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How to sell or trade in your old iPhone

And hopefully get a good price for it

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

If you’re an iPhone owner, it’s very possible you’re considering trading up to the latest model, which (when this article was last updated) is likely to be the iPhone 13. However, if your current iPhone is still in good shape, you may be wondering about what to do with it. Should you sell it? Trade it in? Give it away?

Well — any of the above. This guide will walk you through the process of preparing your old phone, and what your best alternatives are for disposing of it.

Are you transferring to a new iPhone?

If you’re transferring to a new iPhone — or even if you’re not — you probably want to back up your phone before you do anything else (see below). Backing up to iCloud is probably easiest — and it also gives you the option of transferring your data either directly from your old phone to your new phone, or transferring your data from iCloud.

Once you’ve done that, then go ahead and copy all your data to your new phone. If you want, you can also try going to “Settings” > “General” > “Transfer or Reset iPhone.” Depending on the version of iOS you’re running, you may have access to a wizard called “Prepare for New iPhone,” which will run you through all the steps necessary to transfer your data to your new phone. (It will also let you check your phone’s trade-in Status.)

It doesn’t hurt to check that your iPhone is back up to iCloud.
It doesn’t hurt to check that your iPhone is backed up to iCloud.
Under “Transfer or Reset Phone” you’ll find a wizard to walk you through the process.
Under “Transfer or Reset Phone” you’ll find a wizard to walk you through the process.

Back up your phone

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to have a current backup of all of your data saved on iCloud, your laptop, or any other local / cloud storage. Backing up your phone on iCloud Backup is probably the easiest. If it’s been a while and you want to make sure backup is switched on in your phone’s iCloud settings:

  • Tap on “Settings” > [your name] top button > “iCloud” > “iCloud Backup.”
  • If “iCloud Backup” is switched off, toggle it on. If it’s already toggled on, and you’re preparing to wipe your old iPhone, you may want to tap “Back Up Now” just in case.

You can also back up your iPhone to a computer: either to your Mac by using your Finder (if your Mac is using a macOS version before 10.15, you’ll use iTunes) or to a Windows PC (again, using iTunes).

Wipe your phone

When you’re sure that all of your data is stored — and you’ve transferred all your data to your new phone — it’s time to wipe your old phone.

First, you have to make sure you’ve gotten rid of a few identifiable features:

  • Disable “Find My iPhone” by going to “Settings” > “Find My” > “Find My Phone” and toggling “Find My Phone” and “Find My Network” to off.
  • Unpair any devices from your phone, including your Apple Watch.
  • Toggle iMessages off (just in case).

Then you need to sign out from your Apple ID:

  • Select “Settings” > [your name] top button > “Sign Out” (at the bottom of the page).
  • Enter your Apple ID password.
  • You’ll be asked if you want to keep a copy of your data on this iPhone. Assuming you’ve backed everything up and are about to wipe your phone, you don’t need to toggle anything on.
  • Tap on “Sign Out” in the upper right corner, and then again on the “Are you sure?” pop-up window.

Finally, get ready to erase it:

  • Remove the SIM card from the phone.
  • Go into “Settings” > “General” > “Transfer or Reset iPhone” and select “Erase All Content and Settings.”
If you’re wiping your phone, you don’t want to keep any data on it.
If you’re wiping your phone, you don’t want to keep any data on it.
You’ll get one last chance to change your mind.
You’ll get one last chance to change your mind.

Clean it up

Before you even think of selling your phone, you need to make sure it’s looking its best. Remove the case and / or any stickers, and assess the damage you can see, including scratches or dents, which you’ll have to mention when selling the phone. Then, clean your phone using a screen wipe or screen cleaner. (You might want to leave your screen protector on if it’s in good condition.)

It’s also a good idea to take photos of your phone. You’ll need them for the listing when selling the phone online; in addition, they’re useful in case the recipient reports further damage.

Sell your phone

There are a variety of places where you can try to sell your used phone. A few of those are listed here, along with the estimates I got for an iPhone 11 in good condition with 256GB of storage.

The first thing you might think of is to trade your phone in to Apple. This may be especially useful if you haven’t bought your new iPhone yet, and you want to see if you can save a little on your new device. If you’ve already bought your new phone, then you can go to Apple’s trade-in page and see what your phone is worth. Note that in return you’ll be getting a gift card for future Apple purchases. The quote for the iPhone 11 was $390 in trade-in value at the time of publish.

Decluttr buys the phone from you and then resells it. The company gives you a price online; you then ship your phone to Decluttr within 28 days. The phone will be inspected; if there are issues, you will be offered a revised price which you will have 14 days to accept or decline. An iPhone 11 in good condition with 256GB received a quote for $401.

Best Buy lets you either mail in your phone or bring it to your nearest Best Buy retail store; either way, you can trade it in for an e-gift card. My iPhone 11 was given an estimated value of $360 (increased to $400 if traded in for specific tech products).

Flipsy deals with a variety of retail sites; it will let you know what vendors offer how much, and then you get 14 days to ship the device. The vendor pays for shipping. If the vendor doesn’t agree with your assessment, they will send a revised offer; since each vendor has its own return policies, it’s a good idea to check before you ship. The iPhone 11 got prices from two vendors; the highest was $455.

With Swappa, you create a listing along with a price; when your device is sold, you receive payment from Swappa and then ship the phone directly to the buyer. Swappa charges a fee from the buyer, depending on the price of the phone, but you are responsible for shipping costs. The average price that an iPhone 11 with 256GB could be sold for was quoted as $543.

And of course, there’s eBay. Selling here can be a bit complicated, but basically you get up to 250 listings for free each month; once you sell your item, there is a 10.2 percent fee plus a $0.30 transaction fee.

Places where you can sell your phone free of charge (except, of course, for shipping fees) include Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and the subreddits r/Phoneswap, r/Appleswap, and r/Hardwareswap.

Play it safe

Most of these transactions take place via mail. However, if you decide to do the transaction in person, it’s safest to meet in a public place — and these days, if you’re at all concerned about infection, to either do it outdoors in a park or other public space, or in a cafe or other indoor venue that follows current safety recommendation.

And if you decide you don’t want to sell or trade in your old phone, there are other things you can do with it, including using it as a webcam or letting it be your kids’ first grown-up phone.

Whatever you decide to do with your old phone, just make sure you’re happy with your new phone first. You don’t want to have to return that brand-new phone because of problems (or because you just don’t like it) and suddenly find yourself desperately scrounging around for a temporary substitute.

Update September 10th, 2021, 2:00PM ET: This article was originally published on January 14th, 2020 and has been updated to account for differences in iOS and in available services and websites.