Phone Trade-In vs. Selling: Which Is Better?

Many people consider their cellphone to be the most important device they own. As a result, the prospect of upgrading your phone to a newer (or simply different) model can be thrilling.

Many people sell or trade in their old phones to help pay for their new device. There are benefits and drawbacks to trading in or selling your phone. Learn how to determine which approach is best for you.

How Does Phone Exchange Work?

If you’re purchasing your new phone from the manufacturer or your wireless carrier, the simplest option may be to trade in your old one.

Typically, you’ll be given an estimate of the phone’s value, and the carrier will provide you with a prepaid return kit or a shipping label so you don’t have to pay to ship the device.

Once the carrier or manufacturer receives your phone, they will provide you with a final value based on its condition. The credit for the trade-in may then be received in the form of a refund to your credit card, credit toward your new device, or a gift card, depending on the company.

It should be noted that trade-in programs may exclude older phones. Apple’s trade-in program dates back to the iPhone 6s but excludes anything older than an iPhone 6.

For example, suppose you want to replace your iPhone 11 with an iPhone 12. You’d start by going to Apple’s website’s trade-in page, where you can see that the estimated trade-in value is up to $300.

You’ll be asked a few questions about the condition, year, and configuration of the device. Apple will provide you with an estimated trade-in value as well as several redemption options.

When you trade in your phone at an Apple store, you can choose between an instant credit for an in-store purchase or a gift card. If you do the trade-in online, you can select a gift card or a credit toward an Apple purchase that Apple will give you after they receive and inspect your phone.

The company will send you a prepaid shipping label or trade-in kit to use when returning the device. If the condition of the device differs from what you described, Apple will evaluate it and send you a revised estimate offer. You will then have the option to accept or reject the new offer.

If you accept, Apple will charge or credit your credit or debit card for the difference. If you decline, the company will return the phone to you for free.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Trading in Your Phone


  • Simple and practical
  • You don’t have to figure out how much to charge or where to sell your phone.
  • There are no logistics issues to deal with, such as shipping or meeting with potential buyers.


  • Older phones may not be able to be traded in.
  • Prices aren’t as high as you’d get if you sold your phone.

What Is the Process of Selling Your Phone?

Selling your phone rather than trading it in requires more effort, but it may result in more money in your pocket, which you can put toward your new phone or recoup some of its cost if you already bought it.

You can sell your iPhone or Android device in a variety of places, including:

  • eBay
  • Craigslist
  • Nextdoor Local classifieds Facebook Marketplace OfferUp

eBay will deduct 12.9% + $0.30 from your final sale price, but it offers shipping discounts and promotes your item to a large audience.

Try searching for the same phone model by providing some information about it, such as the manufacturer, unlocked status, storage capacity, color, condition, and accessories. You can see what other eBay sellers are listing their items for and where they have sold once you enter all of the relevant information.

Assume you have the same iPhone 11 as described above. It’s unlocked, has the maximum storage capacity, and is in good condition (some scratches, chips, or dents). According to eBay, the current trending price is $480, which is $180 more than the maximum Apple would offer as a trade-in.

Other platforms, on the other hand, are usually free and reach a local audience, which eliminates the hassle and cost of shipping, but the local scope limits the number of buyers you can reach.

The decision to trade in or sell your old phone can be influenced by a number of factors, so neither is inherently superior. As a result, it is critical to consider the situation, as well as your budget and preferences, in order to make the best decision for you.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Selling Your Phone


  • Can be worth more than a trade-in


  • Finding a buyer can be time-consuming, especially if you’re dealing with local buyers who may express interest, then disappear or fail to appear at a meet.
  • The phone may take several days or weeks to sell.
  • Shipping may be required (buying postage, a box, and packing material)

How to Decide Whether to Sell or Trade-In

The decision to trade in or sell your old phone can be influenced by a number of factors, so neither is inherently superior. As a result, it is critical to consider the situation, as well as your budget and preferences, in order to make the best decision for you.

Consider spending a few minutes researching how much you could earn by selling your phone if you’re thinking about trading it in. This can give you an idea of the trade-off you’d make if you chose the convenience of a trade-in over the work involved in selling the phone.

For example, if your phone is worth $100 more if sold rather than traded in, it may still be worth doing a trade-in if you don’t have a lot of free time to go through the selling process and can afford to lose the difference.

However, if your budget is limited, taking the extra time to sell the phone may be well worth the extra money.