If you’re sitting on a pile of old phones, tablets, or computers, this is the best time to sell them for cash.
Technically, this is always true, because used electronics degrade in value over time. But renovators say the persistent shortage of chips has increased the value of some hard-to-find electronics, particularly the iPad and Apple Watch, raising the price they’ll pay even for older models.
Meanwhile, the electronics buyback market is gradually becoming more competitive for buyers and sellers alike. Gizmogo launched in 2020 with a focus on convenience — it offers prepaid shipping boxes and accepts broken products — and Swap Club created a way to switch between used iPhones earlier this year. A revamped tech marketplace, Back Market, has jumped into the buyback business as well, connecting shoppers directly to refurbished ones who have fewer middlemen.
All of this comes amid a boom in used smartphone sales, with IDC reporting that 19% of worldwide smartphone shipments in 2021 were used, up from 17% in 2020. But to benefit, more consumers must realize That they should sell their smartphones. Primarily used equipment.
“These are commodities, and they lose value every day,” says Scott Walker, head of revamped D2C+. “If you left it in your drawer for a year, you probably lost 70% of its value.”
What your technology deserves
The process for selling your old hardware on most buyback sites is similar: you either write down or select the type of device you have, answer a few questions about its condition, and agree to reset the device or disable any activation locks before they ship. Most sites will provide a prepaid shipping label, although you may need to provide your own. In most cases, you do not have to provide the original charger or original packaging. Sites like SellCell and Flipsy can search through several buyback sites and tell you which ones are giving you the most money (although no results are shown from Back Market).
But how do buyback sites reach their selling prices? Renovators say it’s just a matter of supply and demand, based on what sites like Amazon and eBay charge for used or refurbished equipment.
It works in reverse from there, says Nick Skelly, president of Maryland-based Simple Cell, taking into account things like the condition of the phone and the fees of any site he buys and sells through. He maintains an extensive database of hardware and what’s worth, and in the case of Back Market, an automated system allows him to bid on used stock based on the maximum price he’s willing to pay.
iPads are also particularly hot right now, he says, due to a short supply of the latest model. While buying a new iPad isn’t impossible, stock has been limited, which has led to intermittent delays at some retailers, including the Apple Store. These types of interruptions, no matter how minor, can raise the selling price of used models for older models.
“You can continue to buy back into the market right now, and maybe sell an iPad 7 or iPad 8 for 80% of what you bought it for,” says Skelly. “If you need an iPad, or you need a replacement device, you have to buy it somewhere.”
Outside of these strange conditions, the value of used equipment naturally declines over time as new products are launched. A study by tech buyback website Decluttr last year found that iPhones lost an average of 49% of their turnover one year after their launch and 66% after two years, while Samsung phones lost 65% and 79% after a year or two, respectively. .
But as you might expect, device condition can have a huge impact on these swap values. Skelly says that in the Back Market, the difference between a phone in good condition can be just 30%. In comparison, features like additional storage, added memory, or device color don’t matter much.
“Once the function is overridden, the condition is 100% what drives the value,” he says. “Nobody wants to buy a phone with scratches on the glass, or that’s just too cocky. They want that new feeling for so little.”
Bring your broken tools
While a damaged device won’t bring nearly as much as the original one, that doesn’t mean you should avoid selling it. Some renovators specialize in repairing or finding a home for them, and a more competitive buyback market can help these appliances bring in more cash than they used to be.
Scott Walker of D2C+ notes that technical buyback services have traditionally not been concerned with problematic devices. Their model involves buying a lot of electronics, then selling them to other markets on a wholesale basis, so they’re primarily looking for phones and tablets that don’t need expensive repairs.
By contrast, he has grown a large network of auto repair shops that are willing to harvest broken phones for parts. Since Back Market allows it to purchase these devices directly from consumers, it can maintain its profit margins while offering a competitive buyback price. He says a five-year-old iPhone with a broken screen, it’s probably still $20 to $30 — more than most other buyback sites offer.
“What they have done is they have shaved off several parts of the supply chain by doing this, thus reducing costs in the process of reselling the phone,” Walker says.
It still suggests shopping before settling on any repurchase site, and you might still consider listing your device on Swappa, eBay, or Facebook if you don’t mind the hassle of selling directly to other users. The biggest limitation of Back Market’s buyback program in its early days appears to be the lack of replenishment; Many product searches come back with no offers at all.
Over time, Back Market says its goal is to outperform other buyback sites for what they offer consumers for used devices. Lauren Benton, general manager of Back Market in the US, says she’s always keeping an eye on other sites to see if they can do more to create a more competitive market.
“We’re tracking this closely to understand if we’re not performing against another site that does [a buyback] Benton says.
Nick Skelly of Simple Cell says he’s already seeing results. Although he hasn’t bought a lot of devices through Back Market yet, the money customers are making is more than he thinks they would get if they sold their used devices elsewhere. It also costs him less since he gets the hardware directly from consumers, and he can then refurbish them and sell them again without wasting any time or going through additional middlemen.
“They complete the cycle of the circular economy. We are able to acquire devices, buy them, and then resell them back in the same market and put them in the hands of consumers,” he says. “That’s the full circle there.”