Even if you’re in the iPhone Upgrade Program, you might have an old iPhone languishing in a drawer somewhere unused. And if you buy your iPhone outright each year, you can usually recoup a good amount of that cost by selling the old model every time you upgrade. Here’s what you need to know about selling or trading in your old iPhone for top dollar.
How to get an old iPhone ready for sale
Take good care of it
This probably goes without saying, but you’ll get the most money if your iPhone is in pristine shape. That means keeping it in a case to prevent bumps and dings to the corners. But if your phone shows some wear and tear, don’t worry—it’s still sellable, you’ll just get a little less. Keeping your original box and including the charger and cable also helps you get the most money.
Save your data
Be sure to get all the data out of your old iPhone. A backup to iCloud or iTunes is the most convenient way to sync all the data to your new iPhone. But because an iPhone backup is pretty self-contained, you may also want to separately make sure your photos are synced to Google Photos, iCloud Photos, or another cloud storage solution.
Unpair your Apple Watch
If applicable. You can do this in the Watch app on the phone.
- Tap the My Watch tab.
- An entry for your watch should appear near the top of the app. Tap it.
- Tap the (i) button next to your watch.
- Tap Unpair Apple Watch.
Sign out of your Apple account
Sign out of your iCloud and iTunes accounts, too. This is a crucial step—if you erase your phone without signing out first, it will still have Activation Lock enabled and the buyer won't be able to set it up.
Head to the top of the Settings app: Just tap your name, then scroll to the bottom of the next screen and tap Sign Out. If you’re switching from an iPhone to an Android phone for some bizarre reason, you also need to de-register your phone number from iMessage, by going to Settings > Messages and turning off the switch labeled iMessage.
Reset the phone
Once you’re sure your iPhone is all backed up and ready to be fully erased, head to the Settings app and tap General > Reset. The nuclear option here is Erase All Content and Settings; if you're selling or giving away your phone, this is what you want to do.
You may be prompted to turn off Find My iPhone and sign out of iCloud, if you haven’t already—otherwise iOS’s Activation Lock will prevent the phone’s next owner from activating it. Confirm that you want to erase all the data, and your phone will be securely wiped and restored to factory settings.
Sell your iPhone online to a buyback site
Where are you going to sell your iPhone? You should start your research at the third-party buyback sites. That way you can get an idea what your phone in its current condition is worth, and then either take that offer, or post your phone on Criagslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Letgo. You might want to mention you're selling your phone on social media like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram first, to see if a friend or associate wants it—you'll feel better dealing with someone you know.
Here are some of the sites you might consider, though there are others.
Gazelle buys and sells preowned smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets. They’ll give you an online quote for your item, and then send you a box to ship it to them for free. You can receive payment as a check, PayPal, or Amazon gift card.
The offer is good for 30 days, and Gazelle will make you a new offer if the item is in worse condition than you described. If you decide not to take the new offer, they’ll send your gadget back, but you pay for the return shipping. Gazelle even has “ecoATM” locations nationwide where you can drop your device off for an instant payment.
For an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition, Gazelle currently offers $152.
Swappa also connects buyer and sellers directly, using PayPal for the transaction as well as its built-in protections for the buyer and the seller. Swappa collects its fees from the buyer’s end, but the price the buyer actually sees has that fee as well as shipping included. The seller pays for shipping, and you’re on your own to package the item securely, too. Sellers are also allowed to set their own return policies, but buyers can always return items that were received in worse condition than they were advertised.
Swappa lists a price range for what has sold recently on its site. An iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition currently sells for an average of $357 on Swappa. That's a lot more than most trade-in sites, but you're selling directly to another user and therefore assuming some risk.
Amazon lets you trade-in certain devices for an Amazon gift card. It's a very simple process, though it can take a couple weeks before your item arrives and is inspected, so don't expect credit in your Amazon account immediately.
There's very little risk involved—if Amazon determines that the device is in worse quality than stated, you can have them return it or accept a lower price.
Amazon currently offer $190.05 for an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition.
Trade in your iPhone for retail store credit
Another convenient approach is to turn in your old iPhone to the Apple store, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon, where they’ll give you a gift card. You might not get quite as much, but these stores also take phones in worse condition than your typical buyer would expect. The big-box stores, for example, will give you a small gift card for an iPhone with a broken screen, while an Apple store will just recycle it for you.
The Apple store’s online quote service estimated a generous $300 credit for an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition. It can be used toward the purchase of a new device, or you can trade it in for an Apple gift card.
Target offers gift cards for your old smartphone, tablet, videogames, videogame console, wearables, smart speakers, and even other stores’ gift cards. They partner with CExchange, who will give you an estimate, provide a prepaid FedEx Ground label (you pack the device yourself), and then email you a gift card. Broken phones are acceptable, too, though you won't get much. Target offered $137.64 for an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition.
Best Buy seems to offer a little more than Target, and you can take a trade-in to a nearby store, which could be extremely convenient, or mail it in and receive a gift card by email. For an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition, Best Buy offered $190.00.
Walmart contracts with CExchange (like Target) to let you trade in smartphones, tablets, videogames, and MP3 players for Walmart gift cards. You get a prepaid FedEx Ground shipping label, but you have to pack the item yourself. For an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) in Good condition, Walmart offered $150.
How to sell your iPhone back to your carrier
Not to be outdone, your carrier will accept trade-ins too. If you cringe at your phone bill each month, unloading old devices to your carrier might be tempting, since you can use the credit for new devices or to pay your bill.
For AT&T’s trade-in program, you can bring your device to an AT&T Store to get instant credit, or get a quote online and receive a kit to mail your device in for free. Then you’ll get a promotional card in the mail you can use to credit your bill or buy new stuff.
Verizon lets you trade in devices with a prepaid shipping box. Credits can be applied to your bill, or you can opt for a gift card to use for new devices.
T-Mobile’s trade-in program is geared at people who want a new phone. Once you get a quoted price (for a phone in Good condition), you're taken to the store page to shop for a new device. It doesn't have to be a phone, mind you. T-Mobile sells accessories and Apple Watch, too.
Sprint’s Buyback program can be done in-store, for an instant credit you can use for a new phone, tablet, or accessory, or get as a credit on your phone bill. Or you can mail your device in for an account credit within 4 weeks.
Tips for selling your phone
Check around! Selling directly to a buyer nets you the most money, but assumes the most risk. If you want to avoid all that, trading in your phone to a retailer or online trade-in site is a painless process that will net you some money. Apple, unsurprisingly, seems to offer some of the best value for used iPhones.
If you sell directly to another person through Craigslist, Letgo, or Facebook Marketplace, watch out for scammers. Insist on meeting in person in a very public location like a bank or busy mall. Many police stations have areas set aside for person-to-person transactions. Take payment in cash, not PayPal or Western Union.