How to sell your old phone and make some money

Selling or recycling your old iPhone or Samsung could get you hundreds of pounds! Here’s everything you need to know to sell your old phone.

I used to upgrade my handset every time my contract ended, which meant I’d get a new phone every two years.

But for the last seven years or so I’ve separated my phone from my minutes, texts and data. Through buying the handset outright, I’m saving a huge amount on my monthly payments. And since I’m not tied into a 24-month contract, I can change my handset whenever I want.

And when I do that, I always make sure I sell my old phone to subsidise the cost of a new handset.

Here a few things to consider and then my tips for selling yours.

When to sell your old phone

Obviously if you have old phones sitting in drawers you should sell them ASAP. The other time to sell is when you upgrade. But when should you do that?

The first year I went SIM-only I only kept the phone (an iPhone 5c) for just one year before getting the latest model, but I actually kept hold of the next one (an iPhone 6) for three years.

I then kept my iPhone 7 Plus for two years, and I had planned to keep it longer but I was able to pick up an 11 at a ridiculously low price. I’ve had that handset for 12 months now, and I’ll be sticking with it for a while as it’s working perfectly well.

Of course, I’ve been tempted every year by the new handsets, especially now the new iPhones are 5G enabled. The decision to keep ditch or stick is always down to a few factors, such as how well my current phone is performing, what new features could be useful and the impact on the environment.

But price is the main consideration. The newest handsets aren’t cheap! However, I always factor into the cost of a new phone is the reselling price of my current handset. If I can get a decent chunk of cash I know I can use it to subsidise the new phone.

You’ll be able to sell most old phones for something, but the more recent the phone, the more money you can make on it. Every time a new handset is released, the previous models depreciate.

Should you sell before the handset depreciates?

There’s an argument that upgrading every year and selling for the highest possible price is the most economical. But, even factoring that in, you’ll still pay less for your phone the longer you have it.

it helps to break down the cost you paid minus the amount you’ll hopefully get for the phone. Then divide that by the amount of time you’ve had it.

I’ll use rough iPhone prices here, based on resale prices of previous models at the time of writing. So let’s say I paid £850 for a new iPhone and sell it two years later for £300. The cost will effectively be £550 over two years, not £850. That works out as £23 a month.

Add in a £10 SIM card and over those two years, I’ll be paying roughly £32 a month. Far less than buying it via a contract over the same time. For example you’d look at £61 a month from EE for the new iPhone 12 and 10GB of data.

But even though a handset price drops, you’ll probably still win by keeping the phone for another year or two.

Let’s say it’s resale price drops by another £100 after three years. That’s a real cost of £650 for the phone over 36 months, or £18 a month. That’s £60 less each year, or £180 over three.

Of course the longer you have a phone the more the resell price drops and the amount you’ll get also depends on the phone you have. Some won’t hold their value as well as iPhones.

Watch Andy’s video on How to sell your old phone (examples are from 2019)

What to do before you sell

Get your handset unlocked

If you’ve bought your phone through a mobile network, it’s probably locked so that it can only be used with it. Unlock it so it can be used on any network and you’ll probably get a better price.

Some phones might be locked for a year, but it’s actually pretty easy to do. You can find more information on unlocking different handsets at Giffgaff’s Unlockapedia.

To check the unlocking has worked you can buy a £1 sim card from most pound shops, or just ask a mate if you can briefly put their SIM in your phone.

Look after your phone

I always keep my phone in a case. That means I’ve no chips or scratches, no broken screen. And that means I can sell it for a far higher price. It might be too late now, but think about it for your next phone.

Find your accessories

If you kept the box, cables and headphones they can add to the value. I never use the boxed earbuds so they’re pristine to sell-on.

Wipe all your data

Most importantly make sure you’ve formatted your phone completely and removed the SIM. Back up your phone before doing this incase something goes wrong, or if you can use it to set up your replacement phone.

Ways to sell your phone

Here’s what you need to know to get the most money recycling and selling your mobile.

eBay is usually best

It’s more hassle and you’ve got to figure out fees and packaging costs, but do it right and you’ll normally get the most money for your old phone through eBay.

Research what other handsets have gone for recently (choose completed listings in the filters) and see how your phone’s condition compares. Make sure you charge for postage that is insured as it’s an expensive thing to lose!

I went for a buy-it-now listing, though you might get more if you want to risk a standard auction.

Sell your phone on eBay

Get a quote from CEX

Next, I’d check CEX. How much you’ll get really varies according to the phone, condition and how many they have in stock. However, it’s possible to get a really decent price on more recent handsets. You won’t know how much you’ll get until they’ve assessed it, so it might be best to pop into the shops to get a more accurate quote.

You’ll get more if you exchange for credit, but only do this if you are sure there are things you want to buy.

See what you’ll get at CEX

Compare recycling sites

If you can’t be bothered with eBay, then try one of these. It’s the easiest way to sell your phone. You can see a range of prices with the comparison sites and then click through to different companies offering to take your phone. They’ll usually send you a padded envelope

Compare and Recycle, Compare my Mobile and SellMyMobile are all good comparison sites of the leading buyers. Check reviews of the companies as a higher price might not be worth it if people have had problems.

You can go direct too and might be able to drop phones off in stores. For example, O2 Recycle often has lower but still decent prices. I’ve used them before and been happy with the service. Carphone Warehouse is also worth a look.

There are a couple of risks with many of these. First you won’t know the final price until they’ve got it – and it could be less than you hoped or were initially quoted. And there’s also the risk that it could get damaged while in the post, so it’s worth considering paying for postage that comes with insurance.

Sell to a friend

Of course you can avoid all that hassle and fees if you’ve got a mate who will buy it. They’ll get a cheaper handset than buying via a second hand retailer and you’ll get an easy sale. Just hope they don’t start moaning if it breaks!

How much money you can make

Obviously it depends on your make, model and year for the base price. Even the colour can impact the value. You’ll get more for an unlocked phone, whle the condition of the phone can make a huge difference.

My experience

The best prices are for newer handsets, where you can get over £500 for the latest models.

I really look after my phones, so they’re in top condition. When I switched from my 5C to the 6 in 2014 I made a whopping £340 on eBay after fees – £200 more than if I’d sold it to a resale site. Remember it was only a year old so came with a premium price.

But even older phones have a decent return. My three-year old iPhone 6 could potentially have picked up £230 plus on eBay in 2017, but I ended up selling it to a friend for just a little less (£200) to save the hassle and cut out the fees.

I then sold my iPhone 7 Plus last year for £400 after fees – a bigger price but obviously it was a more expensive handset in the first place.

Selling an iPhone 11

I’ve looked at how much you’d get for 2019’s iPhone 11 with 64GB in Black one year on in top condition. Obviously these prices can and will change frequently but they should give you an idea.

  • eBay (sold this week): £375 to £599 (before fees)
  • Compare and Recycle (top price listed): £426 from reBuy
  • CEX (A grade condition): £325 (cash); £433 (voucher)

There you go! Best of luck selling your handset, and if you haven’t upgraded yet, read my guide to getting the best value when you upgrade.

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