Dear Lifehacker, I want to get a new smartphone, and I'd like to sell my current one for enough money in order to make this purchase affordable. Where's the best place to sell it so I make the most money? Thanks, Phone Funder
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There is no single always-right answer to this question. Factors you need to consider include timing, the type of device, and its age. As a rule of thumb, the more convenient the option, the less money you'll get. Convenient services rarely get you the greatest price, however, so you have quite a few options to weigh. Let's review how you can track the market and which options exist.
Follow Product Cycles
Product cycles play an important role when selling a smartphone. Obviously a new model has a greater value than an older one, so you want to sell yours prior to the announcement of the latest and greatest replacement.
With iPhones you have a relatively easy job. New devices typically come out in September and all the rumour mills tend to post the exact date of the announcement about a month prior. It doesn't always pay to make assumptions about Apple release cycles (the iPad being one clear example), but the phone cycle has been fairly predictable so far.
Android and other devices require more research because your device can lose value with the announcement of another completely different smartphone. For example, Google's latest Nexus phone can get quickly overshadowed by a new player from manufacturers such as HTC or Samsung. Still, the process remains the same: you need to watch the hype.
When new phones are imminent, it will be widely reported on tech sites and blogs. Once you see a hot new smartphone coming along, you need to start planning your upgrade and figure out where you want to sell. Assuming you have a backup phone for the transition period (which is essential if you're not doing a direct trade-in), you want to sell prior to the release but not so far in advance that you have no smartphone (or any phone, for that matter) for a week or more.
Consider Device Condition
Obviously the age and condition of your device plays a huge role in its worth. If you took good care of your phone and have no cosmetic or functional damage, you can sell it without issue. Price drops pretty quickly with age, however, so you can only get so much with an "old" phone. Phone evolution is so rapid that even a two-year-old device -- a not-uncommon sight given the 24-month contracts many people buy on -- isn't likely to be worth that much.
Pick the Right Place to Sell
You have two basic choices when selling your phone: using a phone buying service, or selling the phone yourself.
Phone buying services
Phone buying services all work in the same basic way: you visit the site, specify the condition of your phone, and receive a quote. If you're happy, you mail in the phone (typically to a freepost address) and receive payment in a few days.
Pricing offered through these services varies a lot, so we recommend going through each to determine who offers the best price for your particular model. These are the currently active players in Australia:
Some phone stores do offer a trade-in option, but this is essentially a variant on using a phone buying service. Allphones, for instance, uses Mazuma. There are reports that Apple is planning to introduce a trade-in option at Apple stores, but it's not clear whether this will extend to Australia.
Sell it yourself
If your phone is in good condition, selling it through via eBay, Gumtree, the Trading Post or other similar sites can pay off. It's often the case that you can get more through eBay than through one of the phone buying sites. That can depend on timing: right now, for instance, you're unlikely to be doing so well with older iPhones.
One advantage of eBay is that it's easy to check on recent sales values by searching recent past auctions. That can make it clear whether you'll do better selling, or if you need to pursue a different path.
Getting maximum value for your phone definitely takes effort, and you need to be realistic; some models simply aren't going to be worth that much. That said, if you take care of your phone and sell at the right time, you can do very well. Good luck!
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