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Sorry, Apple won't let you trade in your old AirPods

To keep things sanitary, Apple won't accept old AirPods. Here's what you can do to save a little money instead.


What can you do with your old AirPods?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Are you planning to buy Apple's new AirPods 3, but want to save some money? You may be eyeing the early Black Friday deals at Best Buy, Walmart, Target and more (here are the best deals on earbuds so far). But if you already own a pair of the second-generation AirPods (or older) and want to upgrade, you could be wondering: Can I trade in my older set? 

The answer is no, at least not with Apple. While Apple accepts trade-ins for iPhones as far back as the iPhone 6S (carrier trade-in deals are some of the iPhone 13's best features) and the Apple Watch -- and even gives credit for several eligible Android devices -- trade-in offers don't extend to AirPods of any sort. In fact, your only option through Apple is to recycle your old earbuds.

Read more: AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro

Now playing: Watch this: Apple introduces AirPods 3

Why won't Apple take back old AirPods?

One reason you may not be able to trade in old AirPods could come down to sanitation. Earbuds by definition enter the human body -- in this case, the ear canal where ear wax (also known as cerumen) accumulates and drains. It's a natural process, but it has a tremendous ick factor, and Apple may not want to take on a cleaning process or liability for decrusting and refurbishing ear gunk. (Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.)

Another reason Apple may not accept your used AirPods could come down to economics. With the new AirPods 3 starting at $179 (£169, AU$279), the financial overhead to clean and repair old AirPods and then resell them for a fraction of the price may not make sense for Apple's bottom line. Demand may just be too low, or the process too impractical.

Can you sell used AirPods online anywhere else?

We did find other places where you can sell your AirPods online to save up money for the newest third-generation AirPods, such as Decluttr and BuyBackWorld. Or you can trade your earbuds in to Best Buy or Amazon and receive your money on a gift card -- just don't expect a huge payout, even for items in good condition. 

For instance, second-generation AirPods in good working condition with all charging components will get you $40 with a trade-in at Best Buy. That's better than nothing, but it won't cover even half the cost of a new set.

Now playing: Watch this: The biggest announcements from Apple's October 2021 event

If you're looking to offset the cost to buy the AirPods 3, another option is to pay in monthly installments using an Apple Card, so you'd only pay $11 upfront and the rest of the balance down the road.

For more information, here's how to customize your AirPods 3 case for free, tricks to try with your new AirPods, and the best AirPods alternatives. Plus, 3 things that make us think the AirPods 3 aren't such a great value after all.