How to sell your old iPhone before upgrading to the iPhone 4S

How to sell your old iPhone before upgrading to the iPhone 4S

So you're getting an iPhone 4S, you've chosen the carrier and decided on the storage size, and now you need to figure out the ins and outs of how to sell your old iPhone (or other smartphone) before upgrading? If you don't want to keep it around as a spare, or as an iPod touch, or hand it down to a family member or friend -- if you're looking to get some cash back -- then there are a few things you can do, and a few things you need to know before getting started.

Today we're going to show you how to cash out the old and bring in the new using a number of great services!

Getting more for your old iPhone

Before you sell your old iPhone, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the best selling price possible.

  1. Jailbreak/Unlock: The iPhone usually sells for more money when it's jailbroken and especially unlocked, meaning you have the additional options of running restricted apps through Cydia or getting service on another carrier (like T-Mobile in the US, or any international GSM carrier). If you are new to jailbreaking we suggest checking out the jailbreak forums for the best resources.
  2. Condition: It kind of goes without saying that you'll get more money if your device is in better condition, but this counts even more when it comes to the iPhone. If your device is in excellent shape, you're going to be able to ask for a higher amount. For example, an iPhone 3GS in 'fair' condition with wear and tear can get you around $230 while a 3GS in 'perfect' cosmetic condition can get you as much as $300. I've seen a wide range of pricing on the iPhone 4 and 3GS based on condition, so make sure you research prices and price competitively. (And giving it a good, careful cleaning before you take any photos or send it off is always a good idea.)
  3. Wipe your data: Before you end up selling your old iPhone, we highly suggest you run a full data wipe on your device to make sure none of your data is available to the lucky new owner. We've done a quick How-To post to help you with the process.

Putting your iPhone up for sale

Now that we're passed the basics and you're ready to put your iPhone up for sale, it's important to weigh all the options you have before making a decision on which service to use.

There are a ton of great online services out there to help you sell your old iPhone and we won't be able to go through them all, so we've filtered down the list of services for you. We'll start with the most familiar of them all...


Selling your iPhone on eBay is a pretty simple process. If you've ever used eBay for selling things in the past then you know the selling process isn't all that tricky, however there are still some things to keep in mind when using eBay to sell your iPhone. For instance, eBay charges fees for each auction based on the item you're selling and how much it sells for, among other things, so here are five quick tips to help you get the most out of your auction:

  1. Only ship to the buyer's confirmed Paypal address if using Paypal.
  2. Price competitively if using Buy It Now as an option.
  3. Make sure the pictures you use follow your description and are good quality -- post pictures of any physical blemishes on the iPhone and be up-front in your description.
  4. Use a fast shipping service and make sure you include that in your item description.
  5. Use keywords in your title and in your item description to attract more potential buyers.

You may also want to consider insuring your item in case anything goes wrong during shipping. Watch out for low-feedback buyers and also keep in mind that Paypal charges processing fees as well.


Selling on craigslist is locally based, so you'll be making a face-to-face exchange with someone in your area. I've used Craigslist to sell a number of things around the house, and always follow a few basic rules:

  • Don't ever put your personal or home address in an ad. Ever!
  • I'm usually fine with putting my personal phone number in an ad, but that's up to you. Some find it easier to text rather than email.
  • Meet in a public place, preferably in the daytime.
  • Watch out for email scams, something Craigslist is notorious for.

It's always a good idea to use caution when dealing with Craigslist. I've heard some pretty crazy stories of people getting robbed or worse when meeting with people for a transaction, so bring a friend and meet in an open, public area to avoid those types of situations.


Gazelle offers a service that lets you easily turn most electronic devices into cash. Simply send in your iPhone and Gazelle will send you money after confirming the item condition. The first thing you'll need to do is tell Gazelle what you're selling and what condition the item is in. You can choose from poor, fair, good or excellent condition, and it's important to be honest when rating the condition so there's no hiccups or snags along the way. It also helps if you have the box and original documentation and cables with your item, and the service will check for any water damages before giving you a quote.

An average-conditioned 16gb iPhone 4 will currently grab you about $215 where a perfect-conditioned iPhone 4 will get you as much as $250. The process takes about a week, and although you're not getting as much money in the end it's a great service if you don't want to deal with a lot of hassle. You can have your payment delivered through Paypal among other methods, and you can also submit multiple items if you're looking to get rid of a few more things while you're at it. offers a similar service to Gazelle by letting you send in your old iPhone for payment with little to no hassle involved. In a nutshell, they'll buy your old Mac or iOS device. You're required to provide pictures along with a serial number next to your item description and condition. Once receives your iPhone they clean it, inspect it and verify that it's in working condition before they turn around and sell it on eBay. Users can receive payment via Paypal and even says they give higher quotes than competing services like Gazelle, so you'll definitely want to compare before making any final decisions.

Apple Recycle Program

If selling your old iPhone on any of the services mentioned above doesn't sound appealing, Apple has set up a new iPod and Mobile Phone Recycling Program. As of this writing, Apple will give up to $200 for your used perfect-conditioned 32GB White iPhone 4 in the form of an Apple Gift card, which you can then turn around and use to purchase the iPhone 4S. In this case, you're basically getting the iPhone 4S at no charge (with a 2-year contract, of course). If you have a black model, they'll give you up to $180.

Apple is even including the iPhone 3GS in the Recycle Program, giving a $105 gift card if your 3GS is in perfect condition. They also offer to give you a new 8GB model of the same iPhone to swap out provided you sign a 2-year contract.

Personal transactions

Just because all these online services are available, it doesn't mean you can't still sell your old iPhone the old fashioned way -- person to person, likely to a friend or acquaintance. Just be sure to follow all the tips suggested above, and remember that accessories like Square can even let you take credit cards right on your own device now, if cash isn't as convenient.

Bonus tip

Include all packaging, cables and adapters if possible. If you have any extra cases or accessories you want to throw in the deal it can usually net you a higher selling price as a bundle instead of trying to sell them individually.

Any questions?

Whether it's eBay, Criagslist or any other method for selling your old iPhone we hope this article will help you along the way. As always, let us know if you have any questions or additional suggestions in the comments below!

You can also check out our Marketplace Forum for more iPhone buying/selling action.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

How to sell your old iPhone before upgrading to the iPhone 4S


I am an Android guy, but I buy and sell phones on Craigslist very frequently. I have never had any problems, although every time I post a for-sale ad, I get at least one response from someone who wants to pay me extra (via Western Union, of course... sigh) to ship it to Africa.
One pointer for Craigslist ads: write a thorough description! Don't just write "16GB white iPhone, good condition" or something. Take the time to fully write out the specs. It gives buyers the impression that you give a damn and you'll get a more professional sort of response.
Also, props to the TiPb crew for offering practical, real-world advice in addition to all the tech stuff that we all know and love!

No i think it's legit. I got a thing in the mail like that. All I had to do was cash this check and send them the money. They are sending my money back as long as I get my application to them. They just asked for some personal verification stuff, like name, address, social security number, and the bank account number I want them to deposit the money into. I should make about 500 dollars for doing almost nothing.

no no, they are legit. There are thousands of smart business men in Nigeria that have become very successful in overpaying for used equipment

You sold it in 15 minutes because that's cheap. I sold my 2 year old iPhone 3g when the 4 came out for $300. I think you can get more money from a Craigslist sale than EBay.

Tip... don't forget to take your SIM card out!
Question... can you put a SIM card in/out with the phone on, or should it be off?

Try the new eBay Instant!
I got $358 for my iPhone 4 on there.
Should get my payment via paypal any day now.
Ready for my iPhone 4S

I sold my iPhone 3G about 3 months ago through eBay for $230. I thought no one would ever want a phone that was obsolete. But there's suckers out there.

How Can one break even if still under contract with verzion...I have the 4 in all white n would love the 4s but i cant upgrade right now, fact being that i'm only 6months in...

For $10 a month you can open a second line, if you are on a family plan. Assuming you can sell your iPhone 4 for $240 or more, that will pay for the cost of the new line for all 24mos. Just be sure to take the data charge off of the unused line.

How can I sell my iPhone 4 if it's still under the 2-year contract? Does the buyer have to take over the remaining months of my contract or is it somehow considered a "contract-free" phone?

How much should I sell my 32GB White 3GS? It's in good condition, no scratches on the screen (screen protector since day 1) but the back casing has some scratches.

I got 250 for my 3GS. With visible scratches, and perfect screen. Best buy, buy back plan ;) Lady was arguing about her iPhone 4 which she was only getting 298 for haha, and I got her iPhone 4s since she cancelled her preorder. Just MY luck.

I looked up the value of my 3GS on the Apple Recycling program this morning. If it was in perfect condition, they would have given me $105 for it. But, it has a very small crack near the dock connector. Because of that, it brought the value to $0.
I'm sure that I could probably sell it without a problem though. For most of it's life, it's been in a Seidio Innocase and had a Power Support screen protector on it. It's amazing what one little crack (and I mean little) can do to the value.
Maybe building the area around the dock connector out of plastic wasn't such a great design.

I don't agree that jailbroken phones are worth more, when I've sold my 2G, 3G and 3GS I got more than average selling price for stating that I'd never jailbroken them. I think some people worry about stuff like that.

found out will give me the most for my iphone 4.. $254 and they dont require box, cables, etc. its an alternate to gazelle and they pay you through paypal for fast payment!!

DId you check out STEVE JOBS QUOTES AND TRIVIA APP on the Apple Store???
A nice way of remembering this GREAT MAN on your iOS device!!!
Check the reviews for the opinions of other people ;)
If you like it, please share it!!! :)

Beware of the Ebay option. They bid high and then report that your phone is not in good condition so they can offer a lower price. I sent a phone that was in pristine condition with accesories that had never been opened and in the original box. The phone was never used and only taken out of the box for testing. Ebay claimed it had visible scratches which was not true. I declined their offer and asked for my phone back. What a ripnoff.

Radio Shack also has a great program. They gave me $100 for my 2 year old iPhone 3G that wasn't working. They give you the money in a gift card so you can use it on anything,