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How to sell your Mac for the most money possible

Looking to trade up to a newer model? Here's how to maximize what you get for your old one.

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Time to sell your MacBook? Make sure to follow these tips.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Whenever Apple trots out new hardware -- as it did most recently with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro earlier this month -- it's only natural to look at your old hardware and think, "Time for an upgrade!" Just one problem: You're not made of money. And you already sank a hefty chunk of it into your current MacBook

So what's an upgrade-hungry user to do? Simple: Sell that old machine to help subsidize the new one.

Of course, when you do that, you'll want to squeeze every last dollar out of it, to get the absolute best trade-in deal you possibly can. Here's your handy guide to doing exactly that. This story is updated periodically to keep it current.

Read more: How to erase your old MacBook before selling it

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Know your hardware

Before you can figure out how much your MacBook is worth, you need to know exactly which MacBook you have. You can find the model number on the bottom of the system or, if it's handy, the box it came in. Either way, that number will reveal most of the key specs about the system: processor speed, RAM, storage and even color name. 

For example, if it's a MacBook MJLQ2LL/A, you'll know it has a 2.2GHz Core i7 processor, 15.4-inch display and 256GB solid-state drive. Head to Apple's Tech Specs page to get the full details regarding your model, or just peruse this list of MacBook Pro models.

Now that you know exactly what you're selling, you have two main options for selling it.

Read more: 7 used items to never buy or sell

Option 1: Sell it yourself

As with selling your car, you'll most likely get the most money if you sell your used MacBook yourself. And there are three effective ways to do that:

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace

The venerable free want-ad site Craigslist makes it pretty easy to create a listing -- just write up the details, add some photos and you're done.

Now for the downside: A MacBook is a big-ticket item, and that greatly increases your risk of getting ripped off or mugged or worse. Think about it: Do you really want to meet a stranger in a parking lot and hand over your MacBook in exchange for a big wad of cash? The current coronavirus pandemic only complicates such an in-person transaction.

If you do decide to try this option, at least make sure to meet your buyer in a well-lit, public place. (Some police departments offer their parking lots as transaction sites .) Make sure to be completely honest about the condition of your hardware so the buyer doesn't feel surprised or taken advantage of.

Then there's Facebook Marketplace, which operates very similarly to Craigslist, with one key difference: It's linked to your Facebook account, so there's less anonymity. (It also has a snazzier interface, if that matters.) 

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

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Selling an old MacBook is one way to pocket some extra cash.

Angela Lang/CNET

eBay

It takes more work, but eBay is definitely the safer way to sell a used MacBook than Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. It also exposes you to a much wider audience of potential buyers, meaning you might fetch a higher price -- though you also have a lot more competing sellers as well.

The cost of creating an eBay listing is quite low, but the company takes a hefty 10% of the final selling price. And if you accept payment through PayPal, you'll be charged an additional fee of 2.9% (3.9% if sold internationally) of the final value.

You'll need to decide whether to auction off your MacBook or set a Buy It Now price. The latter can help you make the sale more quickly, and it also gives you greater control over what you'll make. Best bet: Check the Buy It Now prices that others have set for your same model, then undercut them by a few bucks.

Just be sure to take note of eBay's buyer and seller protection policies, which tend to favor the buyer in the event that, say, your MacBook won't boot or arrives with a cracked screen. In other words, sellers need to do their homework, too.

Option 2: Trade it in

Apple has a trade-in program for many of its products, including MacBooks. Plug in the details of your machine and you can get money for it in the form of an Apple Store Gift Card or a credit toward your next purchase. To give you an example, my MacBook Pro with a 13-inch display and Touch Bar from 2016 that's in fine working order would fetch me $520. If Apple determines your ancient MacBook holds no value, it'll let you recycle it for free. 

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Trading in your MacBook to a store or to Apple itself could let you recoup some money from an older laptop.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

You can mail in your MacBook or bring it to an Apple Store to trade in or recycle it, but it's unclear how in-person trade-ins will work as Apple begins to reopen its retail stores. You can stay home and use Apple's online service to get a quote and complete the trade-in, however, or call your local Apple Store for more details.

Apple's not the only trade-in option. Best Buy accepts used MacBooks in its trade-in program, although you'll need to mail in your machine because Best Buy has temporarily suspended in-store trade-ins due to the coronavirus outbreak. I entered the details for my 4-year-old MacBook Pro on Best Buy's site and was told it's worth $461 -- not a small sum but still $59 less than Apple's quote.

If you prefer cash as opposed to credit, check out sites like BuyBackWorld, Gazelle and ItsWorthMore -- they will pay for your MacBook via check, PayPal or Zelle. But the process can be a little time-consuming, because you have to ship your system and wait for it to be evaluated. And if the company finds any problems with it, you may get less money than you were originally quoted.

Have you ever sold a used MacBook? What method did you use, and how did it turn out? Share your stories in the comments!