Phones

The best ways to sell or trade in your iPhone

When, where and how to sell your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus.

James Martin/CNET

So you're ready to preorder the new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Problem is, you've got an iPhone 7 -- and you probably paid a pretty penny for it.

Solution: Sell that old iPhone to help subsidize the new one. Here's how to get rid of it in the most profitable manner possible.

(See also: 4 tips for buying a used iPhone)

Do it right now

Stop wasting your time. The closer we get to the iPhone 8 preorder day, the less your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus will be worth. According to trade-in site Gazelle.com's general manager, Yanyan Ji, the most recent iPhone model drops as much as $100 in value after the new iPhone is released, and previous models can drop between 10 and 20 percent, depending on consumer response.

If you have a backup phone -- or can borrow one -- sell your phone right now. If that's not an option, some sites (including Gazelle) give you a grace period of up 30 days before you send in your phone.

Before you sell

Whether you sell your iPhone by yourself or trade it in to a third-party company, there are a few things you should do to make sure your data is safe:

  • Back it up: Back up all of your important data -- including contact, photos, videos and apps -- using Apple's iCloud service or a third-party cloud storage service.
  • Turn off Find My iPhone: Find My iPhone is a security feature that must be turned off before you sell your phone -- or nobody else will be able to use or reset it. To turn off Find My iPhone, open the Settings app on your iPhone and go to iCloud > Find My iPhone and toggle it off.
  • Wipe it: Sign out of all apps, services and connected accounts (like iCloud). Then, open the Settings app and go to General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings to erase everything from your iPhone. Once this is complete, you can also go to General > Reset > Reset All Settings to restore the iPhone to factory settings, just in case.

You'll get the most money for your phone if it's in tip-top shape, but you'll still do well if it's in "good" condition: No cracks in the screen, no big dents or scratches in the casing, no water damage and everything is working well (the phone turns on and holds a charge).

What if your iPhone is damaged?

If your phone is damaged you can still get something for it, even if it doesn't turn on. It's not worth it to repair a cracked screen before you sell, but if your screen is only slightly damaged -- a small hairline crack in the corner, for example -- you may want to sell it on your own instead of trading it in. Trade-ins generally put all cracked screens, from hairline cracks to completely shattered, into one category, but an individual may be willing to overlook superficial screen damage for a good price.

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Option 1: Sell it yourself

Selling your iPhone by yourself will net you the most profit, but it can be risky.

Craigslist

Craigslist is the riskiest option, but you will get cash for your device. The biggest challenge here isn't finding customers -- it's getting them to show up. Be prepared for flakes.

If you do decide to use Craigslist or another in-person option, make sure you meet your buyer in a well-lit, public place (many police departments offer their parking lots as transaction sites). For the smoothest transaction, make the agreement clear prior to meeting -- your customer should know the price, condition of the phone and its wireless carrier in advance.

eBay

If you don't mind putting in a little work -- listing, shipping and paying a small sales fee -- eBay is a better option than Craigslist for selling your used iPhone. Because eBay offers its buyers purchase protection, people are more comfortable buying from strangers.

The downside? Fees. eBay does charge a sales fee for products that are sold through its site: 10 percent of the final value (selling price). If you accept payment through PayPal, it charges a fee of 2.9 percent (4 percent if sold internationally) of the final value.

To price your device, search for your model on eBay and check the "sold" listings. At the time of this article, these are the ballpark going rates (sold items) for used iPhones on eBay:

  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $320-$590
  • iPhone 7 Plus (32GB): $320-$600

The main downside to selling your iPhone on eBay is the potential risk of buyers' remorse. eBay offers both the seller and the buyer protection, but tends to side with the buyer in the event of a dispute, and scammers know how to take advantage of this. You can minimize your risk by documenting everything and shipping your device via a trackable service with proof of delivery.

Option 2: Trade it in

Trading in your device for cash, store credit or gift cards is the least profitable option, but you also won't be liable for any issues with the device once it leaves your hands. (Plus, if your iPhone is in less-than-great condition, some companies will still take it -- even if it doesn't turn on at all.) Trading in your iPhone instead of selling it is a great option if you're willing to give up a little profit for convenience and peace of mind.

I dug around for the trade-in options and found values can vary significantly depending on a number of factors. There's model and storage capacity, of course, but also color and carrier. You're also likely to get a price bump if your phone is unlocked and already has Find My iPhone deactivated (see above).

Here are some sample prices from Apple, Best Buy, Gazelle and Nextworth.

Apple's Trade Up program

At press time, Apple's trade-up program wasn't offering any deals on the iPhone 7 series. However, if you have an older model, this is a potentially easy way to make your way to a new one, as trades net you Apple Store credit. 

Apple's estimated trade-in values (which vary depending on model and condition) are as follows: 

  • iPhone 6S: Up to $215
  • iPhone 6S Plus: Up to $260
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus: Not available until after iPhone 8 devices are announced.

Best Buy Trade In

In the past, Best Buy offered some of the better trade-in prices, but as of this writing, the big-box store's rates seem a little mixed. What's more, your money is paid out in Best Buy gift cards. That's fine if you're a Best Buy fan, or plan to buy your next iPhone there, but not ideal if you're looking to buy elsewhere.

Best Buy's trade values are based on carrier, color, capacity and, of course, condition. A few examples:

  • iPhone 7 (128GB) on Sprint, jet-black, good condition: $214
  • iPhone 7 Plus (256GB) on Sprint, silver, good condition: $252

Gazelle

Gazelle is a third-party trade-in company that offers straight cash (via check or PayPal; they also have an Amazon gift card option) for your device. If your iPhone is broken and no longer turns on, there's a good chance Gazelle will still pay you between $50 and $75. Gazelle tends to offer less for carrier-locked phones, so you may want to unlock your phone before trading it in.

  • iPhone 7 (256GB), flawless condition: Up to $375
  • iPhone 7 Plus (256GB), flawless condition: Up to $420

Nextworth

Nextworth, like Gazelle, is a trade-in company that offers cash via check or PayPal. Nextworth also pays for broken phones. Unlike Gazelle, Nextworth offers more for some carriers, specifically Verizon. In fact, Nextworth will give you $315 for a 128GB Verizon-locked iPhone 7 in perfect condition, versus $300 for the same phone unlocked.

  • iPhone 7 (128GB), gold, unlocked: $300
  • iPhone 7 (128GB), silver, Verizon: $315
  • iPhone 7 Plus (256GB), gold, unlocked: $350
  • iPhone 7 Plus (256GB), rose gold, Sprint: $345

Have you ever sold or traded an iPhone? If so, what method did you use, and how was the experience?

Editors' note: This article was originally published on Aug. 22, 2016, and has since been updated to include iPhone 7-specific information.

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