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6 tips for selling your old phone and getting the most cash that you should know now

When it's time to sell or trade in your old phone, you don't want to leave money on the table. These tips could help you get more cash from your carrier or other seller when you're ready to make a deal.

Follow every tip you can to get good money for your old phone.
Angela Lang/CNET

So you want to sell your old Android phone or iPhone now, or think you might want to one day? Maybe you're eyeing a new device, like the iPhone SEGalaxy A51 or OnePlus 8 ($501 at Amazon) and want to recoup some of the costs. Or perhaps you have older phones laying around that you don't really use and haven't repurposed. Or maybe you're simplifying by moving from a pricier model, like the Galaxy S10 Plus ($470 at Walmart) or iPhone XS ($290 at eBay), to a cheaper phone and you just want a little more cash in your pocket.

Whatever the reason, it's important to know your options for selling your phone or trading it in to a carrier, or using a peer-to-peer marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, and how to get the most money for your device. While you can't control the rate of phone depreciation, selling a device in good condition could make hundreds of dollars of difference. The key is to think about these things now, not days before you're ready to move on. Here's what you need to look out for.

Read more: Best places to sell your used electronics in 2020


Cracks like this will cost you hundreds of dollars.

Angela Lang/CNET

Whatever you do, don't skip the case

Yes, it's ugly. Yes, you need one: You probably already use a case to keep your phone's delicate glass screen and back from breaking. We know, we know, it ruins the appeal of a particularly slick gradient color or design, but if you want to keep your phone free of dents and cracks when you sell it, a case is the way to go.

Smart tip: Buy the case before you start using your phone. Phones can and do drop and shatter within minutes of coming out of the box.

What to look for: Complete coverage all around the edges, and some sort of rise -- even a small one -- between the screen and the lip of the case.

Read more7 used items to never buy or sell

Buy a screen protector. Now

Why you need it: Screen protectors are sacrificial screens that you layer on top of the phone's original display -- buy a glass one, not plastic. There are oodles of them in your carrier store and online. A good one can cost you, but a $30 screen protector is worth it in the long run if it helps you nab hundreds of dollars more for your phone when it comes time to sell it or trade it in.

Keep a spare: Screen protectors can break when you drop the phone -- that's what they're for. It's not a bad idea to keep a spare on hand in case yours breaks, so you won't have a gap in protection if you do need to switch it out. If you don't need it and you sell your phone on the open market, you can bundle in the screen protector as part of the price.


Don't ditch the box!

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Keep the box and all the parts

Really!: Carriers will prefer to have your original charger, but may not care about the box when you trade-in a phone. But if you sell the phone through Craigslist or Swappa, for example, your buyer will. Reboxing the phone in its original condition -- or as close as you can get to it -- will make your device more appealing, which will translate into more bucks.

What about the case? You can sell that, too.

Read more: The best ways to sell or trade in your old iPhone in 2020  

clean smartphone

Nobody wants to buy your gunky phone.

Derek Poore/CNET

Really clean your phone before you sell it

Cleanliness is money-ness: This one's important, whether you sell your phone to a stranger, through a third-party reseller like Decluttr or back to the carrier or manufacturer. You'll get more for a phone that looks and works like new than you will for a crusty handset that's merely limping along.

Since you won't get paid until the buyer inspects your device, you may not wind up with your asking price if the used phone doesn't match up to expectations. Cleaning your phone the right way before sending it in is well worth the effort.

What about the parts? Wipe down the box and case with a lightly damp cloth or paper towel, too. Nobody's buying your grime.

Now playing: Watch this: How to clean your phone (and things to never do)

Repairing a cracked screen could be worth it

Work the math: You might wind up with more in your pocket if you repair a broken phone (e.g. through U Break I Fix or Apple stores) before trying to sell it to a third-party reseller or trading it in.

Why even bother? Broken phones still retain some value because they can be refurbished or stripped for parts to either recycle or repair other phones for resale.

How to tell: Go on a third-party reseller site or your carrier's trade-in site to see how much they estimate the value to be for your cracked-screen or water-damaged phone, versus the value for a phone with no damage. Then compare that to the cost of a repair. If there's enough of a difference (e.g. your phone is fairly new or in high demand), it might be worth the hassle.

Read more: Best cell phone trade-in options for iPhones and Android phones

What else do I need to know?

In all cases, you'll need to back up your phone and return it to factory settings before handing it off. This will help protect your identity and make sure you keep all the photos and other data you need to switch over to a new device. There's much more information here about reselling a phone, including some suggestions for third-party resellers and how to compare pricing so you get the most bucks.

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