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How much can I get for my old iPhone?

The iPhone XS is here, but it's not cheap, unless you maximise the amount you can get for your existing iPhone.

Like clockwork, each year sees Apple unveil a new wave of iPhones that promise to revolutionise the smartphone industry and improve your life in countless ways. As attractive as these new handsets are, though, they come with a hefty price tag. The cost of premium smartphones has been slowly creeping upwards in recent years, with some models of the OLED-screened iPhone XS Max retailing for well over $2,000.

If you've got an existing iPhone that you own outright, you do have a way to lessen the sting of these premium prices by selling off your existing handset or trading it in for value off the new phone cost. There are a number of ways to do this, with varying degrees of difficulty and reward as a result.

Here's what you should consider and what you're likely to get for your old iPhone if you choose to sell it.


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Key factors to consider

Condition

Before you start pricing out trade-in options, you've got to be realistic about what you're likely to get for your handset. First and foremost, you've got to realistically assess the condition of your existing iPhone.

Is the screen perfectly intact or are there chips or breaks? Is the bodywork pristine or scratched? Do you still have the box and accessories or are you selling just the phone itself?

All of these factors can and will affect what you can demand for your phone, but that's hardly surprising. Folks are going to be far more willing to pay near-retail prices for a unit that looks like it just came out of the box than one that looks like you've let your dog use it as a chew toy.

You're not likely to get much at all for a non-functional handset, but whatever you do, don't throw it in the trash. Smartphones are complex machines made up from a variety of compounds that aren't environmentally friendly if crushed. If you have no more use for your iPhone and can't sell the parts, recycle it through your nearest available e-waste recycling scheme or send it to MobileMuster.

Storage

Apple prices its handsets on a storage and screen-size basis. Obviously a 64GB iPhone X isn't going to get anywhere near as much as a 256GB iPhone X.

Age

The relative age of your handset is also a key factor. Don't expect to get much at all for your old iPhone 5, although models within the last three years that are in decent condition can still command a few dollars.

The further back in iPhone history you go, the less you'll get, and there's definitely a point where you should consider whether it's worth selling at all. You may just want to give the phone to a relative or turn it into an iPod Touch by taking out the SIM card.

You should also make certain that you've cleared all your data and signed out of iCloud and other Apple services before selling your iPhone to anyone. We have a comprehensive guide that will step you through what you need to do before selling your iPhone.

Urgency

The other factor that will affect your overall selling price is something that affects any sale of goods, and that's how quickly and easily you want to sell.

There are some very simple ways to get money for your iPhone, but what you gain in convenience you're almost certainly going to lose in overall value. If you've got the time and patience to research and compare, you'll almost always find a better deal.

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What can I realistically get for my iPhone?

For the purposes of comparison, we're going to work with the idea of selling three different models. For those who subscribe to a 2-year turnaround cycle, we'll look at pricing for an iPhone 7 32GB. For the must-update-every-year crowd, we'll compare both the top-end iPhone X and iPhone 8 64GB devices, and what you're likely to get for them.

We're also assuming that your phone is in essentially pristine condition and that there are no performance problems with these handsets. If you're looking at selling an older handset or one in worse condition, you're going to be looking at lower figures than these.

All prices quoted below are as sourced from vendor websites on 12 December 2018 and you should take them as indicative only since prices change over time.


Option 1: Apple trade-in

Pros:

  • Quick, easy

Cons:

  • Poor value

Typical prices: "Up to" $750

Apple offers its own phone trade-in service for iPhone owners and for owners of Android handsets looking to switch.

It's actually run by a third-party company, but can be accessed through Apple stores or by filling out an online form and posting your handset in for assessment and payment. You then get paid in Apple Store credit, which means in theory you could use your iPhone trade-in money for other Apple products. This does mean you're not getting cold, hard cash for your device.

You're also not going to be getting much for your device. Apple specifically prices via individual IMEI numbers, which makes direct comparison of models and pricing difficult to entirely compare, but there's a huge red flag before you ever get to that stage. Apple only accepts trade-ins for "some" iPhone models, with older handsets only eligible for recycling rather than trading. Recycling your handset is free but gets you nothing, whereas trading in an eligible iPhone will get you "up to" $750 in Apple Store credit.

While Apple's deal offers a lot of convenience, it's about the worst value in terms of making the most out of your iPhone investment.

Option 2: Telco trade-up

Pros:

  • Simple if you want to stay with your telco anyway

Cons:

  • You lose all existing handset repayments/low value
Typical prices:
iPhone model Telstra Vodafone Optus
iPhone 7 32GB $200 $240 $220
iPhone 7 256GB $275 $320 $290
iPhone 8 64GB N/A $470 $420
iPhone 8 256GB N/A $553 $500
iPhone X 64GB N/A $618 $580
iPhone X 256GB N/A $708 $680

It's only relatively recently that the telcos have become involved in the smartphone trade-in system, which is slightly different from the "new phone each year" deals that they also offer. Those are worth considering if you're happy to re-contract for a further 24-month period, but what we're concerned with is shifting your old phone entirely.

The way these schemes work is that you're compensated for your handset with a credit on your carrier bill, to be used at your discretion, but typically against a new mobile plan anyway.

All three of the major carriers have trade-in schemes. Telstra uses the same phone reseller as Apple, although at the time of writing the newest iPhone it would provide quotes for was the iPhone 7. In pristine condition, it quoted a $200 credit for a 32GB iPhone 7, with the 256GB model increasing that to $275.

Comparatively, Vodafone is far and away the most generous in terms of trade-in value. It quoted $240 for the 32GB iPhone 7 against Optus' $220 and Telstra's $200. Similarly, it quoted $320 for a 256GB iPhone 7 compared to Optus' $290 and Telstra's $275. This remains true for newer iPhone models, too, as you can see in the table above.

Trading your iPhone into one of the big three telcos might get you a quick result, but you pay the price in terms of flexibility because credit with a telco is not the same thing as actual cash and you're going to get a lower value for your iPhone overall.

Alternatively, if you're coming to the end of your contract you could consider taking advantage of Optus and Telstra's new phone trade-up deals. These involve re-contracting for an additional 24 months but let you swap your current handset for a new one at relatively low cost. Just keep in mind that you're giving up all handset repayments you've made on your current handset. For a newer iPhone, that means at least half the value you'd have to pay to own the phone outright is gone and you're on the hook for another 24-month period. It's less of an issue for those who have opted for a phone lease plan, because at the end of your contract period you don't own that phone anyway, but if you're on a regular phone contract, you would do so.

You can find out about Telstra's New Phone Feeling here and Optus's New Phone Trade Up here.

Option 3: Second-hand dealer or pawnbroker

Pros:

  • Quick cash-in-hand payment on the spot

Cons:

  • Can offer low values
Typical prices (as quoted by CEX):
iPhone model Cash Store voucher
iPhone 7 32GB $304 $339
iPhone 7 256GB $312 $348
iPhone 8 64GB $416 $464
iPhone 8 256GB $460 $513
iPhone X 64GB $579 $646
iPhone X 256GB $717 $800

Another option to consider when selling an iPhone is to use a second-hand dealer or pawnbroker to get quick cash for your device. Here, you're somewhat at the mercy of what you may be able to haggle from a particular dealer, although if you've got an iPhone in decent condition and of recent vintage, it's at least likely to be interested since your phone would be rather easy to sell. You're likely to get more if you're happy to take store credit than cold hard cash, and you're paying something of a price for the convenience.

Prices can vary quite a lot, but we've used UK-based CEX (which also has a small store presence in Australia) for some indicative pricing because the company quotes directly online what it will pay for a range of items, including mobile phones.

In terms of convenience, EB Games also accepts iOS devices including iPhones for trade-in, but it has no online presence to check what you'll get for your device so you'd still need to head to a store for a quote. Be aware when dealing with a second-hand dealer that you will need to have identification documents on hand to prove who you are when selling.

Option 4: Online phone reseller

Pros:

  • Actual cash paid to your account
  • You don't have to take it to any store

Cons:

  • You have to post in your phone before payment
  • You may disagree about condition

There's a strong business in online phone sales and that kind of competition can work to your benefit in terms of the prices you can get for an existing iPhone handset.

The risk here is that you have to send your device to the merchant who will then assess it and let you know what it's willing to pay, which could of course be a contested matter if you feel that your phone is in better condition than it does. Here's the indicative pricing from a range of companies that specialise in online phone reselling:

Retailer iPhone X 64GB iPhone 8 64GB iPhone 7 32GB
Cashaphone $750 $430 $240
Fonebank $680 $442 $238
Mazuma Mobile $750 $450 $250
Mobile Monster $810 $560 $340
Sell your Mobile $750 $500 $300

Quoted sums are from each website's quote form as at 12 December 2018.

What's interesting here is the very wide variance in what you might get for a device at the time of writing. Some merchants are more concerned with condition than others when it comes to payout time, so if you do have a scratched device, you may get more from one than another.

It's also worth making sure you're happy with how it plans to pay you. Some merchants use specific electronic methods and others mail out cheques.

Option 5: Online auction sites

Pros:

  • Greatest monetary return.

Cons:

  • More work
  • More risk
Typical prices:
Marketplace iPhone X 64GB iPhone 8 64GB iPhone 7 32GB
eBay $700 – $1100 $500 – $800 $200 – $450

It should come as little surprise that you can maximise your iPhone earnings if you're willing to do most of the legwork yourself by listing it on an online auction site such as eBay or Gumtree.

eBay pricing can vary, but we used completed listings for different handsets ranging from standalone devices to complete-in-box sales.

Again, condition and age play a factor in what you'll get for your device. There is an element of risk involved, too, whether you're posting your phone off to your buyer or selling in person. There's also the rather more stiff direct competition factor at play here, because you'd be up against everyone else trying to sell off their older iPhone in order to buy new devices. You can expect those numbers to ramp up immediately around the time Apple announces its new handsets each year.

Want a SIM-only plan to go with your new iPhone handset? Check out these data-high SIM-only plans:

Image: Shutterstock

Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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