Hundred dollar bills resting on an iPhone

So, you’ve decided to turn those old electronics into cash. But if you’re trying to turn a retired phone or laptop into big bucks, you’re going to have to put in some elbow grease.

If You Want Money, Sell it Yourself

If you want to get top dollar for an old phone or laptop, then you have to sell it yourself. That means you’re going to put in some extra effort. Yes, there are sites like Gazelle that can do the work for you, but they take a fat chunk of your profits in the process.

There are a lot of places to resell your old device, but they all work the same way. You list your product with a photo, description, and price. Some of these websites allow you to make a nationwide or global listing, but most of them are focused on local listings. Generally, the websites that offer local listings are super easy to use and fulfill, but they aren’t always good for maximizing profits.

But you can’t just throw up a low-effort listing for a product and expect to make a bunch of money. You need to keep your listing as clean, detailed, and professional as possible. That way, potential buyers will spend money on your old phone or laptop without a hint of hesitation or anxiety.

Think of it this way: You’re the seller, so it’s your job to sell your device. The buyer’s job is to buy, and they should fill this role as if it’s second nature. If a buyer has any questions or reservations about your listing, then you haven’t done a good job selling them your product.

You need to make sure that your product’s photos, description, and price can appeal and inform potential buyers. This can be difficult and time-consuming, but we’ll walk you through it step by step.

Format Your Data, and Check if Anything’s Broken

Don’t sell a phone or laptop that’s full of personal photos and Google login information. That’s a dumb idea. Take a minute to format your phone, laptop, or tablet before selling it. This is an easy step, and it gives you the opportunity to see if the device is still working.

You can still sell a broken device for a decent amount of money, but a functioning device will always net you more cash. Check that there isn’t anything wrong with the display, that the battery will still charge, and that all of the buttons work. You can go to a repair shop to get any problems fixed—or not. Some people will buy broken electronics.

Formatting a broken device can be tricky, but it’s still an important step. If your phone’s display is broken, consider having it repaired and then formatting the device. The repair will increase the value of your phone, and you’ll be able to wipe your data. Alternatively, you could use software like LockWiper to format your broken phone from a computer.

Make Your Product Look as New as Possible

Nobody wants to pay top dollar for electronics that look used, so take a minute to clean your old phone or laptop before you sell it. A little isopropyl alcohol can go a long way (don’t use soap and water, you know better than that). Even if that old iPhone still works like new, appearance is everything.

A man cleaning his laptop with soap and water
Jonas Sjoblom/Shutterstock

Be sure to take any stickers off of the device, and clean the residue with alcohol. It can be tempting to use a knife to remove stickers, but try to do it with your hands first, so it doesn’t get scratched up.

After that’s done, clean the details, like the buttons and creases. With laptops, you might want to take a minute to clean the keyboard. There’s probably a few years worth of soda, Cheeto dust, and dead skin stuck in there. We aren’t going to pretend that keyboard cleaning is fun, but hey, would you buy a laptop that’s full of petrified food and biological dust? Didn’t think so.

If you’re trying to sell electronics that are damaged, then it can be tempting to skip the cleaning phase. Don’t skip it. People that buy broken electronics aren’t dirty sewer-creatures (well, most of them aren’t), and they’ll pay more for a device that looks clean.

Take Good, Detailed Photos

If you’re listing your old phone or tablet on a website like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or LetGo, you’ll want to put up some good pictures. This may be the most dreaded step in the selling process, but it’s the most important. Buyers look at pictures before they look at descriptions, and people will pay top dollar for a product that’s listed professionally.

You don’t need a fancy camera to take good pictures; your phone will work fine. Just try to take pictures on a clean surface with a lot of light. Ideally, your product listing will look like it’s done by a business, not by some weirdo in a dirty kitchen.

You don’t need to take a million different pictures; just make sure that all of your bases are covered. Turn the device’s display on (if it works) and get a good mix of wide shots and close-ups. Take pictures of any areas that are scuffed or damaged, and be sure that the product isn’t obscured by anything like a phone case. Remember, potential buyers shouldn’t have to ask you any questions.

If anything extra is included with the phone, tablet, or laptop that you’re listing, then you want to show it in the pictures. These extra items will always add some value to whatever you’re selling, and buyers need to see what they’re buying. If cables are included, show the cables. If the retail packaging is included, show the packaging.

Write a Good, Concise Description

You don’t need to write an essay for your product. If anything, a short, organized description is best. That way, buyers can take the leap without becoming overwhelmed or confused. Remember, buyers shouldn’t spend their time thinking; they should spend their time buying.

For phones and tablets, you’ll generally want to list the model number, storage space, and condition. For laptops, try to include the full model number (it’s usually on the bottom of the laptop), and specs like RAM, internal storage, and processing power.

An iPhone X case on a pile of money

Be sure to mention any flaws, even if they’re just cosmetic. And include info about anything extra that comes with the device, like charging cables.

If you’re selling a device that’s broken, then take a second to consider who would buy it from you. Maybe someone will use it for parts, or maybe they’ll try to fix it. You need to include additional info that might be important to these buyers. Detail if anything’s missing, if the device makes any noises, or if it turns on at all.

You can add some enticing, salesman-esque details, but keep them short and sweet. As an example: “This lightly used laptop is very fast, and it’s ready for gaming or office work.”

Now, above all else, you need to follow the golden rule of resellers. Don’t lie, and don’t guess. If you can’t find the technical details for your old electronics, then you need to admit that in the description. If you’ve never run a game on your old laptop, then don’t say it’s “Fortnite-ready.”

Figure Out a Good Price

This is the fun part. There are two ways to figure out a good price for your product. You can set a figure based on the retail price, or you can check how much money other people are making off of the same product.

If you want to go down the easy route, you can base your sale price on the retail price. This method isn’t perfect, and it only works for electronics that are still on the market, like a newer laptop or tablet. Take the current retail price, and chop off $100 or $200. There you go, that’s a decent sale price. Of course, you’ll want to reduce the price even more if there are any problems or blemishes.

The other price-setting method is a little more time intensive, but it helps you set a realistic price will still maximizing profits. You’ll need to figure out how much money people usually pay for the product that you’re selling. eBay’s advance search tool makes this super easy. You type in the name of your product and click the “Sold Listings” box. Boom, now you can set a price based on previous listings.

If the phone or laptop that you’re selling has some blemishes, take a second to look for sold listings that have similar problems. This way, you can get a better idea of how much buyers are willing to pay for your damaged product.

To Bid, Barter, or Stay Strong?

It can be tempting to offer your product for bids on eBay or to negotiate with buyers on LetGo. After all, an item that’s up for bids sells faster, and a buyer that’s trying to barter is probably interested in spending some money.

A smug man carelessly spreading $100 bills in the air like rain
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

If you’re trying to maximize your profits, it’s best to stand strong and offer a fixed price. But if you want to get it over with, then you might as well open your product to bids or negotiations. Just remember that a professionally listed product will always look more valuable to potential buyers, even if they’re bidding or bartering.

Or, Take the Easy Route for Less Money

If all of this work sounds like hell, then you might as well take the easy route. No, you shouldn’t throw your old phone or laptop away, you should use a reseller website or participate in a buyback program.

Resellers, like Gazelle, are willing to pay a decent amount of money for old devices. These websites are super easy to use; there’s no writing or searching involved. You plug in some information about your device and get a quote on the spot. If you like the quote, then you send the device to the reseller and get paid.

As of right now, Gazelle will pay $125 for a 256 GB iPhone 7 in “fair” condition. That’s the kind of payout that we’re looking at here. (For reference sake, you can sell the same iPhone with a badly cracked screen for $235 on eBay).

Here are some popular reseller websites:

If you aren’t interested in dealing with a reseller, then you can participate in a buyback or trade-in program. These programs will usually give you store credit or a discount for new purchases, like a phone upgrade. Sometimes, they’ll even pay you for broken devices.

Here are some popular buyback and trade-in programs:

Profile Photo for Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew Heinzman writes for How-To Geek and Review Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers.
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