How to sell old tech

You can get money for your devices in a few different ways, with some options quicker than others.

Credit: Rob Schultz / IDG

Most everyone has laptops, smartphones, fitness trackers, tablets, or cameras lying around the house, no longer in use. If you don’t need them, you can get cash for that old tech—it just takes a little time.

As you’d expect, the more energy you put into the effort, the more cash you’ll reap. Listing the item yourself on an online marketplace yields the highest returns, while using a buyback service lowers the payout in exchange for less work.

Here are your options, plus some tips for the best experience when selling your old gear.

Sell your old tech to a buyback service

The simplest method for selling devices is turning them over to a buyback service like Gazelle, Decluttr, or ItsWorthMore. These websites let you input info about your older gear—make, model, condition—and then give you a valuation. If you like the amount offered, you print a free shipping label provided by the website, pack up the item, and then drop it off in the mail.

Upon receipt, the company will inspect the item, verify that it matches your description of it in the initial valuation process, and then pay you. You’ll receive the funds via PayPal, direct deposit, check, or gift card within several days on average. Sometimes, the buyback service will offer an updated valuation upon closer inspection—if you dislike the new amount, you have the option to request a revised evaluation or for your gadget to be sent back to you. Be aware that some services will automatically pay you if you don’t respond to a revised offer within a certain number of days.

decluttr valuation estimate for 2015 12-in Macbook PCWorld

Quotes vary between buyback services, so try a couple places to see which offers the most money back. For this same Macbook, ItsWorthMore would give us $235.

Choosing a buyback service depends on the type of device you want to sell—each has a different  focus. For example, Gazelle concentrates solely on phones and tablets, while Decluttr accepts an eclectic mix of items that includes smartphones, tablets, Apple products (including MacBooks for trade-in), Kindles, and video game consoles. For its part, ItsWorthMore focuses most heavily on laptops, smartphones, and some desktop computers.

Should you fail to find a buyback service interested in your specific older gear, you can instead try an alternative: trade-in programs at major retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. You won’t get as much as you would with a buyback program, though. When we looked into selling a 2015 Macbook, Best Buy offered $120 while Decluttr quoted $200.

Neither amount feels all that much, especially since we priced a base configuration in Good condition with a working charger. To get more money—or find someone who’ll take less popular or flat-out old tech—you’ll have to use an online marketplace instead.

Sell your old tech yourself

Online marketplaces come in several flavors—some are auction based, others fixed price. Some limit transactions to local, in-person exchanges while others focus on online sales. With so many choices, you can choose the type of interaction and level of seller fees that makes you most comfortable.

You also have free rein to list whatever you have on hand. While buyback services focus on a more limited number of device types and pay more for newer tech in good condition, online marketplaces generally allow you to connect with all kinds of buyers, including those looking for damaged items to refurbish or use for parts.

The major names in this space are eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Swappa, and OfferUp. Though their features and policies overlap, each has strengths and weaknesses that distinguish it from the competition.

sample ebay listing 2015 12-in Macbook PCWorld

One of the best known online marketplaces, eBay features a broad selection of listing formats and options.

For example, eBay supports a broad selection of listing formats, but its ultra buyer-friendly dispute process can sometimes become a hassle. And Craigslist’s fee-free transactions mean pure profit but come with the risks of meeting up with prospective buyers in person. A couple of services (Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp) have either implicit or explicit verification of buyer identities, with the implication that someone who’s public with their identity will be less likely to scam or steal from you.

How much money you get through an online marketplace can vary widely—each website has a distinctive take on fee structures. Local, in-person exchanges usually don’t incur fees, but for any shipped devices, you’re looking at losing as little as 2.9 percent of the sales price to nearly 15 percent. To maximize your earnings, study the fee structure of each company carefully and figure out the ballpark of what amount to expect.

That said, you will make more money on average compared to using a buyback service. When looking at recent eBay sold listings, that same 2015 Macbook that received offers of $120 (Best Buy trade-in) and $200 (Decluttr) went for an average of $350 to $375.

Tips for selling old electronics

  • Do a secure wipe of your tech before shipping them out. Most laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even smart home devices retain personal information about you. A normal delete won’t properly purge that data.
  • Clean the item before taking photos. Removing grunge and buffing out light scuffs help increase perceived value.
  • Take pictures of your items in a bright area and from different angles. Get close-up shots of notable dings, scratches, and dents. Pay attention to the focus of your camera—a crisp, clear photo enhances the device’s appeal.
  • Do some comparison pricing before you agree to an offer from a buyback service or create a listing on an online marketplace. For online marketplace pricing, we like to start with eBay’s advanced search, which allows you to look at only sold listings. Examining those will tell you what formats work best (if you’re deciding between auction versus fixed price) and what prices get people to bite.
  • Describe the item in honest detail. When in doubt, give more information than less, and document the item’s condition with clear photos—doing so may save you should a dispute arise.
  • Is your device too old to sell? You can instead consider repurposing it—like say, converting an old laptop into a Chromebook. Ancient or broken tech can be recycled through programs like the one available through Best Buy) to complete your decluttering.

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Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
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