The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have officially been announced. Shipping in late September, its release puts smartphone owners in a familiar position whenever a new flagship phone is announced – whether or not to dump your current phone and upgrade to that sexy new model. Apple’s newest iteration will be improved with a force-sensitive display, stronger chassis, and improved camera, which will likely make the phone a big ‘6S’.
This conundrum isn’t exclusive to Apple devices. Many flagship Android phones have recently hit the market, and with Google’s next Nexus device slated to be announced later this year, the smartphone market is saturated with salivating high end options and the practice of regularly upgrading phones is becoming common practice, with Apple even announcing a crazy yet brilliant subscription plan in the US aimed at frequent upgraders.
But what should you do with your old phone? You could abandon it in a drawer, but you would be doing it an injustice. Instead, you should sell it. Not only will you be making some money, but your venerable old phone will get to enjoy an extended life in the hands of another happy user. Here’s our guide with different methods you can use to do just that.
Selling your old phone is an easy way to make some money - unless you own a Totorola.
Apple devices have a history of retaining value very well over time. They have tremendous resale value and are very popular on the second-hand market. Although our guide is aimed at iPhone owners, most tips are also applicable with selling Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices.
Pros: Free, high return, immediate payment
Cons: Lots of bargaining, can be tedious, moderate risk, restricted locally
Classified sites like Craigslist, Kijiji or forums like our Buy, Sell, and Trade Post are easy ways to attract prospective buyers, since classifieds are one of the most popular methods for buying and selling used electronics. Classifieds will generally garner the highest return for your device, since all sales are facilitated through you. The most you’ll have to spend is any transportation costs to meet with your buyer. Be honest, detailed, and include pictures with your listing to ensure that buyers won’t be in for any surprises once they see and test your device. The major downside of classifieds is their tedious nature – you will likely have to weed through many lowball offers, make arrangements for a meeting, and may have to relist your offer if there is no serious interest.
Never accept wire-transfers or any form of electronic funds for payment, and be cautious of where you meet potential buyers. Due to the value of smartphones, scams and theft are a concern. Bring a friend if you can, meet in a public area during the day and always plan around your schedule, not your buyer’s. If a large amount of cash will be exchanged, meet near your bank so you can deposit your money immediately instead of carrying it conspicuously.
A little detail goes a long way. Which listing would you have more confidence buying from?
Pros: Simple, global audience, big payout potential
Cons: Risk of low visibility and small return, shipping costs, commission, PayPal
While it’s straightforward to list items on eBay, if you don’t have much seller feedback, your post may be buried amongst hundreds of other listings. The popularity of iPhones may help avoid this, but the low-to-high bidding structure of the site may work against you. Typically, you’ll list your phone with a low starting amount to gain interest and help create a bidding war (you can also add a fixed ‘Buy It Now’ price to sell immediately). More bidding activity will drive up the final sale price, but if your item doesn’t receive many bids, you may end up having to sell your phone for less than you wanted, plus pay for shipping costs and the cut that eBay takes from every sale. You’re forced to take payment via PayPal, which is eBay’s digital wallet platform. While the service is reputable and accepted at many retailers, it adds an extra layer between you and your money.
Like with classifieds, avoid alternate methods of payment, as these are typically scams. Restrict where you’re willing to ship the item (Canada and US only will help reduce shipping costs), and never ship your item until you’ve received verification of payment from PayPal. It’s also a good idea to keep records of any shipping receipts or manifests, in case your buyer claims that they never received your item. PayPal typically sides with buyers in fraud claims, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Carrier or Retailer Trade-in
Pros: Many physical locations
Cons: Low return, usually store credit
Many major retailers and telecom carriers have trade-in programs where you can exchange your old phone for credit towards new hardware or services. While there is convenience with many physical locations, any return you receive will usually be a small (relative to its true market value) store credit. Plus, quotes tend to vary from retailer-to-retailer as each have their own terms and nuances towards evaluating hardware. Some retailers who offer this service include Rogers, Fido, Bell, Telus, Apple, Best Buy, and even EB Games.
Pros: Convenient, little work required
Cons: Up to 30 day wait, commission, large variation with quotes
Most third party electronics buyers operate with the same premise – you sell them your phone, and they’ll handle everything else. The convenience factor is a major upside, though it comes at a cost, as these buyers typically take a percentage of your phone’s value as commission. There are a number of companies that operate in Canada, and in our research using a carrier-locked 64GB iPhone 5s as a reference device, the company that quoted the highest payout was Orchard.
An iPhone-only service, Orchard streamlines the selling process. You download their app via the App Store, then go through a set of diagnostics. Once complete, you receive a maximum value quote, with their commission already deducted. If accepted, Orchard sends you a box to ship your iPhone to their headquarters in Toronto, and once a final evaluation is made, your funds are delivered via Interac e-transfer. There is little grunt work involved besides a trip to a post office, and a customer service rep stays in contact throughout the process to inform you of the availability of your money. But, their initial quote is the amount you receive 30 days after your phone arrives at their headquarters. You can choose to receive your money sooner, but this significantly reduces the payout.
While Orchard is iPhone-only, other Canadian companies who offer similar services and accept Android and non-iPhone devices include GizmoGrind, GoRecell, and Sphere. If you choose this route, do some research with each company to find out which one will offer the most money before committing to one.
In our research, quotes from third-party buyers for our carrier-locked iPhone 5s varied considerably.
Just because your phone is old, doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. If you have a loved one or friend who doesn’t care about specs, consider giving your old phone to them. Not only will they get a shiny new (old) toy to play with, but you’ll be extending the life of your old device. As a bonus, you could bank a favour from them as reparation of your generous donation.
Major chains including Best Buy, Staples, London Drugs, and independent companies like RecycleMyCell.ca offer electronics recycling services where you can drop off your electronics and have components safely recycled. While you won’t make any money, you can take solace in knowing that you are helping the environment by keeping phone batteries out of landfills.
While classifieds can be hit-or-miss for selling, they are a useful tool for assessing the value of your device. Look up recent listings of your phone in similar condition to determine a ballpark resale value.
Time is Money
You should think about selling your old phone once you've made the commitment of buying a new one. Remember that phones devalue over time (especially after a new flagship is announced), so sell quickly to maximize your return.
Be specific in your listings, and include any cosmetic scratches, performance issues, carrier restrictions, or other irregularities about your phone. Also include any accessories that you’re including (cables, original packaging, cases, screen guards, etc.) to increase resale value. A detailed listing will attract more interest and makes you appear to be a confident seller.
Protect Your Data
Make sure to backup and wipe your device before selling it. Not only will this streamline the restoration process on your new phone, but the last thing you want is for a complete stranger to have access to your personal photos and data. Also remember to keep your SIM card to transfer to your new phone, as it contains your personal carrier information.
Unlink From iCloud
By default, your iPhone is linked to your iCloud account, giving you access to features such as Find My iPhone and remote wipe. Remember to unlink your account with the phone you’re selling, otherwise your buyer will be unable to activate the device.
Will you be getting the new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? Are you planning to sell your phone to recoup some money? Which sales method do you prefer? Did we miss something in our guide? Let us know in the comments, and don't be shy to share this guide with anyone who may need it.