Switching Carriers or Phones? Sell the Old One

With the iPhone soon to be available on Verizon and the likelihood of a new iPhone being announced for the summer I thought it would be useful to tell you how you can get a new phone without losing your shirt.

Why a New Phone?

You might think I get a new phone every year because I like to have the newest and greatest gadget.  As it happens, though I love to buy new technology and drool whenever I have the chance to even look at a new gadget, I haven’t had 3 new phones in the past 3 years because of want, but because of need.

You too might need a new phone for a variety of reasons.  A new provider, preference for a new phone, damaged old phone, etc. You also just might really really want a new one.  I get that too fellow tech lover.

Alas Poor iPhone, I Hardly Knew Yee

In my case, my first smart phone was the iPhone 3G.  I had that phone for just about a year when oops, dropped it in water.  I was distressed.  I did everything you are supposed to do to save a phone that falls into water, but alas no luck.  So I needed a new phone.  The timing turned out to be pretty good, Apple was just about to release the 3Gs. I sold my 3G on eBay (I made it clear what had happened to it) and so I didn’t lose too much money in the deal.

AT&T – I Wish I Didn’t Know You

Unfortunately while I was arranging to deal with the tragedy of my loss of phone I had a very bad customer experience with AT&T.  I realize that people have had bad experiences with pretty much every cell phone provider; mine just happened to be so bad that the idea of staying with AT&T made me want to pull my hair out.  Unfortunately the situation dragged on so long that I was past the 30 days to return the phone so I was stuck.  I also didn’t really see any other phone options at that point so I just dealt with the situation.

Here Comes the Evo

I had the 3Gs for about a year or so when the EVO came out on Sprint. Sprint was the provider I wanted to switch to because the ABA offered a discount and the pricing was over-all better for me.  I also saw a chance to get away from AT&T. Looking on eBay I saw the 3Gs was selling nicely and I figured I wouldn’t lose too much money if I sold the 3Gs and went for an EVO.  In the end I was right, I sold the 3Gs for over $300, paid $199 for the EVO and about $100 to get out of my contract with AT&T.  SCORE!

I am not sure if I will hold on to the EVO for the full length of my contract or not.  Currently I don’t have a reason to part with the EVO. I am happy with both Sprint and the phone.  If I do need to change it will be because I move and Sprint doesn’t have good reception, or I feel I need to get a new phone to keep up with the technology for the Consulting I do.

Selling Your Phone

I sold my phones on eBay.  Sell your phone through whatever service works for you. I suggest you avoid Craigslist or any other site where you actually have to meet the person, online is safer and easier.

If you have never sold anything on eBay, it is relatively easy.  The most annoying part to me is you have to provide bank account information.  I used to sell a lot of books on eBay and didn’t want to give access to my bank account, so I actually set up a separate account at one point and that is the one I provided.  That made me feel better about sharing my information.

Obviously you aren’t going to want to go to the bother if you just plan on selling a phone, but be aware, you need to provide a good bit of information to sell on eBay.

Set Up Your Account

To start the process go to eBay, sign up for an account and set up a seller account.  Details for a seller account are here.  Also, if you don’t have one, set up a PayPal account.  PayPal is the best and safest way to sell something on eBay. You don’t need to provide bank account information to PayPal (though it asks for it) just use a credit card.

Take Pictures

It is extremely important that you take good pictures of your phone.  Make sure you take pictures that show the true condition. If your phone is pristine show it. If your phone isn’t pristine be honest.

Also make sure you take pictures of everything you have.  I had purchased a few items to go with my iPhone 3GSs.  I knew I wouldn’t need those items any more, so I sold them with my phone.  Whatever you can add can really help your price.  If you have the box, receipt, and all the original items show those in the pictures too. It isn’t expensive to list several pictures so try to do a good job of showing why the bidders should buy your phone and not someone else’s.

List Your Phone in the Proper Location

Make sure you list your phone in the proper spot.  Pick the listing area with the most specificity you can. This will help people find your phone.  Be sure you choose the option to show a picture next to your listing and any other reasonably inexpensive options that will make your listing obvious to those searching for a phone.

Write a Good Title

Selling a pristine iPhone4?  Say so.  Have everything including the receipt? Say that. Put in the key words that will help people find your item and attract them to look at your entire listing.

Write a Good Description

Just as with the the title the description is important.  List the unique positives of your phone that will help to raise the price.  This is also where you will put your pictures. Be honest.  You don’t want to have a dispute because you failed to be clear about any scratches on the screen or case or any other damage.

Pick a Price

If you can stand the risk, start your bidding at $1.  It is a risk, but it is unlikely your phone will just go for $1.  Still, you have no control over the final price.  If you can’t stand the risk pick a reserve price and go with that.  Don’t set it too high.  Look at the prices of phones similar to yours.  You can also set a buy now price in addition to the auction.

Even a broken phone can sell if it is a popular kind, mine did.  Sometimes people are experts at fixing phones or they need parts.  You never know.

Be reasonable in your expectations by comparing what the same type of phone is going for on eBay.  You should be able to get a good sense of what you will get by doing so.

Pick a Time Frame

Phones tend to go at the last minute.  When I sold my 3Gs I sat and watched in a panic as no one bid on it. Next thing I knew at the end of the auction the price had gone up to over $300.  Looking at other auctions I realized people wait until the last minute to bid on the hone.  That doesn’t mean you don’t want a relatively long time frame.  It gives people a chance to find your phone.  3 days is probably a good time period.

Set a Shipping Charge

Be aware it can be expensive to ship a phone, especially if you are sending it outside the United States.  Be realistic about the charges and what you are willing to cover yourself (if anything.)  You don’t need to offer free shipping to sell your phone.

Be Reachable

People will have questions about your phone.  Be available to answer them.

Don’t Be Tempted to Sell Outside the Auction

People will contact you and ask you to sell your phone outside the auction.  You will be tempted because you can avoid auction fees.  Don’t do it.  Most of those people are trying to rip you off and will give you trouble later.  Pay the fees, it will save you the headaches later.

Ship the Phone Quickly and Pack it Well

Make sure the phone is protected and shipped quickly after payment.  As I mentioned, I normally use Paypal because it offers additional protection. Don’t accept a check or money order. Money orders are easily faked.  Checks can be a problem too.  Escrow services can be faked as well.

You might consider having the phone professionally packaged. This gives you another level of insurance against damage. If the phone is damaged the shipper insurance gets involved.  Be sure the amount of insurance covers the sale price of the phone.

Keep All Records

Keep shipping records, a copy of the auction, any and all correspondence.  This way if you have a problem later and a dispute comes up through Paypal you have proof that you sent the item and it was in the condition you said it was in.

Be Aware of the Risks

Just because my phone sold for a good price doesn’t mean yours will. I am not promising you will get a good price.  Please don’t blame me if you don’t.

Also, there are rip-off artists on the Web.  Someone tried to rip me off when I sold my first phone.  I was fine in the end because I had good records and Paypal dealt with it.  It was still irritating.  My second sale went smoothly.  I won’t promise you won’t get ripped off. Please don’t blame me if you do.

Be Sure To Have a New Phone

Make sure you have purchased and activated your new phone before you sell your old one.  If you have a problem with your new phone and have already sold your old phone you are now out of luck.

That’s It

Hopefully if you choose to sell your phone you will have a good experience and get a decent amount of money for it.

Good luck and enjoy your new phone!

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