Need to Know About Selling Your Smartphone on Amazon
Amazon’s trade-in program is pretty vast, in that it includes more than just smartphones. Should you choose to sell your phone to Amazon, you’ll get a gift card in return.
Their program is similar to Best Buy’s, in that Amazon sets the price for your phone and provides you with their valuation of your phone on an Amazon gift card. You send the phone to Amazon via pre-paid USPS shipping Amazon provides.
That valuation is based on four questions:
- Does the device power on?
- Has your device been removed from your online account?
- Are there any cracks on the screen?
- Is your device still being financed through your carrier?
Amazon won’t let you proceed with your transaction if you answer “no” to the second question.
- iPhone 7 32GB: $270.05
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $300.05
- Samsung S6 Edge 32 GB: $120.05
- Samsung S6 Edge+ 32 GB: $120.05
- Nexus 6 32 GB: $40.05
The Fine Print
Much like the other mail-in services we’ve listed here, how you describe the phones condition is critical because Amazon may lower the price of the offer if the physical and functional state of the phone doesn’t match what you said.
Amazon offers you two choices if your phone doesn’t match the condition you state: return or automatic price acceptance. Choosing the price acceptance isn’t a blind choice. Amazon will provide you with a range of valuation.
In the case of the 32GB iPhone 7, the range was $75.05 to $270.05. You get top dollar if the phone is in excellent condition.
We did a test case in which we said the phone’s screen was cracked and Amazon quoted us $110.05, more than half the price of the same phone in excellent condition.
Where to Sell Your Used Smartphone: Some Final Thoughts
Much of where and how you sell your phone depends on what you want to do with your money.
Do you want a quick turn around on your current iPhone to get the iPhone 8 or X? Then your best choice may be to head to an Apple Store and do a trade-in on the spot.
We’d say that Best Buy is a good option for this, but their in-store trade-in programs are limited to such a small number of stores that, most likely, you don’t live near a participating location.
Amazon and Gazelle are similar in that everything is a mail-in situation, but Gazelle gives you cash and a site gift card, whereas Amazon gives you a site gift card. Plus, valuations were nearly identical for the two sites, yet Gazelle added on a gift card to make their offer more lucrative.
If you’re not in a hurry for a new phone and you want to get top dollar without a bunch of work, then Craigslist is probably your best bet.
As a seller, there’s really no risk to you as long as you don’t accept payments through Venmo. The popular payment app tries to protect you from Venmo scams by making it clear you shouldn’t use it to accept payment for goods or services.
eBay’s prices were similar to those on Craigslist, but the main drawback of the auction site is the 10% fee you’ll pay for selling your smartphone. Swappa has the slight advantage over eBay because their $15 fee saves you money over eBay’s 10% fee.
We think, based on our research, the Samsung trade-in program is a good option for Samsung loyalists who want to make a Samsung-for-Samsung trade because the site’s trade-in values are pretty good.
If you aren’t stuck on one brand then, in our opinion, the best option would be to list your smartphone on Craigslist and eBay because those sites give top dollar compared to the other programs we researched.
Should your phone fail to sell on eBay, you won’t be charged for your ad if you post less than 50 ads at any given time.
We believe this article is of particular use to iPhone 7 owners because they’re most likely looking to upgrade to an iPhone 8. If that describes you, then check out our iPhone 8 buying guide, in which we analyze the various trade-in and financing programs offered by the major mobile carriers.
One final tip: Buying an unlocked phone means you have the freedom to choose your phone insurance. While your instinct may just be to go with the plans offered by your mobile carrier, certain credit cards like the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa offer free phone coverage.