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Selling a Used iPhone

Written by Nickel - 11 Comments

Selling a Used iPhone

With the recent release of the iPhone 5, you might be thinking about upgrading. I know I am. But at the same time, I have a perfectly good iPhone 4S, so I’d need to figure out what to do with that first…

In the past I’ve touched on the possibility of selling your stuff to Amazon via their trade-in platform in return for a store credit. While a store credit isn’t cash, we’re talking about Amazon. At our house, an Amazon credit is darn near cash, so that doesn’t concern me.

But Amazon isn’t the only game in town. eBay and Craigslist are obvious alternatives. And another option that I’ve seen heavily advertised on TV has been Gazelle. So which offers the best deal?

For simplicity, I’m going to focus on my own phone — a 64gb iPhone 4S in black. I tend to take pretty good care of things, so I would say that my phone is in “good” condition. I’ve kept it in a case it’s entire life, there are no scratches on the screen, etc.

So how do the options stack up?

On eBay it looks like you can pick up a phone similar to mine somewhere in the mid-$300 range. While you could auction it off and hope for a higher price, there are units available in this price range using “buy-it-now” option so it’s hard to imagine doing much better.

As for Gazelle, I just checked and found that I could get $260 for my phone with minimal hassle. Not great, but not terrible, right? After all, there’s no need to mess around with creating a listing, dealing with potentially shady buyers, etc.

Well, over at Amazon I could pocket a cool $382.50 (in store credit) for my phone. Once again, there would be minimal hassle (certainly less than eBay plus no fees) and, like I said above, Amazon store credit is as close as you can get to cash in my house without actually having cash.

Note that I’ve ignored Craigslist for this comparison because that’s highly localized and it’s very hard to predict sales prices from one location to another. Also, you can really only access the asking prices so it’s impossible to say how much things are selling for via Craigslist.

Clearly, at least to me, Amazon comes out on top. And when you consider that the equivalent iPhone 5 model is selling for $399, it’s hard not to pull the trigger. Then again, you have to consider those pesky early termination or upgrade fees. The iPhone 4S has only been out for about a year and these things typically come with a 2 year contract.

For now, I’m sitting tight, mainly because of the aforementioned fees. What about you?

Published on September 24th, 2012
Modified on October 1st, 2012 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Consumer

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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11 Responses to “Selling a Used iPhone”

  1. 1
    Rae Says:

    My other half traded his 4 in to Target Mobile (run by Radio Shack). He was upgrading to a 4S, not a 5, but ended up making about $30 on the deal, (or, Target store credit, at least, which we shop at a lot) as they paid more for his old phone than the 4S cost, including the upgrade fee. Of course, there’s the contract extension, but he was willing to reup the contract.

  2. 2
    Lance @ Money Life and More Says:

    I’m not an iChaser but I think I’d just wait for the iPhone 6 and skip this upgrade. Does anyone really need a new phone every year? I don’t :)

  3. 3
    Malcolm Says:

    I don’t see it why people always fall for the same product every time there is an upgrade. So long as my phone is still working fine, i won’t spend a dime for a new one. Spending is an addiction and that most people are diagnosed of it.

  4. 4
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money Says:

    I hate to sound like a broken record but I’m with Lance on this one. If it works, keep it :)

  5. 5
    BG Says:

    $18 difference between the USED 4s and a brand new iPhone 5? I don’t think so…

    There must be a few hundred dollar difference in that new 2 year contract whether you realize it or not.

  6. 6
    Ashley Says:

    I was surprised that apple didn’t offer people the free upgrade like they did with the iphone 4g to 4gs to lock people in for another year. The amazon deal seems to good to be true though, care to share more information about how it works?

  7. 7
    Nickel Says:

    BG: Yes, of course there is profit embedded in the contract. This is the subsidized price. But if you’re planning on having an iPhone during that time, then the (effective) price difference really is $18. The real world difference is much greater than that, but AT&T (or whoever) is eating a big part of that in return for you signing up for their service for two years.

  8. 8
    amy Says:

    I have gone the ebay route with selling my iphones. It has worked out every time. I make sure to do signature confirmation on everyone I send out. I also erase all data and remove sim card. I describe my phone accurately so there are no issues on the buyers end. Even if your phone is broken it is worth money for those who are handy are replacing parts on the iphones. With the new iphone5 coming out I didn’t upgrade to it. My contract expired back in the summer and I had an iphone 4 16gb through at&t. I sold that phone on ebay for $245 and got the iphone 4S 16gb for $99. I do think that as time goes on I will rethink and get a smartphone with no contract via straight talk or just get a cheap basic phone for calling.

  9. 9
    Linda Says:

    The design and features of iphone5 is really mesmerizing yet just like many I am not in a hurry to replace my current phone that is serving me well.

    I just started exploring Gazelle and it is what you stated here. I consider Amazon still being the top especially me being more used to its services.

  10. 10
    BG Says:

    Is it possible to take your existing used phone (out of contract), and sign up with a carrier that is vastly cheaper? To avoid the contract with subsidized phone pricing built in?

  11. 11
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