How to sell your Mac

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 SellYourMac.com, Gazelle, Glyde, CashForYourMac.com 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.

Freecycle

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.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 8 comments. Add yours.

GeniusUnleashed says:

If your goal is to get a new Mac with the money, then Powermax.com is the way to go. They give decent money towards your NEW MAC that you purchase from them. What's more, they give you a quote so you can buy your new mac, they send you a box for your old one, and if you were honest about the shape it was in, give you the price they quoted. I've used them twice with zero issue.

jtnave says:

One great thing about Macs is that they have a high resell value. I've had great luck with Craigslist for selling and most buck for the bang. I usually wipe out the Mac (make sure you unauthorize your iTunes account) and accept cash only with money pen. The more upgrades, the better but don't do it if you can't recoup the upgrade price...

I just sold a like new 2010 Mac Pro on eBay for $2100, but was shocked at the eBay fees now. I had to pay $212 to eBay and $70 to PayPal. For that, I won't be using eBay again.

Mark Sartor says:

YOU forgot AMAZON as a place to sell you Macintosh (or iPhone/iPad/iPod).. Works just like eBay... I have used it, and I recommend it!

MaxPayne79 says:

kijiji is the best place to sell it. (kijiji is only in canada though) I would avoid selling anything over 400 dollars on craigslist because all you get are lowballers and scammers spamming your email and text. Kijiji users for the most part respect the price and try to negotiate politely. Try to avoid selling to a store because almost always they'll rip you off by finding a problem on the machine. The more "issues" they find the less they pay you. And when i say issues i'm including cosmetic issues. lol.

You will never sell it for the price you want so always price it slightly higher but not out of the ballpark. Do your research beforehand on how much similar units are selling for then add a premium ONLY if you are willing to put in the effort for a nice presentation.

A presentation are clear & detailed pictures (as many as you can) and valuable information both about the unit (i.e. specs, age, warranty, kind of usage) and about you which often is just as important as the unit you're selling. The buyers you are attracting want to know WHY you're selling it. Is it stolen? is it broken? water damage? these are the first questions that pop into their mind. It's your job to convince them that the unit is perfectly fine, and that you are simply moving on to another type of unit, OS, job, country, whatever. Don't say "upgrading" because it makes the unit ur selling sound obsolete. Why else would you be"upgrading"?

But if you are upgrading which most people are, then suggest what the unit is good for. Accentuate the positives. i.e. "the unit is good for this if you're doing that." Whatever. imo that's one of the most important parts of your presentation because you're helping them make up their minds to seriously consider your unit as opposed to someone else's. If the unit has a dead pixel or the battery is somewhat shiet, mention it. It's important. The dead pixel anyway. ;)

This is all part of the presentation. Always think of Steve Jobs when selling your mac because what did jobs do? He told people why they need an apple product. Same thing you have to do. Help them make up their minds. Just don't make a four page ad because you'll lose them after the 3rd paragraph. lol. simplify it. KISS it. Keep It Simple and Sexy. ;)

When it comes to delivery vs pickup, keep in mind that they are your client and you need/want their money so I always suggest delivery if they live in a semi-mormal location. i.e. Type and distance. If it's the middle of the ghetto then we meet at a Starbucks faaaar away. lol. Same if it's in the country. I ain't driving that far. If they do live in the middle of nowhere than suggest a meeting place halfway like a Tim's or a Starbucks where there are lots of people around. And also so they can test the unit out. VERY IMPORTANT imo. Let them play with it, touch it, feel it, smell it, molest it if they have to. Whatever they want.

and finally, contact information if you can, make yourself multi available. i.e. email, text, and call. Most will text, serious offerers tend to come via email and occasionally the most serious buyer will call because they have questions and want to talk with you.

trust your instinct!
good luck. :)

any questions, email me at mwm@sympatico.ca :)

Trubador says:

Unless you're like me and have an aged and non-upgradable PowerPC iMac stuck on 10.4.8 with a monitor that's completely shot (using a secondary monitor as a temp fix). When they FINALLY release a Haswell MacMini (*cough*hint*hint*cough*), I'll buy it from the local Apple Store and pay to have them transfer the data (approx. 8000 songs, tons of photos, mail history, plus a bunch of personal files). Once it's verified that everything transferred properly, they can recycle it for the precious metal parts... because that's all that it's worth at this point.

[...may the hard drive hold on until that Haswell MacMini is released…]

Iocane Powder says:

Just when I was happy with my iMac you put ideas in my head. Damn you Peter!

I really want a new Mac Pro. My iMac strains at times with photo and video editing, both of which I want to do more of. I was comfortable with the idea that I would have to suck it up for another year or two, but now I'm running through my friends and family list to see who needs a new (old) iMac. Sell the iMac, get the girlfriend a smaller engagement ring...I just might be able to pull this off!

williamsbh76 says:

I have always had good luck selling on eBay. I live in a small rural town in Alabama without many resources for selling and getting the most out of a item (unless you like antiques). I recently sold my 2011 Macbook Pro and got a much better resale than what Gazelle or Apple's buyback program was offering. eBay has really become my yard sale.

ungibbed says:

What I've found as a real hard sell is my barely used 27" Apple Cinema Display. It's the older MDP model but it works just fine with any MDP equipped Mac (or PC video card) and newer Thunderbolt equipped hardware.

Not a single problem with it at all and cosmetically brand new (complete with its original box and packing foam)

Everyone who has considered one of these bad boys knows the price of admission ($999.00 USD) for a brand new model.

I've done a lot of Mac sales on Craigslist where I refurbish many different models but only recently stopped upgrading G4 PowerBook models as they take a lot of effort to upgrade the HDD which the 320GB drive costs more than what the computer is worth to a buyer but expects the upgrade out of my pocket. I'm not in business of giving my money away.

Anyway, back to the ACD, I've had hostile buyers telling me how "old" my monitor was and told me that they would pay $450 for it. This was when Apple was still actively selling them for its full retail price alongside the TB display.

Needless to say I sent the hostile buyer thinking I would bend to his tactics on his merry way even after wasting my time showing him the unit with his Mac plugged into it (make that a rather abused Mac)... then starts his renegotiation tactics.

I decided to keep the display since dealing with offers of weed, a brand new PS4 with no box or accessories (stolen), and some of the oddest misc crap I'd never use. There's demand for my monitor, but asking $700 (with a little haggle room) is very fair considering the condition and Applecare warranty that still had two years left to go on it.

Cell phones are the fastest moving commodity in my area along with hackers removing IMEI blocks for stolen Samsung devices of all sorts. The main source of payment here is cash or newer model iPads or other Apple gear.

Needless to say, I've given up on Craigslist and not going to ship this beast anywhere. I just wonder if I ever decide to sell my insanely upgraded MacBook Pro of how many silly offers I get so they can flip for profit.

#notgonnahappenhere

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