Most manufacturers and carriers offer some sort of trade-in program for old phones when you buy a new one. The thing is, you can get a lot more money if you just sell your phone yourself.

A Closer Look at Trade In “Deals”

Let’s use the new Galaxy S9 as the example. If you want to buy Samsung’s latest flagship, you can buy it outright if you want—but the company also has a trade-in program. Sorting through the various options, you’ll notice one thing: the most they’ll give for any phone is $300. iPhone 8? $300. iPhone X? $300. S8+? $300. And that’s only if they’re in perfect, working condition.

If you’re using an older handset or it has a cracked screen, the amount they’re willing to give drops dramatically.

You can get more money for pretty much any phone if you sell it outright instead trade it in,  but this is especially true of iPhones. Samsung is willing to graciously offer $300 for your iPhone X, but you should be able to net some $800 from selling it outright. That’s a $500 difference!

To put that into perspective, you could sell your iPhone X for $800, and then buy a Galaxy S9 for $720. That’s a pretty significant difference.

And this holds true with other manufacturers and carriers that offer a trade-in program. You can get a lot more bang for your buck by selling your phone.

Where To Sell Your Current Phone

When it comes to selling your gadgets, there is no shortage of options. You have Craiglist, OfferUp, and Letgo for local sales, eBay for a bigger audience, or Swappa for tech-exclusive sales.

Selling Locally: Craigslist, OfferUp, and Letgo

Of the local-sell services, Craigslist is by far the biggest. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the actual return, however, because it’s highly dependent on the market in your area. Bigger cities generally yield higher payouts because of the denser market. In smaller towns, you may be forced to either sit on what you’re selling or take less than you hope for.

RELATED: How to Sell Your Old Gadgets on Craigslist

The same applies for OfferUp and Letgo, but to a lesser extent. Both services have smaller user bases since they’re relatively new, but don’t let that discourage you—sometimes you can get a bigger return on what you’re selling with these services because they’re not flooded with dozens of the same items.

And don’t be afraid to stack your sale for more local exposure! List your device across all the bigger services, especially after doing some research and figuring out which services are the most popular in your area.

To make selling locally a little more inviting, all three of these services are totally free. That’s a nice bonus.

Selling Online: eBay and Swappa

If you’re looking to reach a broader audience and don’t mind deal with shipping and seller fees, eBay and Swappa are your best choices.

While you reach a larger audience with an online service—which could theoretically get you more money—there are a couple of things to consider: more competition can drive prices down, and seller fees take away from your bottom line.

It also depends on what you’re selling. While you’ll certainly be able to sell an iPhone on eBay, you may be able to get a bit higher price locally—especially when you take into consideration the comparatively monstrous 10 percent seller fee on eBay. If you sell your device for $800, you’re handing $80 over to eBay right off the top. That’s harsh.

A better bet for selling tech devices is Swappa. It has a smaller community than eBay, but the prices are fair and competitive, and the seller fees are much more reasonable. Instead of a blanket percentage, Swappa actually breaks fees down into categories. Here’s a look compared to eBay fees:

As you can see here, the fees are a lot easier to swallow. This is where Swappa makes up for its comparatively smaller user base.

I’ve personally bought and sold a few devices using Swappa, and it’s always been a pleasant experience. I highly recommend checking it out if you are having a hard time selling locally.

And that’s really the preferred method here: try selling locally first, and then move to online sales if that doesn’t work.

With some time and patience, you can get a lot more from your current smartphone by selling it yourself rather than using a manufacturer or carrier trade-in program. Sure, trading your phone in is easier, but at least do yourself a favor and see how much you could get by selling it first. It may be worth the extra hassle.

Profile Photo for Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is ex-Editor-in-Chief of Review Geek and served as an Editorial Advisor for How-To Geek and LifeSavvy. He covered technology for a decade and wrote over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
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