How to sell or trade your old iPhone

Selling your old iPhone can be a great way to afford a brand new one.

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Apple iPhone 6 on desk

Like clockwork, each year sees Apple unveil a new wave of bigger, better iPhones that promise to revolutionise the smartphone experience. 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 most recent iPhone retailing for well over $2,000.

If you've got an existing iPhone that you own outright, you can 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.

Key factors to consider

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'll try to display as many relevant iPhone models as we can. You'll be limited by the models vendors, dealers and resellers will accept, however, so if you're trying to sell anything ancient, you might be out of luck.

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 a significantly older handset or one in poor condition, you're going to be looking at lower figures than these.

All prices quoted below are as sourced from vendor websites on 11 September 2019 and should be taken as indicative only as prices will change over time.


Option 1: Apple trade-in

Pros:

  • Quick & easy

Cons:

  • Poor value

Typical prices: "Up to" $810

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 only through Apple retail stores. You get paid in Apple Store credit, which means you can 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 difficult, but there's a huge red flag before this: 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" $810 in Apple Store credit. You're not likely to get anywhere near this maximum with anything less than a pristine top-of-the-line model, however.

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 provider

Cons:

  • You lose all the value from past handset repayments
Typical prices:
iPhone model Telstra Optus Vodafone
iPhone 7 32GB $100 $160 $170
iPhone 7 256GB $150 $230 $250
iPhone 8 64GB $275 $300 $300
iPhone 8 256GB $325 $380 $400
iPhone X 64GB $475 $480 $500
iPhone X 256GB $525 $580 $600
iPhone XS 64GB N/A $680 $750
iPhone XS 512GB N/A $950 $1000
iPhone XS Max 64GB N/A $750 $850
iPhone XS Max 512GB N/A $1030 $1150

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. Vodafone is far and away the most generous in terms of trade-in value, 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.

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 $227 $280
iPhone 7 256GB $253 $312
iPhone 8 64GB $371 $414
iPhone 8 256GB $392 $437
iPhone X 64GB $520 $580
iPhone X 256GB $538 $600
iPhone XS 64GB $616 $687
iPhone XS 512GB $787 $878
iPhone XS Max 64GB $689 $768
iPhone XS Max 512GB $868 $968

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 $650 $400 $180
Fonebank $510 $357 $170
Mazuma Mobile $500 $300 $160
Mobile Monster $630 $370 $210
Sell your Mobile $520 $320 $190

Quoted sums are for phones in 'Good' condition as sourced from each website's quote form on 11 September 2019.

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 $600 – $800 $500 – $700 $200 – $400

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.

How to clear your iPhone before selling it

While it's a somewhat tedious process, unless you fancy handing over all your private emails, photos and access to your iTunes account (and possibly the ability to buy content and charge it to your credit card) to a complete stranger, clearing your iPhone is a must-take step before you hand it to anyone.

What that means is ensuring that you've got all your vital information backed up, either in the cloud or on a desktop or a laptop running Apple's iTunes.

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

Image: Shutterstock

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