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Best cell phone trade-in options for iPhone, Android and Windows phones

Welcome to the CNET 2018 directory of gadget trade-in providers. In this directory, we rate some of the best trade-in options where you can get top dollar for your devices.

Josh Miller

Welcome to the CNET 2018 directory of gadget trade-in providers. We'll look at a few of the best trade-in options where you can get top dollar for your devices.

Every service is different, and their pricing changes by the day. They also assign values based on the condition of the device you're trading in, and even its color. That means you're going to have to shop around. Below our list of merchants is our basic FAQ of carriers, buyers, marketplaces, how we calculated our offer snapshot value and more.  CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of these products and services offered by our partners.  

Let's look at each of the buyers below in a little more depth. 


Amazon: 4/5

  • Offer snapshot: -11 percent     
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Action cameras: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Other: Kindle, books, video, more

It's fitting I start the online trade-in ratings with the king of online e-commerce, Amazon offers trade-in pricing for a large number of items, including books and videos. Because Amazon also has its own marketplace, you can also choose to list pretty much anything and expect to have a chance to sell it through Amazon.

I focused specifically on the Amazon Trade-in offering only. If you're not a regular Amazon customer, you might be disappointed to find that Amazon only pays in Amazon Gift Cards. For those of us who are dedicated Prime users, that's pretty much the same as cash, but you need to decide.

There's long been a rumor that Prime customers get better trade-in prices than non-Prime customers, but when I asked Amazon, I was told that everyone was treated equally. Given our snapshot trade-in price was rather low (and I did it logged in as a Prime user), I tend to think this is true.

In terms of the mechanics of the trade-in, Amazon will send you a prepaid shipping label you can print out. Pack the device yourself in your own packaging (like an old Amazon box) and send it back. You should clear your phone of data, but Amazon will also do that for you. Make sure you don't dawdle when shipping your item. The quote time is valid only for seven days, and you should get paid in about 10 business days.

With one of the lower snapshot rates, why should you use Amazon as a trade-in buyer? Simply, the answer is that it's Amazon. If you like dealing with it, go ahead. Otherwise, there are better deals out there.

See more Amazon trade-in information

Apple logo at WWDC 2013

James Martin/CNET

Apple: 4/5

  • Offer snapshot: +16 percent
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes

Apple offers two ways to trade in your iPhones and iPads. You can either walk into an Apple Store or use an online service run by Apple partner BrightStar. 

Either way, don't expect to trade in your iPhone and get money you can use to go out and buy that hot new Google Pixel 2 phone. Apple's trade-in services only give you Apple Gift Cards. If you're staying in the Apple ecosystem, this might work for you. If you're jumping ship or just need the money, you'll need to look to another alternative.

I liked the convenience of a walk-in trade-in, assuming you're near an Apple Store. If you go the online route, BrightStar will pay for your shipping. Pack the device yourself in your own packaging and send it back. You should clear your phone of data, but BrightStar will also do that for you. Quote time is valid only for 14 days, and you should get paid quite quickly, with the company promising two business days in most cases.

Like Amazon, going with Apple is a bit of a no-brainer. It's easy. Just don't count on that high offer snapshot valuation holding for very long. I expect that to be an anomaly. You'll probably get quotes closer to the average when you do your trade-in.

If you're wondering why Apple didn't get a 5-star rating given the good snapshot value, it's because the company lost points only accepting Apple products, for the limited types of items it accepts, and the lack of payment methods other than the Apple Gift Card. It did win points with security and support, so this is a reasonably safe choice, if you're staying all-Apple-all-the-time.

See more Apple trade-in information 


MyPhones Unlimited: 4/5 

  • Offer snapshot: -2 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Other: Apple TV, Amazon Echo

In addition to the usual suspects, My Phones Unlimited takes Apple TV generations 3 and 4 and Amazon Echo devices as trade-in options.

The company gained points for offering a prepaid shipping kit and for a 14-day offer quote guarantee. They pay by check and say they'll get your money to you within 10 business days. That's a little long, which cost them points in our rating. On the other hand, they do offer a security wipe and phone support.

They also offer iPhone, iPad and MacBook repairs. They have a storefront, so if you happen to be in Fayetteville, Arkansas, stop in.

See more MyPhones Unlimited trade-in information


Buyback World: 4.5/5 

  • Offer snapshot: -5 percent  
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Other: Lots of variety

BuyBackWorld is somewhat unique in the breadth of items it will take as trade-ins. Beyond the usual, the company buys some Apple accessories, cameras and Apple desktop machines. I liked its expansive "Everything Else" category, which accepts mobile broadband, GPS receivers, calculators, MP3 players, PDAs, headphones, Google Glass devices, camera lenses, video cameras, media players, video games, gift cards and home automation devices.

Just be aware that while there are a lot of "Everything Else" item categories, the actual products accepted are all quite limited. For example, the camera lens category only accepts certain Canon lenses.

BuyBackWorld pays by direct deposit to your bank account, a prepaid debit card or a gift card with a 5 percent bonus. If it's selling something you want, that might be a worthwhile bonus. 

I like it when trade-in vendors send a shipping kit with a label and a box, so BuyBackWorld picked up points for that. I liked its 30-day guarantee on price quotes and their claimed two days to payment policy. While the company did not specify its trade-in security practices, I found its enterprise, retail, subscription and franchise trade-in platform offerings to be interesting for the more serious phone arbitrage player.

See more BuyBack World trade-in information


ecoATM: 5/5 

  • Offer snapshot: -37 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Portable audio: Yes

I think I can safely say that ecoATM has the most interesting tech of all our contenders. The ATM in its name is real. It has a network of 2,000 ATM-style trade-in kiosks across the US.

The kiosk system is very slick. It does a physical scan of the outside of a device you want to trade in and then, through a dongle, an internal scan of the device. After gathering a lot of ID information (including a scan of your driver's license and a thumbprint), the kiosk will offer a quote. If you like the quote, the device will spit out cash and eat your phone.

This is all done automatically, in minutes. The company works with law enforcement and, in concert with the ID system, makes it very hard to turn in a stolen phone.

These folks are not newcomers to the kiosk business. It was founded by the same Coinstar group that created Redbox, but split out in 2016. It also owns the popular online trade-in site Gazelle, which is profiled further down in this directory.

Even though the snapshot quote price I found was the lowest of all the companies profiled here, ecoATM still scored 5 out of 5 based on other factors. The biggest points, of course, were for instant payment. There's no shipping, no packing, no waiting for payment, no wondering if they'll agree with your representation of your device's condition. Just place the phone in the machine, follow the directions, and if you like the amount it offers, cash is handed back to you.

Support and security are also quite good, with a view towards preventing stolen phones and telephone support for sellers with any questions. 

See more ecoATM trade-in information


GadgetGone: 4/5 

  • Offer snapshot: +13 percent
  • Smartphones: iPhones only
  • Other: Contact merchant directly 

If you want to sell your iPhone (and only your iPhone) to a company with a fun tag line, GadgetGone is for you. The site has "Goodbye iPhone. Hello Moola" plastered on the front page, just in case you didn't understand what it does. It claims to take items other than iPhones, but its online estimator only works for iPhones. You have to email to find out what else it's interested in.

The company pays by check and PayPal, but also will pay you using a "printable echeck." While printable checks are a pretty standard practice for some businesses, you probably should ask your bank whether they'll accept a check printed out on your inkjet.

The company got points for its claimed "two days to payment" policy, but lost points for not specifying any security practices, how long its price offer is good for, providing no clear method for phone support, and, actually, providing almost no background on the company. With the second highest snapshot offer value, it still scored 4 out of 5.

See more GadgetGone trade-in information


Gazelle: 5/5 

  • Offer snapshot: +3 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Apple
  • Other: Apple Display, Apple TV

Gazelle is probably one of the better known trade-in buyers because of its widespread advertising program. Fortunately, it lives up to the hype. Gazelle is owned by our other 5-rated winner, ecoATM, and the two companies offer similar services. If you want walk-up instant payments, then you want an ecoATM kiosk. If you'd prefer to do your business online (and possibly get a better price), use Gazelle.

Gazelle picked up points for its prepaid shipping kit, so you don't need to worry if you can protect your device well enough for shipping. It has a strong security policy and phone support. It pays by check, PayPal or Amazon Gift Card. It guarantees its offer price for 30 days and claims to pay within 3-5 days.

Gazelle's recycle policy is a little opaque. "Recently, we have changed our focus to concentrate on helping people with items that still hold some value and can be reused," it says. "If it turns out that an item you send us actually does not have value, we will make sure it is responsibly recycled. If we receive an item which is not in our catalog, our standard policy dictates that a customer would like the item recycled." This basically means, "We'd prefer you not send us your junk, but if you do, we'll get rid of it."

See more Gazelle trade-in information


igotoffer: 4/5 

  • Offer snapshot: +9 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Other: Macs

If you dig deep in its menu system, you will find Samsung and Google phones listed for trade-in at igotoffer, but this is mostly an Apple-branded trade-in shop. Not only does it make offers on Apple phones, but also on Mac Pros, Apple Displays and Apple TVs. Its deals aren't bad for Macs. I priced out my beloved 2012 Mac Mini, and the offer came back at a pretty reasonable $330.

igotoffer lost some points by not specifying some important information, like how long its offer quote is good for, whether it provides a security wipe on your data (you should do it anyway), or offering telephone support.

If you do want to trade in your iPhone, the company will email you a prepaid shipping label you can print out. That's workable, but I prefer the full shipping kit with a box designed to protect your device. igotoffer says it pays within three business days by check, PayPal or Amazon Gift Card.

See more igotoffer trade-in information


ItsWorthMore: 4/5

  • Offer snapshot: +6 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Desktops: Yes

Most of what ItsWorthMore accepts are Apple products, but the company also lists Android devices and some other laptops and tablets.

The company gained points for its good offer snapshot score, providing a 14-day offer quote guarantee, providing a prepaid shipping label, paying within three business days and providing phone support.

ItsWorthMore pays by check and PayPal, but here's a kicker. If you ask for payment via PayPal, the company deducts 3 percent to cover its PayPal fees. It's a little too nickel-and-dime for our tastes and makes us wonder whether it'll be generous in its final payment determinations or be just a little too cheap. If you use this service, let us know how it did from quote to final payment in the comments below.

See more ItsWorthMore trade-in information


NextWorth: 4.5/5 

  • Offer snapshot: -5 percent 
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Action cameras: Yes
  • Wearables: Yes
  • Portable audio: Yes

NextWorth gained points from us for taking in a wide variety of trade-in categories, including GoPro action cameras and wearables. It will even accept some portable audio devices.

The company does not send a shipping kit, but will let you download a prepaid shipping label you can print out. It also offers a security wipe and phone support.

Payment is available via either check or PayPal. NextWorth picked up points for its generous 30-day offer quote time period. Payment ranges from five to 12 days, and the company does offer a limited number of walk-in locations where you can make your sale.

See more NextWorth trade-in information


uSell: 4.5/5  

  • Offer snapshot: +8 percent
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes
  • Other: Games, textbooks, giftcards

In addition to the typical things most of the trade-in buyers will accept, uSell will buy game consoles, textbooks and gift cards. As someone who has gotten his fair share of gift cards from clothing stores he will never voluntarily set foot into, I can see the value in trading those in for something useful with a circuit board inside.

In addition to providing value for those otherwise unused gift cards, uSell gained points for offering a prepaid shipping kit, five-day payment, and the option to get paid by check or PayPal. I was disappointed that the company didn't specify a quote validity time period, offer a security wipe or a phone support number.

Even so, with the unique trade-in items accepted, the company did earn 4.5 out of 5.

See more uSell trade-in information


YouRenew: 4/5  

  • Offer snapshot: -15 percent
  • Smartphones: Yes
  • Tablets: Yes
  • Laptops: Yes
  • iPods: Yes

YouRenew has a pretty sophisticated search option, which allows you to type in a make and model of something you want to trade in, and see if there's something there. While "play" didn't result in any PlayStation trade-in options, "kindle" brought up Kindle trade-in options, and "mini" brought up Mac Mini trade-in options.

YouRenew will send a prepaid shipping label to US-based sellers only, and pays by check. While the company didn't specify how long its quotes are valid for or how long it will take to get paid, YouRenew does accept bulk trade-in offers for those with many devices to clear out of inventory.

I was also happy to see that the company does offer a security wipe and a support phone number.

See more YouRenew trade-in information

When looking for value from your old phone, there are four types of organizations you can work with: retailers, buyers, marketplaces and carriers. The characteristics of each are quite different:

Retailers: These are the brick-and-mortar stores in your neighborhood, ranging from Walmart and Target all the way to the remaining Radio Shack locations. In many cases, you can walk into the retailer, hand over your old phone and walk out with a new one, with a healthy discount applied. Many of these retailers won't just give you money for your old phone. They want the deal for your new business, so keep that in mind. Some also offer online trade-ins.

Buyers: These folks want your phones and will give you money or credit for them. They generally won't force you to buy a new device from them (although expect some deal sweeteners if you go that way). Some of them will send you packaging to send your device back to them. This is the group I look at in this guide because they generally send you real money in return for your device, which means you're free to buy anything you want once you get your green.

Marketplaces: This option includes the classic resell methods like Craigslist and eBay, along with some specialty referral marketplaces like GlydeSwappa and Flipsy, which are built around the idea of trading in gadgets. Here, you're often dealing directly with individual buyers (or bulk buyers who are scooping up phones for other markets). Keep in mind that there is substantially more risk when selling to individuals than companies with known reputations.

Carriers: These are the cellular service providers and almost all of them have some sort of trade-in program, to encourage you to trade up to the next model and keep their service.

Keep those concepts in mind as you look for the best deal for your device. Our trade-in service rankings are based on 25 factors including a snapshot price at the time of the article, time to pay, how long a quote is valid, the types of devices you can trade in, and support offers, among others. 

About the snapshot quote value:
Since everyone wants to know who pays more, I did a very unscientific (and probably unreliable) test. In the space of one hour, I visited the site for each vendor I profiled and priced out a quick snapshot what they would pay for a 32GB silver iPhone 7 on Verizon, in flawless (but not new, in box) condition. I averaged the prices and show you the percentage above or below that average.

Please keep in mind that vendors may pay wildly different prices based on many fluid factors, so the price I got on one day might be totally different from offered on another day. Also, keep in mind that it's the opinion of the CNET and ZDNet editors I surveyed who regularly do trade-ins that you're very unlikely to ever get the flawless price offered. Most likely, each vendor will "ding" your phone's rating just a bit, to offer you the next tier down in price.

Full disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of these products and services offered by our partners.