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Sell your used iPad for maximum profit

Eyeballing a new tablet? Here's how to get the most cash for your old one.

cnet-ipad-black-friday

Turn an old iPad into cold, hard cash (or credit, which has no temperature to speak of).

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you own an iPad ($356 at eBay) that's more than three or four years old, you might find it getting a little sluggish. Maybe you've run out of storage space, or the processor won't support the latest versions of Apple's operating system. Whatever the case, you're thinking it's time to sell. (Another option: repurpose that old iPad.) Whatever money you make can go toward a newer model -- or perhaps even a different tablet altogether. (Amazon's new Fire HD 8 Plus is pretty sweet.)

Here's the harsh truth: You're not likely to get anywhere near what you paid for your iPad (yeah, depreciation sucks), but you can at least get something. Let's take a look at some options for selling used Apple tablets for maximum profit. Note that all the pricing data listed below was accurate at the time this was published, but is subject to change based on a variety of factors.

Apple trade-in

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Apple will give you store credit for your old iPad -- but not much of it.

Apple

Apple's iPad trade-in program offers two options: Bring your tablet to an Apple Store for immediate store credit, or trade it in online for an Apple Store gift card.

How much can you expect to get? As with all sale and trade-in options, it depends on the model you have and its condition. But keep your expectations low: At this writing, Apple was offering a maximum of $130 for any non-Pro iPad and just $90 maximum for any iPad Air ($224 at Amazon). Best value you'll get for an iPad Mini ($389 at eBay)? Again, "up to $90." Not great.

To get a more exact quote, you'll need to enter your iPad's serial number.

Best Buy trade-in

Like Apple's, Best Buy's iPad trade-in option nets you store credit, which you could then turn around and apply to a new iPad (or anything else).

I used the store's online estimator for a quote on a good-condition iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi) with 32GB. Trade value: $90. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it's worth getting Best Buy's quote, especially if you want a store credit that can be used for more than just Apple products. 

Similarly, Staples and Target have trade-in programs, so if you're determined to find a brick-and-mortar destination, check those stores as well.

Instant-sale sites

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A service like GadgetGone will pay you actual cash for your iPad.

GadgetGone

If you've ever looked into selling your old phone online, you've probably heard of services like Decluttr, Gazelle and GadgetGone. These places will give you cash for your iPad, though it'll have to be shipped and inspected before you get your payout.

Starting with the aforementioned iPad Air 2, I received quotes of $93, $70 and $85 from those three services. All offer free shipping, so there's no extra cost there -- but if your item arrives in a condition that's not as you described it, you may receive less than promised. Make sure to take lots of photos before sending your iPad, just in case a dispute arises.

Want to save some time? Visit SellCell, which will quickly give you quotes from a variety of iPad-buyback services

Read more: CNET's iPad Pro 2020 review

Sell it yourself

Finally, we come to the old-standbys: Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and eBay. All three will let you list your iPad for free, though eBay charges a percentage of the final sale price. And just as selling a used car yourself is likely to net you a higher price than trading it in at the dealer, selling your iPad directly to another person should result in more cash.

That's assuming you can sell it. With so many different models floating around now, there's a definite glut, meaning values may be lower. Indeed, eBay is currently home to several zillion listings. When I checked the "sold" prices for models matching mine (the iPad Air 2), they ranged from around $130 to $180 -- still better than any trade-in or buy-back service, but don't forget the fees.

If you're OK selling locally -- meaning someone comes to your house or you meet in a public place -- you may have even better luck on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. That's potentially the best way to turn your iPad into cold, hard cash -- and possibly more of it, since no one takes a percentage.

The numbers game

Remember, all these numbers are based on current market conditions and a specific iPad SKU. You'll almost certainly encounter different values depending on when -- and what -- you sell.

A couple years ago, Apple's trade-in rates were higher, making that one of the more compelling options. Today, I'd have to recommend a service like Decluttr or GadgetGone, which make the process simple and leave you holding cash.

If you've already done this dance with your old iPad, hit the comments and share the details. How and where did you sell it, and what was the experience like?

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