Almost everyone has a cell phone.
Some spend way more time on them than others, but almost everyone has one.
When people buy a cell phone though, they often upgrade after a couple of years and their old phones need to go somewhere. Rather than sitting on the shelf, people often sell them on one website or another.
That’s pretty easy to do in itself, but my point here is that people ARE buying and selling used cell phones on the internet.
Since you are reading this, I’m guessing you want to sell more than just your old phone right? Yep.
Here are some of the best ways to buy and sell a cell phone online, along with some practical tips for getting started.
Buying Good Condition Cell Phones For The Lowest Price
There are many places to buy cell phones, online or offline.
As someone looking to make money doing this however, the key is getting the right phone, in good condition, for the right price.
Before you know what you can buy a cell phone for, you need to know what you can potentially sell it for. Makes sense right?
To price a given phone, one useful site is called Flipsy.com.
This site allows you to put the details of your phone into the box, and it then shows you a list of sites that will pay for that model, along with how much and in what condition.
For the purpose of this article, I decided to use the iPhone 6 16GB as a benchmark since it’s a very popular used phone.
Here’s what Flipsy gave me:
Note: I use this phone for all the examples in this article to make comparing easier.
You can’t see all of the result in that screenshot, but as of writing this they estimate the prices at between $115- $211 for that model.
There are many more opportunities to get a better price than this. This is just one directory site that lists selected sites that will pay you for that phone. However, the good thing about these numbers is they are fairly conservative so you can get a good idea of a “worst case” for a good condition model.
Once we get into the “selling” section though, you will see there are more sites to use for comparison purposes. You will also see that it really does depend where you sell as to how much you can potentially make.
So, even though the “buying” comes first, it’s well worth spending the time to research the market and figure out where you are going to be selling, and what the going rate is. That way, you will have a much better idea on what you can pay for a given handset.
Once you have an idea on prices, it’s now time to source your phone.
Amazon, eBay and Craigslist
I did some digging to find a deal on the iPhone 6 and there were plenty of these going for between $220-$449 on Amazon. The higher prices appeared to be for refurbished models which is worth thinking about. If you can source a genuine refurbished model people may be willing to pay more.
I also checked out eBay and in terms of low prices, there wasn’t much to get excited about for the iPhone 6 at least. It does depend on when you look though, and there may be good deals to be had at times, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Another way to source cheap phones is through Craigslist, there are practically endless deals on this site across the US. These sellers are often open to offers, which means if you have some skill you could negotiate better prices. This will naturally involve more hustling than buying from a website, but the lower prices could be worth the effort. Some people even setup an advertisement that shows people they are wanting to buy old phones which may be worth doing.
Another avenue is legitimate wholesale websites.
One of these sites is called CellPex.com which has a ton of used, refurbished, and even new phones. Some sellers rehire you to buy in bulk which means you can save if you have the capital, while others do not require a minimum.
I was able to find the iPhone 6 16GB for $210 with no minimum order quantity:
I found other sellers offering refurbished units at not much more than this, with a mime order quantity of 10. There are also some useful stats you can check which allow you to see the state of the market for each model, and check the history of the seller among there things which are handy.
Another wholesale site is called DigiCircle.com which lists a boatload of low priced handsets:
The cool thing about this site is it’s easy to find low priced deals and compare them quickly.
As you can see, I found a bunch of 6’s for way less than the going rate. The drawback is, at least in this case, many handsets have minor or even bigger issues. Some are cosmetic, while others are functional issues or are locked in some way.
This site could be great if you know how to repair phones yourself though. Thanks to YoutUbe and super cheap replacement parts from sites like eBay, this could be worth your time. But it’s a dice roll so it pays to be careful. The price may be low, but how much time and money will it cost you to get it to a sellable state? No doubt there would be some golden opportunities here, but also some real duds.
That being said, they don’t all have issues on this site and you can easily check what is wrong with each cell phone by hovering over the item. So it’s quick and easy to filter through the different issues each phone has.
One less than obvious way to source phones, is to call up local businesses. Many businesses may have a bunch of excess phones they would normally (thoughtfully) dispose of. This could be a very profitable method given the sheer number of businesses, and employees that are always upgrading. Year in, year out.
Businesses don’t have time to be selling these one by one, so it’s easier for them to sell to someone and recover their costs this way. As a budding entrepreneur, you could have a steady stream of quality phones for low prices from a trusted source. Win win.
You may only need a handful of these to turn a steady profit, and it reduces a lot of leg work once you strike a few relationships. It’s a lot easier to call a business when you are looking to BUY something from them, so don’t let fear of rejection hold you back!
Final Thoughts On Buying
There are many ways to source phones online and offline, some better than others.
The best way to buy successfully is to do your homework, and know your prices. Apart from making sure you are buying a device in good condition, another important thing to keep in mind is if it is locked, stolen, or for an iPhone, if it has “find my iPhone” activated. All of these things can be troublesome for a buyer and may indicate the phone is stolen.
Either way, it’s not good for your business.
One useful site to check this is called checkesnfree.com which allows you to plug the ESN number in and check to see if it’s above board.
Some people also find it useful to stick to one or two models so they know the pricing well, best places to source, and how to overcome technical and cosmetic issues should they arise. If you come across a cracked screen, this way you know how to fix it yourself for very little. If you find it’s locked, you can learn how to unlock them. This can also make it easier to keep track of when new models are coming out, because when they do, prices often nose dive for previous models.
Selling Cell Phones
There are many options for selling cell phones on the internet, so I thought I would list 5 sites you can leverage in different ways.
This site allows you to quickly punch in the information about your phone, and get a guaranteed price from their selected network of buyers. If you accept the offer, they will send you a prepaid shipping parcel address to the buyer, who can either accept or reject your phone.
Here’s the price they offered me:
They say they only work with the best buyers, and they do have tons of positive reviews which is cool, but there is an inherent risk that the buyer won’t accept or pay for your phone. They do say they act as your ‘advocate’ and they do include tracking with the shipping, but to what extent this risk is minimized I am unsure.
Overall tough, it does look like a good option.
The upside to this site is they buy the phone directly from you, quite quickly. So there is no listing the item, waiting for it to sell or dealing with a third party customer. It’s a one time deal.
As long the phone arrives to them as you described it, you’ll get what they offered you. If not, they will re-negotiate with you or send it back to you free of charge. This is limited to ONE sale per month, but it does appear you may be able to to do more than this but you need to enquire with them on a per case basis.
As you probably know by now, you can sell on Amazon. There is quite a bit of completion though and unless you have good reviews, it can be tough to crack into this.
One super easy way to sell a used cell phone through Amazon is with their trade-in option. You simply select the model and answer a few questions, and they give you a firm price. Once you send it in and everything checks out, they give you that agreed price.
Here’s what they offered me for a trade-in:
However, they don’t pay you in dollars, they pay you in an Amazon gift card.
As a result, this won’t be for everyone, but it may be a way you can leverage amazon if you intend on buying phones from them since you can use that gift card to source phones as well. This could work if the pricing was right on both fronts.
This is a marketplace dedicated to buying and selling tech related items such as cell phones, laptops and tablet devices. The make comparing prices and working out the “going rate” super easy and this is a great option for both buying and selling.
Here’s what they gave me when I punched in my example phone:
As you can see, they give you the current trends as well which is helpful. The 16GB 6’s were going for $225-$479 which is better than the last two sites as well.
Also, you are selling directly to the end user this way and there are zero selling fees, the buyer pays a small fee in addition to the sale price. They have other measures in place to protect both buyers and sellers and look like a very good option.
One very simple, and potentially effective, means of selling is with CraigsList.
The going rate for our example iPhone is between $275-$350 which isn’t too bad. Given the sheer number of people using this site it’s a quick and easy way to get your phone in front of buyers.
You will need to pick items up in most cases though, since this is primarily a “local” style website where people meet up and exchange in person.
It seems CL does charge a small fee per post, which is worth checking out so you know what you are up for in that respect.
If you are meeting anyone in person, it pays to be safe. I know this goes without saying, but some people have been mugged this way, so it’s worth taking precautions if you intend on doing a lot of face to face stuff.
Final Thoughts On Selling
It seems the easier it is to sell (usell.com, maxback.com and Amazon trade-in) the lower the price you get, but the easier it is. On the other hand, if you are willing to do your due diligence, you could potentially make more on sites like swappa.com and craigslist.org.
Depending on which option you go with, you may want to offer low prices at first while you build your reputation. As positive reviews come in, you can steadily increase your prices. People are more inclined to buy when the seller has positive reviews and the quickest way to get these is to turn over stock as quickly as possible upfront, as well as actually giving people value of course!
You should also take clear photos, describe your time accurately and be clear about any defects too as this will increase your chances of selling and build your reputation as a seller.
An Alternative Business Model
Buying and selling products online can be very lucrative, or a great way to make some extra cash. No doubt.
But it’s not the only way, and it can be very competitive.
An alternative to this is selling other people’s products as an affiliate. You don’t need to stock any inventory, or buy anything yourself, and it’s free to join most good affiliate programs. For example, you can join the Amazon Associates program and promote anything on their site, there are millions of products and many untapped niches to get into.
This is a much simpler model, and potentially more lucrative. I learned how to do this through a site called Wealthy Affiliate, which is free to start and they give you a website to get rolling. It will take some time to get profitable, but like anything, you absolutely can do it by applying yourself and it can well worth the effort.