Phone Buying Sites Don’t Value The iPhone 4 Highly Enough

Demand for the iPhone 4 has remained strong since its launch in Australia last July, which means there’s a fairly vibrant market for second-hand models. However, that isn’t reflected in the prices offered by many of the online “buy your old phone” outfits.

Picture by Mark Cooz Linsangan

If you walk into a phone store and say you want to sign up for an iPhone 4, the chances are good that you’re going to have to wait a while. (I’m assuming you’ll have already picked a suitable plan from our Planhacker guide if you want to buy on contract.)

As I write this, even Apple itself quotes a one week turnaround on delivering a new iPhone. So it’s unsurprising that there are plenty of used iPhone 4 deals on eBay, and often at quite high prices.

A brand new 16GB iPhone 4 costs $859 from Apple, while the 32GB model is $999. On eBay, 16GB models routinely sell for around $700, while the 32GB model can go for $850. That’s a pretty impressive outcome, given that second-hand goods rarely sell for anything near the price of a brand-new item. (There’s also a lot of listings for ‘new’ iPhone 4 devices on eBay at near list price; at that level, I’d figure buying from Apple itself would make more sense, assuming you don’t mind waiting a week.)

That same price retention curve isn’t reflected in the prices offered by mobile phone buying sites, however. Here’s what I got quoted from a bunch of Australian sites today for a working iPhone 4:

There’s not a huge amount of variation here: the average for the 16GB model is $474.38, while for 32GB the average is $515.38. There’s no stand-out seller, since sites offering a higher price for the 16GB model tend to lowball the 32GB version, and vice versa. What’s notable is that the prices offered are much lower than eBay sellers seem to be able to routinely attract.

In one way, it shouldn’t be surprising that these prices are not quite as high — after all, these outfits presumably want to sell the phone on to another buyer, so they need room for a profit themselves. But the gap is so great that it seems pretty clear that if you are planning to dispose of your iPhone 4, you’d be much better off selling it yourself. Whether those prices start to drop whenever the iPhone 5 is announced remains to be seen.

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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