Unlocking money with your old smartphone


We’ve all done it. Shoved an old smartphone in a drawer and forgotten about it. Or maybe even more than one, perhaps you have several shut away in a bedside table somewhere gathering dust.

Maybe you have children, kids seem to get through smartphones like sweets these days, and it seems such a waste to just dispose of them. And by doing that, you could be missing out on adding some significant cash to your pocket.

Take a look at any online auction or listings site and you’ll see the market for used smartphones is huge. Even non-working phones sell for spare parts! So rather than hoarding them in a draw, sell them. It can be a small step to help you get out of debt or save for a holiday, but every little helps, right?

You have a few choices with sites like Gumtree and Craiglist. But the best prices usually come via eBay. Setting up an eBay account if you don’t already have one is easy, so don’t let that put you off. But there are certain things that many people get wrong when selling cell phones on sites like eBay. To avoid making the same mistakes just follow these straightforward steps:

Clean up your phone

Make sure your phone is as mark-free as possible. Don’t scrub it too hard, dampen some cotton swabs lightly with water and use rubbing alcohol for the best results. Spend a bit of time cleaning any fluff out of the speakers and mic, but don’t push anything too solid in there; you don’t want to damage them. It’s also worth taking the back off (if it’s removable) and cleaning out the battery compartment as some buyers may ask to see photos of it with the back removed.

Wipe your data

The easiest way on most phones is by performing a factory reset, but don’t forget to make sure all your data is backed up first, especially those precious photos and videos! Be aware that some phones have built-in factory reset protection to stop people accidentally wiping their data. To get round this, you will usually need to remove your user account from the device. For an Android phone you might want to consider encrypting the device first then resetting to factory settings. There are a number of guides on this for fully wiping both Android and iOS devices to read through.

Title your listing carefully

The listing title is the most important thing to get right. You want people to be able to find it easily when they search, so make sure you mention the brand and model name, as well as saying things like ‘good condition’, ‘fully working’, ‘barely used’ etc if this is the case. Pick whichever phrases are most applicable and make the most of the 80 characters (on eBay). The title doesn’t need to be a proper sentence; so keep it snappy and to the point, something like:

‘Apple iPhone 6 16GB, good condition, official case included’ would be ideal.

Also, make sure to double check your spelling before posting, you wouldn’t believe how many people lose out on value by misspelling the product name. In fact, some people make a decent sum of money buying misspelt items at rock bottom prices and selling them on at a profit!

Take great photos

Blurry, out of focus pictures will not sell your phone for the highest price. To make it look professional, lay it on a white background with a light source directly above (paper and a lamp will do) and use a decent quality camera. Be sure to photograph and point out any damage, don’t try to hide it as the last thing you want is an eBay dispute.

Set your price

There is usually more than enough demand to drive the bidding up on electronics so don’t be worried about setting a low starting big, as long as you have done everything else right. Somewhere between $0.99 and $9.99 does the trick to get the bidding going. If you have a target price in mind then you can also opt for the ‘Buy It Now’ format and choose to receive best offers if you’re willing to negotiate with the buyer.

Pro Tip: If you type the device you plan to sell into eBay you can use the sold filter to see previous listings and gauge what sort of price they are selling for.

Another important thing to mention is not to inflate the shipping cost, just charge the actual price. Many eBay buyers these days are savvy enough to recognise if you are trying to squeeze some extra cash out of them.

Describe the phone in detail

Try to be as detailed as possible in the item description. Mention any features that make the phone stand out, as well as any extras like screen protectors. Try to make it sound as attractive as possible. Assuming the phone is in good condition use phrases like ‘well looked after’, ‘desirable phone’ etc.

Also, make the customer aware of any flaws, again honesty is the policy here. Make sure you answer promptly any questions that potential buyers might have about the item.

Consider Selling Some Cheaper Items First To Build Feedback

A new eBay account is often seen as a red flag so it’s worth selling a few smaller items you no longer need to build initial feedback before listing the phone. Don’t be afraid to message buyers asking for feedback, especially as getting an excellent rating is well worth the effort if you’re planning on selling more stuff.

Finally, learn from the experience of selling your phone on an auction site. If you look at sellers that get top dollar for their used phones, they usually have the original box, manual and cables and they also take care of their phone by purchasing a case and screen protector. So plan ahead, when you buy your next phone remember to keep the box and buy a case to protect the device in order to maximise the re-sell price at a later date.

So there it is an easy step-by-step guide to selling your smartphone on eBay for maximum profit. The basic things to remember are, to be honest and make it look and sound as attractive as possible. Good luck selling!



Chris Price