The Best Time to Sell Your Used iPhone Is RIGHT NOW

Timer app on an iPhone
Timer app on an iPhone

(Getty Images)

It’s the worst-kept secret on the planet. We now know that Apple is announcing something on Sept. 9, and the smart money is that it will unveil a new iPhone (or possibly two new iPhones and a wearable, watch-like device).

As a result, prices for used Apple smartphones are steadily dropping — just like they always do prior to a new iPhone-palooza. In fact, according to gadget recommerce site Gazelle, over the past three years, prices for used iPhones have dropped roughly 20 percent in value during the month before a launch. NextWorth, which tracks average eBay sale prices for iPhones, says the drop is closer to 25 percent.



If you have an aging iPhone and you want to get the most for it before you inevitably upgrade to the latest and greatest, the time to sell is now. 

Like, right now.

And yesterday would be even better.

Buy here now
Not everyone agrees that used iPhone prices are tanking. Nik Raman, co-founder of uSell, says prices on his buying marketplace may actually rise slightly before the launch, because he’s temporarily dropping the commission his site makes on each sale. But he also notes that prices traditionally drop another 15 to 20 percentage points after the announcement. So that’s a potential 40 percent drop in how much you can get for your iPhone if you wait too long.

Gazelle, NextWorth, and uSell offer 30-day price guarantees, so you can lock in a buyback price and then hold onto your old handset until you have the new one safely in hand.

Here’s a snapshot of how prices among the leading gadget resellers compared as of Tuesday afternoon. All prices are for base model 16 GB white or silver iPhones in good condition.


There are several obvious conclusions you can draw from this data.

• If you’ve got a Verizon iPhone, you’ll get more for it. The reason? They’re easier to unlock in bulk, making them more attractive to buyers who make their money selling them to overseas markets, Raman says.

• If you’ve got a Sprint handset, you won’t get very much. That’s because Sprint phones rely on CDMA technology that isn’t widely used abroad, Raman adds.

• Want to sell an older iPhone, like the 4s? You won’t make much. And you might as well give models older than the iPhone 4 to your kids or a recycling center — most resellers won’t accept them. (Though uSell will take your iPhone 3GS off your hands for $2.40.)

uSell screenshot with offer for iPhone 3GS
uSell screenshot with offer for iPhone 3GS

A big haul
Gazelle expects to take in 25 percent more iPhone trade-ins than it did before last fall’s launch of the iPhone 5s and 5c. That may possibly be due to rumors surrounding the iPhone 6’s allegedly larger screen, says Gazelle senior tech analyst Alyssa Voorhis.

Pent-up demand could make the iPhone 6 launch the biggest one in years, says Ramon Llamas, mobile phone research manager for IDC.

“I know way too many people who have been holding onto their smartphones for two years or more, waiting for this announcement,” he says. “Their screens are cracked, their batteries are dying quickly, but they’re still waiting. That’s the kind of devotion Apple users have in anticipation of the next iPhone.”

Don’t sell yourself short
It’s clear you’ll get far more money selling your old handset to individual buyers on sites like eBay and Amazon. But, as NextWorth Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Trachsel notes, that extra cash comes at its own price. You’ll also have to invest time in creating ads for the products, managing inquiries or bids, shipping the items, and dealing with potentially unhappy customers later.

There’s also a huge variation in the buyback prices online resellers advertise. The same iPhone 5s that Gazelle is offering to buy for $260 will fetch only $219 at NextWorth. The reason, says Trachsel, is that the prices some sites quote may end up being significantly more than what sellers actually receive, once buyers have had a chance to inspect the handsets and determine their real value. He says NextWorth tries to price phones closer to the amount buyers are likely to get.

Your options don’t end there. You can also take your aging phone in to your wireless carrier and get a healthy credit — up to $300 for a basic Verizon iPhone 5s, with current promotional prices. The downside? You’re getting store credit, not cash, which you can spend only with the carrier. (Best Buy, Target, and Walmart offer similar buyback deals.) And the stores get the chance to upsell you and lure you into new contracts, adds Voorhis.

“We also buy back broken phones, something not all carriers or retailers do,” she adds.

Even owners of Samsung smartphones are not immune to the New iPhone Effect, though it’s less dramatic. According to Gazelle, prices for Samsung handsets drop around 10 percent on average during the months before and after an Apple launch.

There’s never been a better time to sell.

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at