Selling Old Cell Phones

Selling old cell phones for profit

If you are operating in a retail store or cell phone repair service brick and mortar business then finding old cell phones to sell might be as easy as posting a sign in your window. If you want to immediately turn these old cell phones over for cash you can often sell them to a site like Gazelle. When we say “old cell phones” note that this can mean anything which has been on the market for more than six months. With a few exceptions most phones are considered “old” after a very short time period. Point of sale signage will also help to communicate your desire to purchase used devices. Most people these days have an old cell phone or two lying around and wouldn’t mind trading it in for a few dollars rather than throwing it away. In the case that their phone is too old to be of much value you can always offer to safely recycle it for them. Then again you can always keep it on hand for futures cell phone repairs.

For those of you who want to earn extra money buying and selling old cell phones without a place of business that brings customers to you it will be necessary to become proactive in finding phones for sale. Craigslist and Ebay can often be good places to start. At the same time it has become more challenging to find great deals on these websites since a lot of people are becoming aware of the demand for used cell phones.

old cell phones
Some very old cell phones

Like most businesses it is those who use creativity to their advantage that will be the ones to prosper the most. I don’t want to give away everyone’s secrets so I am not going to name specifically where to look or what type of program to implement. What I will point out is that old cell phones wind up in garage sales, flea markets, second hand stores or recycling containers… the list goes on. With some exploration I am sure that you can come up with plenty of ideas about where to find handsets. Don’t forget that you can also use Craigslist and other online or printed classified ads to advertise your desire to purchase old cell phones.

When it comes to finding old cell phones you should have no problem getting them at great prices since most people understand that not only do old cell phones depreciate quickly but also that the market is saturated due to wireless carriers subsidizing phone prices by requiring a two year commitment from their customers. In some cases this reduced pricing scheme actually works in your favor since the seller may really believe that his $500 phone is actually only worth the $199 that he paid for it at the time of activation. When it comes to later model handsets you will need to do some research which is discussed in the following step.

Assessing the value of old cell phones

Before your start buying phones it is imperative that you are able to accurately assess their wholesale and resale values.  This can be complicated since values fluctuate, specifications like storage capacity may vary and there is always inherent risk regarding the history of the cell phone and its ESN/MEID/IMEI status. When I say status I mean whether or not the phone has been reported lost or stolen. Insurance claims will also affect the eligibility for activation so you want to avoid phones that cannot be activated for any of the above reasons.

There are a few ways that you can get an idea about wholesale vales. Gazelle, Gamestop and even some Cash for Gold stores will by cell phones. By visiting or contacting one or more of these companies you should be able to determine a ball park figure for most late model cell phones. Keep in mind sites like Gazelle quote best case scenarios for wholesale buying prices so expect to deduct at least 20% from the amount that they show you. Most people that you buy from will also realize that there is a certain amount of value offered through a cash sale that is not available from a website that requires you to mail in your phone and wait for them to send you a check.

Testing old cell phones

If an item is being sold in working condition then it should operate properly. In order to make sure that this is the case you should fully test the device that you are purchasing and make sure that it does function correctly. This includes all of the physical buttons, touchscreen, charging port, headset jack, Wi-Fi, data connection, blue tooth, battery, sim and memory card reader, etc. There is quite a list that you can go through and should do so. Any existing problems should be pointed out and obviously affect the value of the cell phone. Even thorough testing may not reveal problems that you could encounter at a later time. For this reason it is also a good idea to take into consideration that you are purchasing the phone with no warranty. Pointing this out to the seller might be helpful when it comes to negotiating a price.

Determining resale price for old cell phones

Even before you buy a used cell phone you might want to go one step beyond determining your buying price. With a little more research you can get an idea of what you might expect to sell the phone for. By comparing your buying price to your potential selling price you can decide roughly what your profit will be and whether or not investing in the phone would be a good idea or not.

In order to determine resale value you will want to take a look at sites like Ebay or Amazon. Since you will find a large variance based on the condition of similar items it is a good idea to drill down and find those that match your item closest. For this research I prefer to use Ebay since it is easy to modify search results and you can view completed listings and see what the last item like yours sold for. Remember that completed listings are far more accurate than live auctions since asking price and current bid levels often end up being little more than wishful thinking.

Once you determine what your old cell phones sell for online you can do one of two things. You can list your item for sale on one of these sites or you can sell it directly to a buyer. The advantage of the latter is that people who buy from stores or private individuals will pay more for the item than they will online. For the last four years I have been selling cell phones for anywhere from 20-30% more than what they sell for online. Besides that you won’t have to pay any commissions to the selling site nor any payment processors. The advantage to selling online is that your item will always sell assuming that it has been priced accurately.

To sum up that last part you can make more selling directly to a buyer based on the convenience of same day delivery and hands on examination of the device. With online selling can make up in volume what you lose in markup assuming that you can establish a steady supply of phones.

Marketing your product

If you plan to sell your old cell phones online then you should prepare by taking photos and writing a description for potential buyers to examine. Be sure to set up your camera so that the photos are clear, well lit and show the phone that you are selling in great detail. You can avoid a lot of common mistakes by making sure that your pictures and description accurately match the item that you are selling. Don’t try to hide any imperfections. This will only leave your buyer disappointed and may result in a refund, negative feedback or both. Neither is good for business.

If you are selling your old cell phones directly to another person then they should be able to make a buying decision after examining the device when you meet with them. Using classified ads should generate interest in your item as long as your price is reasonable and you follow the steps described for online selling. You can also post your ad on bulletin boards in grocery stores and laundry facilities or anywhere else that this is permitted. The possibilities are endless once again assuming that you use your imagination.

Increasing resale value

If you want to go one step beyond buying and selling then you should consider refurbishing and unlocking cell phones for profit. Unlocked cell phones are always worth more and it’s not always necessarily expensive to unlock them. Currently unlocking cell phones is considered a “gray area” so at this time you will have to decide whether to research the topic further. I will post unlock links here as soon as new legislation has been passed clarifying your right to unlock a phone. If you have questions about this topic please post them in the forum section.

Besides unlocking phones you also have the option to refurbish them. You can buy new or used parts to fix broken phones and sell them for a profit as well. This will be covered extensively in the repair section very soon. For now consider the possibility of buying several phones that each have different problems or cosmetic blemishes and combining them to create one very nice phone that will sell for a lot more than it cost you to acquire the “donor” units.

Depreciation considerations

With rare exception old cell phones lose their value over time. For this reason you should always consider how soon you will be able to sell any particular device and what it will be worth at this future point in time. There is no exact science to this but you might find the following information useful. At the date of this writing Apple seems to have to most longevity when it comes to retaining value. Android based smartphones on the other hand lose a great deal of their value after about a year. In particular cell phones which are manufactured for GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile will retain their value longer than those which are made for CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint.

Wear and tear is also a big factor when it comes to value retention for old cell phones. People like phones that do not show heavy signs of wear regardless of the fact that they function properly. This might be a natural tendency based not only on appearance but also the assumption that if it looks good then chances are it was well taken care of. This of course creates opportunities for those of you who wish to explore the option of refurbishing old cell phones.