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How to sell your phone to get the most cash you can

These practical tips could help earn you more cash for your old iPhone or Android phone.

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More money is better than less when you trade in or resell your phone.

Angela Lang/CNET

A recent report suggested that the Galaxy S10 depreciated by 50% in 30 days, highlighting that phones, like any major purchase, lose value the moment you start to use them. But unlike a refrigerator and most cars, you're not going to keep a phone for five, 10 or 20 years before getting a new one. Most of us either resell our phones or trade them in to a carrier when we decide it's time to upgrade. Either way, we have the same goal: Get the most cash or biggest trade-in value you can. 

The case of the Galaxy S10 is alarming, since the phone is Samsung's most recent flagship model and since you can typically resell a months-old device for a good chunk of what you originally paid for it. 

While you don't have control over the rate of phone depreciation, you can take an active role in keeping as much value as you can by taking good care of your device. This is something you need to start thinking about now, not days before you're ready to move on. Here's what you need to look out for.

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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 beautiful gradient design or color, but if you want to keep your phone looking dent- and crack-free 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.

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.

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, 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.

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Don't ditch the box!

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Clean your phone before you sell it -- the right way

Cleanliness is money-ness: This one's important, whether you sell your phone to a stranger, through a third-party reseller like Gazelle 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 you 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.

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Nobody wants to buy your gunky phone.

Derek Poore/CNET

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.

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What else do I need to know?

In all cases, you'll need to backup 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.

Published June 16. Update, June 17, June 18, June 22 at 9:00 a.m. PT.

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