Comparing the iPhone trade-in services: Apple, Gazelle, uSell, Amazon and eBay
With Apple jumping into the gadget trade-in business I decided to compare its prices to the competition to see who offered the best buyback prices on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Read this before you sell your old iPhone.
On August 21 I wrote about Gazelle locking in iPhone buyback prices through August 31. Before you rush to beat tomorrow's deadline, there's a new player in the iPhone buyback business. Apple's now buying back used iPhones, iPads (heck, even desktops and notebook) and giving customers gift cards redeemable, (where else?) -- at the Apple Store. Apple even offers a handy calculator to see what your old gear is worth.
I compared Apple's new buyback service to its major competitors (Gazelle, uSell, Amazon Trade-In and eBay Instant Sale) to see who's offering the best price on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S ahead of the anticipated iPhone 5 announcement on September 12.
Each service works a little differently. uSell, eBay and Gazelle offer cash. Apple and Amazon offer gift cards for their respective stores. uSell shops your device to several buyers and lets you pick the best cash offer. Each uses a third-party service to refurbish and resell the devices. Apple uses PowerON, Gazelle sells through retail channels (like eBay and Amazon), uSell uses "network of trusted, professional buyers," Amazon uses "a third-party merchant," and eBay uses AllTechWholesale.
For my comparison I got quotes for all three iPhone 4 and 4S memory configurations (but not carriers and colors) and assumed that the device was fully functional, moderately used to like new and had no major damage. The problem is that condition is subjective and each vendor uses a different scale to rate the condition of your schwag.
The prices below assume that the device works, has no cracks, water damage, broken parts or bad ESN, that the battery will charge and that you return it with the power cord (but not the original box).
For each vendor I chose moderate to perfect conditions, so if your device has major scratches, dents or cracks, expect a lower number. Much lower. Here are the conditions that I chose on the various services:
Apple: I answered YES to the "light to moderate scratches or scuffs" question, then NO
Gazelle: I picked Good ("normal signs of wear") and Flawless ("looks like it's never been used")
uSell: I picked Light Wear ("signs of minimal use, but no scratches") and Like New ("no sign of use")
Amazon: Good ("flawless display, light scratches") and Like New ("no visible wear of personalization")
eBay: Working ("no physical damage")
Here are the prices being paid for a black iPhone 4 on AT&T:
iPhone 4, 8GB:
Apple: $105 - $155
Gazelle: $134 - $149
uSell: $128 - $142
Amazon: $195 - $230
iPhone 4, 16GB:
Apple: $120 - $170
Gazelle: $146 - $160
uSell: $152 - $165
Amazon: $229 - $270
iPhone 4, 32GB:
Apple: $135 - $185
Gazelle: $159 - $173
uSell: $157 - $157
Amazon: $255 - $300
Here are the prices being paid for a black iPhone 4S on AT&T:
iPhone 4S, 16GB:
Apple: $235 - $285
Gazelle: $277 - $290
uSell: $225 - $260
Amazon: $348 - $410
iPhone 4S, 32GB:
Apple: $280 - $330
Gazelle: $280 - $295
uSell: $240 - $283
Amazon: $386 - $455
iPhone 4S, 64GB:
Apple: $295 - $345
Gazelle: $294 - $314
uSell: $275 - $321
Amazon: $425 - $500
Keep in mind is that the buyer reserves the right to change their price estimate after the device is inspected, so don't expect to exaggerate about your iPhone's condition and expect to get top dollar. Honesty is the best policy and you should disclose all cracks, scratches, dents and water damage or risk sending back some of the money from your advance (usually a princely sum).
That being said, Amazon consistently offered the best prices for used iPhones. eBay was a close second, Gazelle and Apple usually battled for third with uSell bringing up the rear. Also, with 12 days to go before the big reveal, used iPhone prices are moving fast, expect the prices above to drop daily. Then precipitously after September 12.
What are you going to do with your current iPhone?