Thinking About Selling Your Old Phone? Here’s How to Get the Most for It

woman holding smart phone
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
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I recently upgraded my phone to a better model, but my existing phone was only a year old. It took months to convince myself that buying a new phone was the right decision.

My old phone was a 16GB iPhone, which didn’t provide enough storage for all the (necessary) photos and videos of my kid.

Rather than upgrading to a slightly larger capacity, I decided to go all the way and bought a 128GB replacement.

But since my old phone was still in good shape, I decided to sell it to help pay for my upgrade.

If you’re in a similar boat, your current smartphone could help you recoup some of the money you’ll spend on a new phone. At the very least, it’ll put a few extra dollars in your pocket when you need it most.

Here’s how to sell your phone and get the most money for it.

Do Your Research

Nothing is quite like the feeling of getting a brand-new phone.

With new technology coming out on a frequent basis, it’s easy to talk yourself into an upgrade, even if your old phone is in good shape. If you know you’re planning to upgrade your phone, look into the best time to sell your current one.

For example, say you’re waiting for the latest iPhone release. If you’re in a position to sell your current phone ahead of the release, do it, advises Sarah Jacobsson Purewal and Rick Broida in a CNET article. Your phone is worth more ahead of a major release than after — sometimes by as much as 10% to 20%.

Check on upcoming iPhone and Android release dates on websites like CNET and phoneArena to make sure you’re selling your phone at the right time.

Decide Where to Sell It

Quick-Sale Websites

With so many smartphones in circulation, it’s no wonder there’s such a wide variety of places to sell your phone.

You’ve probably heard of Gazelle, which allows you to trade in your phone for a quick cash payout. The site offers free shipping and pays out via Amazon gift card, PayPal or check.

Another option is ecoATM, which pays you to recycle your phone. ecoATM is affiliated with Gazelle and has kiosks where you can drop off your phone, saving a trip to the post office (my nearest kiosk is at my local Kroger). You’ll typically get less for your phone selling this way but you’ll get immediate cash back.

You can also choose to sell your phone through a site like Decluttr. Simply enter your phone type, size and condition and you’ll get an immediate quote. You can also use the Decluttr app to sell your phone.

If you have time, it’s best to check around the different sites to see which one will offer you the best price.

Online Listings

Websites like Gazelle aren’t your only option when it comes to selling your phone. You also have the option of listing it on websites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Amazon.

Since you are free to list your price on these sites, you might end up getting more money for your old phone. However, there’s always the chance you won’t get the price you want and will have to explore another phone-selling avenue instead.

If you do list your phone on one of these sites, check out how much similar phones are selling for and price yours in that range.


It’s always easier to sell to someone you know than to a stranger online. Ask your friends and family if they (or anyone they know) are looking to purchase a second-hand phone.

You could also take advantage of bulletin boards at your local grocery store, library or community college. Just make sure you check the rules on posting classified ads at any of these places first.

Trade It In at Your Provider

For me, the easiest way to make money on my old phone was to trade it in with my provider. My phone wasn’t in high demand (no one wants 16GB — Apple doesn’t even offer that size anymore) and I was just looking to recoup some of the cost of my fancy new phone.

I used the Sprint Buyback program to cash in on my former phone. All I had to do was enter some information about my phone, and the company gave me a quote and sent me a box in the mail so I could ship it. After about a month, I got a credit in my account and had no bill to pay for a couple of months.

Other providers, such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have similar programs. Check with your provider to see what it will offer you for your phone.

Before You Sell

Of course, you’ll need to take a few steps before giving up your old phone.

Backup Your Phone

Before you take steps to wipe your data, it’s important to make sure you’ve saved the info you need.

How you do that depends on what type of device you have. For Apple products, you can use iCloud to save your photos and settings and apply them to your new phone upon setup. Alternatively, you can back up your device using iTunes, says Laura Sanicola with CNN Tech.

You have a few more options with Android devices, explains Android Authority. You can use Google’s cloud, a third-party app or connect your phone to your computer using a USB cable to back it up.

Remove Your SIM Card

In an article on CNET, Lexy Savvides advises removing your SIM card, as well as any external storage (such as a microSD card) from your phone before selling it.

Delete Your Data

Privacy is always a concern, especially when you’re selling an old smartphone.

Check with your provider on how to do a complete factory reset and purge your information from your device. Jordan McMahon with Wired lists the basics on how to wipe data from an iPhone or an Android.

Note the Serial Number

Before shipping your old phone off to its new home, make a note of the serial number and any other pertinent information, Savvides recommends.

Keep these numbers in your records in case you need to follow up with a third-party seller (or even your provider).

As long as it’s in decent shape, you should be able to make a nice profit from your old phone. Get the best price by doing your research and shopping around for the best offer first.

Catherine Hiles is a loyal iPhone user, though she wishes she wasn’t so reliant on Apple. She lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her husband, daughter, soon-to-be-born son and dog.