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Looking to get some cash to finance your next smartphone, tablet, laptop, or video game console purchase? Many websites specialize in cashing in or provide trade-in value for your consumer electronics, including exchange/listing services, buyback services, and manufacturer trade-in programs.
In most of these cases, you can sell your old gear without having to visit a single location. You just need to drop it in the mail, and depending on which place you are working with, you will be provided with return packaging or a shipping label to print out. Some will even pick up your equipment using a courier.
An exchange or listing service is the most conventional of options for those who want to be directly involved in negotiating the sale and have the most control over the sale process to offer items up for bid or "buy it now" pricing. The benefit of this is that you can negotiate the highest price for your merchandise possible, but the negative is that there's the highest amount of touch required, so it is the most hassle-intense of all the options. It may take longer to find the right buyer for your item on one of these services, and aborted sales are widespread.
eBay is the largest internet exchange for selling any product, merchant to merchant, merchant to buyer, or independent seller to buyer in the entire world. Its smartphone and consumer electronics section is probably the most active for secondary market sales of any consumer site. Single item sellers exist, but it is more oriented towards volume sellers who have made a business out of selling refurbished or used merchandise.
Payment: Direct bank transfer
Open exchange for buying and selling used phones, tablets, video games, cameras, and home tech -- seller to buyer listings, with back and forth negotiation.
Payment: Paypal. No seller fees, but buyers pay a small fee that is included in the sale price.
Facebook For Sale groups are available in every town for any kind of new and used merchandise available. These are internet versions of classified ads, with no listing fees and no transaction fees. The burden of creating the listing and entering all product details, and interacting with the buyer is all the seller's responsibility. No merchandise guarantees, risky. Negotiation can occur in public on Facebook posts or in Messenger, also offline/text/email.
Payment: Anything goes. Cash, arranged electronic payment, trades.
A buyback service is a website that has pre-negotiated pricing for listed categories and models of devices based on their stated condition, such as good, excellent, pristine, or even cracked or damaged. Provided the item received during inspection meets the pre-negotiated condition, you'll receive that price for the item. If it doesn't meet the negotiated condition, these services typically will offer you a reduced price, or they will offer to return the item to you.
This service distinguishes itself by having a flexible payment system as it includes direct bank transfers via Zelle, PayPal, or regular bank checks.
Payment: Paypal, Zelle, or check
Turnaround: 72 hours after receipt of item using standard shipping, accelerated turnaround available for additional $15 fee via two-day shipping option. Processing can take up to five business days.
Similar service to Itsworthmore, with a large variety of devices and products available to buy and sell, including custom quotes for unlisted items.
Payment: PayPal, direct deposit, BuyBackWorld gift card, prepaid debit card, and check
Turnaround: 48 hours after passing inspection
UPS Integrated Logistics (CAMS) partner specializing in buying and reselling used Apple, Samsung, and Google smartphones and tablets, as well as video game systems and home automation products
All inspection and packaging occur either with a UPS courier that visits your home or business or at a UPS store. Payment occurs within 24 hours of receipt of the package. The full insured value of the assessed item occurs during transfer to UPS. The company commits to selling or sustainably disposing of all received products.
Payment: Direct deposit or Amazon gift card
Turnaround: 24 hours after receipt of the item
Trade-in for credit service on many forms of consumer electronics. Many kinds of devices are listed, but not consistently the most aggressive on offers and frequently not up to date on the most current devices on the market. The trade-in process is fair and generally fast -- ideal for people who heavily use Amazon.
Payment: Amazon gift card
Turnaround: 48 hours after receipt of the item
Similar to Amazon's trade-in service, you pick a product category, manufacturer, model, and condition, and the system will provide you a quote. The accepted offer is awarded as a store credit in the form of a Best Buy gift card.
Payment: Best Buy gift card
Turnaround: Instant if done in person at a retail store. Seven to nine business days if mailed
If you don't need to liquidate your device for cash, but instead, simply want to trade up to a newer model, it's often the least path of resistance to take advantage of a manufacturer's own trade-in programs, which will give you the cash value of your device with the purchase of a new device.
If you're looking to buy a new Apple device, using its own trade-in service is a good, hassle-free option, especially if you are looking to finance some of that purchase with your existing phone, tablet, or computer.
The company will take other manufacturers' products but gives the best prices on its own. This isn't the best service to use if you want a quick turnaround on payment, as it can take two or three weeks to process unless you do the trade-in at an actual Apple Store retail location.
However, the company will send you packaging with prepaid shipping customized to the device you are sending back, making the entire process very easy to deal with. To use this option, either go to Apple's trade-in site directly or choose "I have a device to trade-in" when purchasing a new device from the Apple Store.
Payment: Apple Store gift card or trade-in value during the purchase of Apple products
Turnaround: Instant at an Apple retail store, two to three weeks if done online
Google's trade-in service is primarily used when looking to trade-in an older smartphone to the Google Pixel phones -- it will not only take its own Pixel devices in trade, but also Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola phones. As with Apple, the turnaround time for credit on your purchase may take two to three weeks.
Payment: Trade-in value for credit on a new Pixel phone
Turnaround: Can take two to three weeks
As with Google and Apple, Samsung generally runs promotions for trade-in on its latest model devices shortly after their introduction. For 2021, it is running it for the S21 5G series. The company accepts older models of their own devices and Apple, Google, LG, and Motorola.
Payment: Trade-in value during the purchase of S21 5G
Why and when to cash or trade-in
As with anything you buy, when you remove a product from its packaging, it immediately depreciates. Additionally, as soon as a new model of whatever product you are using is announced, the value depreciates even more.
How do you get the highest price for my device?
If you are inclined to get the highest price for your item, you'll want to trade it in before a newer model year is announced. Typically, most manufacturers will eliminate a product from a model line once a year. Still, some may retain products for sale from the previous model year. (Apple even offers the iPhone 11, XR, and the SE while the iPhone 12 is for sale.) In that case, the models that are eliminated from the line -- such as the iPhone XS or the iPhone 8 from two generations prior -- will become much more depreciated.
When should you trade in your device?
There are times of the year that best align with the announcement of the sale of new models. In the case of Apple, there is usually a fall cadence, typically in mid-September, when iPhones, iPad Air, and entry-level iPad models are announced. iPad Pro models now tend to be announced in late spring, March, or April. Samsung Galaxy S series phones and tablets usually are announced in January, Note series are announced in August (although it is questionable the Note line will continue production now that the S series is virtually identical with pen support), and the last two flagship Google Pixel devices were announced in October and September, respectively.
Where should you trade in your device: Manufacturer or third-party listing service?
If you intend to trade in the device for another device at the same manufacturer, it may make sense to use the manufacturers' own trade-in program rather than a buyback service, as their pricing tends to be more aggressive on their own products. You might be able to get a somewhat higher price at a listing service, but the much higher level of effort to get it for a minimal price difference of $20 to $50 might not be worth it.