How to sell your Mac

It's time to sell your Mac. What's the best way to do it without getting ripped off? Let's take a look

There comes a time in every Mac's life when it's time to say goodbye. Maybe it's time to move up to a new model. Maybe it no longer has that new Mac sparkle you crave. Maybe it's just old and busted. No matter what the reason, it's time to part ways. Here are some tips for where you can go to unload your old Mac.

For the sake of argument, I'm using my white polycarbonate MacBook as a potential victim here. It's a late 2009 model equipped with a 2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, and it still works well and looks good. I've beefed it up with 8 GB RAM and an SSD, too. If I decide to sell it, what am I likely to get for it? Hm. Let's find out!

Prepping your Mac for sale

Before you sell your Mac, you have to make it ready to sell. So now's a good time to clean up your Mac. Physically, make sure it's in good looking and sellable condition. Clean the screen and the case, keyboard and trackpad. I wipe down my Macs with terrycloth that's been sprayed with an alcohol-free lens cleaner.

The next step is to back up your data. You're going to be migrating to a new Mac, presumably. Now's a good time to make sure you've got a secure copy of everything you need for the transition, so use Time Machine or clone your Mac's hard drive.

Next you need to restore your Mac to a factory condition. Depending on its age it may have come with a boot disk. If you have it, that's a bonus for some buyers, so make sure to keep it safe. You can also boot off that disk, reformat your Mac's hard drive and reinstall.

If you're running Lion or later, your Mac sports a recovery partition that'll let you restore the operating system. I'll provide instructions for doing that separately — check this space for details.

Sell it to a friend or relative

Check around with friends, relatives and acquaintances to find out if anyone is interested in buying your old Mac. Use social media like Twitter and Facebook. You never know when you're going to get a hit.

Someone who knows you is less likely to rip you off and probably won't haggle with you nearly as much as a total stranger. Just go into the transaction with eyes wide open, and make sure you're ready for some post-sales support, especially if they're a new Mac user who's not familiar with how things work.

Also make sure you're very honest with them about the working condition of your Mac — if there are any peculiarities at all, you're going to want to be up front about them, to avoid hurt feelings and buyer's guilt later.

Trade it for an Apple Gift Card

If you're in the United States, Apple has its own Reuse and Recycle Program that might interest you. Apple will take back any Mac, PC, iPhone or iPad to be reused or recycled. And if your Mac still has value, you can get an Apple Gift Card with the amount tacked onto it.

The service is coordinated through a company called PowerON. PowerON sends you packaging materials with free shipping, too.

I plugged in the particulars on my MacBook. After answering a few questions on the web site, I was told it'd get me $178.20 on a gift card. That may be PowerON's fair market value, but it's well below what I could sell it directly to someone else for.

The upside, however, is that it's about as ironclad a deal as you can get online. You're dealing with a third party that's authorized by Apple, and you're getting an Apple gift card that'll knock some money off your next Mac purchase. A bird in the hand, as the saying goes.

Offer to trade it in to your local Mac reseller

Apple retail stores will accept recycling dropoffs, but if there's a friendly neighborhood Apple-authorized third party reseller in your area, it may be worth a call or a drop-in to find out if they do any sort of trade in used equipment.

Typically a reseller will only be interested in the Mac if it's still reasonably new and can be resold without too much of a hassle. It's a bonus if you had the foresight to get AppleCare for it (and it's still active).

Don't always count on walking out with cash in hand. The dealer may want to sell it for you on consignment: They'll broker the sale and get a cut for their effort. You can try to wheel and deal a bit with them to see if they'll sweeten the pot for you, by offering you a discount on accessories or services for your next Mac, if you purchase it from them. Don't count on a big discount on your next Mac, though — Apple sets the price on those and resellers can't typically deviate very far without losing money.

Sell it on Craigslist

The popular computer classifieds service Craigslist is like the world's yard sale — it's a place where anyone can sell just about anything (short of body parts or illegal goods) for the right price.

There are a lot of caveats when dealing with Craigslist. The stories of people getting ripped off are endless, especially from scammers who send fake money orders or cashier's checks.

I'd advise you strongly against doing anything but a local sale with someone on Craigslist, and insist on cash in hand. What's more, make sure the transaction happens in a public place — somewhere you're unlikely to get straight-out robbed. You may also want to bring someone with you just to be safe.

MacBooks of similar vintage to mine are being offered on Craigslist for $350; I can probably list mine a bit higher since it's got gobs of RAM and an SSD — both in demand from knowledgeable buyers — though there's no guarantee I'll actually get what I ask for. After all, haggling is part of the process.

Sell it on eBay

eBay calls itself the World's Online Marketplace. The site attracts millions of people from around the world to buy and sell merchandise. And people sell a lot of computers there.

On any given day eBay will list hundreds of MacBooks similar to mine for sale, with prices ranging from way less (in the case of non-functioning systems) to way more (heavily customized rigs or sellers — and potential buyers or bidders — who don't have a clue).

Selling on eBay is going to put you up against a lot of other sellers, including many who do this for a living. They do whatever they can to attract eyeballs, including making their listings look visually appealing, taking good photos, low starting bids, no reserve sales, even some SEO tuning with good keywords to search for. You're also on the hook for seller fees and eBay's money back guarantee, in case the buyer's not happy with what they bought. Not to mention shipping costs.

Bottom line: eBay is probably best left to people who do a lot of selling on eBay. If you're not sure what you're doing, there are a lot of pitfalls.

Check with a big box retailer

Best Buy, for example, offers a trade-in program for used electronics — many Macs are eligible (mine wasn't). You'll typically be rewarded in the form of a gift card to be used by that retailer (Best Buy is a case in point).

Like most of these corporate programs, there's overhead and there's their profit margin, so the value of your system is likely to be way less than some of the other services I've mentioned, but it's a convenient way to get rid of something you'd rather not hassle with.

Used Mac services

There are business like, Gazelle, Glyde, and others that will buy your used Mac for you and resell it or sell it wholesale to a used computer dealer. I don't think they're a great solution for selling your Mac, simply because they don't offer you very much.

Checking around some of these sites didn't yield very good results - on the low end, I was offered $123 by Gazelle. SellYourMac wanted to give me $153. Glyde and CashForYourMac were both total whiffs — neither of them were interested in buying my crappy four and a half year old MacBook.

Yard sale

If you have a lot of stuff you'd like to get rid of, you can always do the tried and trusty old yard sale. List it locally through whatever means you can manage, and don't overlook buying a classified ad in your local pennysaver newspaper, if it still exists. Make sure to clearly advertise that you have a MacBook for sale.

Yard sales are notorious for bargain hunters, so be prepared to haggle, but getting cash in hand and having it taken away on the spot can be more rewarding than waiting for a gift card and hassling with shipping boxes.


You may ultimately decide your Mac's just not worth selling. Maybe it's broken, or maybe it's just too old and worth too little money. If that's the case, consider listing it on the Freecycle network.

Freecycle's basic mantra is "one man's trash is another man's treasure." No money exchanges hands, but it's a good way to clear out that shelf of unwanted stuff that other people might like.

For my part, I've used Freecycle to score vintage stuff I've wanted for a while. I have a Macintosh Plus that still works which I got from a fellow Freecycler, and a Commodore Amiga 500 that came with a few boxes of cool games. I've also used Freecycle to get rid of stuff I don't want, like computer parts and furniture.

Any more ideas?

Hopefully I've given you a bunch of ideas for how to unload your old Mac for cash and profit. I'm sure I've missed a few, so if you have other ideas, I'd really appreciate it if you'd share your thoughts in the comments.