If you’re like most Americans, you may have unused electronics gathering dust in your house. According to Decluttr, the average household has $264 worth of unwanted technology in their homes.
I was one of these households. I had recently upgraded my work laptop, replacing my 2017 MacBook Pro. I wasn’t sure what to do with the old one, but it seemed silly to have a perfectly good machine just going to waste in a drawer. So I decided to research how to make money selling used electronics and get the best price. Getting rid of stuff you don't even want is one of the best side hustles!
Here’s what I learned about selling unwanted electronic devices for extra money — and how you can get started doing it too.
What kinds of used electronics can I sell?
You can turn a lot of old stuff into extra cash, including:
- Cell phones
- DVDs and Blu-rays
- Kindles and e-readers
- Video games
- Video game systems such as a Nintendo Switch and Xbox One
- Wearable technology such as an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch Active
The price you’ll get for your gadgets depends on their age, brand, condition, and whether you include accessories like chargers. Apple products tend to have the best resale value. But if you have a retro video gaming console from your childhood, such as Nintendo’s N64, you can learn how to make extra cash on Mercari as N64 systems sell for $160.
In my case, a MacBook Pro is usually in high demand. Brand new models start at $1,299, so budget-conscious shoppers are always looking for gently used versions to save money.
Where can I sell used electronics?
If you have an old phone, laptop, or video game system, your biggest question is probably, “Where can I sell used electronics for the most money?” You might think of Craigslist or Ebay, but there are a lot more options out there when it comes to selling your old devices.
Here are some of the top places to sell used electronics. To help you compare sites, I used my MacBook Pro as an example and got quotes from each.
- Free insured shipping
- Payments via direct deposit or PayPal
- Rapid payments
- DeCluttr won’t return your DVDs, Blu-rays, or video games if they don’t match your description
- You must send at least 10 media items or one tech item to qualify for a payout
DeCluttr buys laptops, smartphones, video games, textbooks, and even Legos. To sell your items, search for the make, model, and condition of your things and Decluttr will give you an instant quote. For my MacBook Pro, DeCluttr offered me $450, the highest of any resale site.
DeCluttr will give you a prepaid shipping label, which includes insurance, but you have to use your own box and shipping materials to mail your item. Once the company receives your things, the staff will review your items’ condition. If it matches the description you provided, it will issue your payment through direct deposit or PayPal. If it doesn’t match the description, the team may issue you a modified quote. You have the option of accepting the new quote or rejecting it. If you reject it, DeCluttr will send it back to you free of charge.
You must send at least one tech item — meaning laptops, smartphones, or gaming consoles — or 10 media items at once. If you submit media items like DVDs or Blu-rays and they’re rejected, DeCluttr will not return them to you so make sure you’re OK potentially losing out on those items before shipping them to the company.
- In-person trade-ins available
- Instant payouts
- Free shipping for online trade-ins
- Trade-in payouts are only made via gift card
- Potentially lower values than other services
With Best Buy, you can trade in your computers, cameras, and smartwatches and get a Best Buy gift card to use for future purchases. If you’re planning to upgrade your device, this can be a nice way to offset the cost of a new laptop or computer. But if you’re simply looking to offload old electronics for extra cash you can use to pay your bills, having a gift card as your only payout option can be a significant drawback.
You can trade in your items online, and Best Buy will give you a free shipping label. Or you can trade in your devices in person at select store locations. If you go in person, you can get your gift card right away with an instant payout.
If you decide to mail in your item and the Best Buy team assigns your item a different buy back valuation that you were initially quoted or rejects your item, you can accept a modified quote, opt to recycle the item, or request that it’s returned to you. If you decide to have it returned to you, you’re responsible for paying shipping costs.
Although Best Buy’s trade-in program is convenient, it may offer lower valuations than other companies. I received an offer for $404 through BestBuy’s trade-in program for my MacBook Pro, which was less than DeCluttr gave me.
- Set your own price
- Upfront cash payouts
- Must meet in person
- There may be safety concerns
- More work on behalf of the seller
If you’re willing to do a bit more work, selling your used electronics on your own can be a smart way to get more money for your items. By selling them on the Facebook Marketplace, you can charge higher prices and get paid in cash or via Venmo or PayPal right away. When you need money fast, it can be an easy way to get the cash you need.
However, selling electronics on Facebook does require more effort and can sometimes be a hassle. You have to take pictures of your items and write a thorough description. You’ll need to respond to potential buyer inquiries, negotiate on price, and meet up with the buyer to complete the transaction. The in-person aspect can be a major drawback for some people, especially if you’re concerned about personal safety, but the trade-off can be worth it for the extra money.
I decided to try listing my MacBook Pro on Facebook for $550. Within 24 hours, I had a few people interested, but only one serious buyer. She offered me $500, which I accepted. We met at a local coffee shop, and she paid me in cash. It was a relatively painless experience, and I got more money than I would have gotten if I had sold the computer on a resale site.
How to sell used electronics for the best price
To get the best trade-in value or price for your used electronics, follow these tips:
1. Get multiple quotes
Before choosing a place to sell your item and sending it in, make sure you get quotes from several different companies. As I found out, pricing can vary widely based on the brand, age of your device, and demand. In my case, quotes ranged from $293 to $450 for my MacBook Pro, so you can see why it makes sense to shop around. Otherwise, you could lose out on hundreds of dollars.
2. Compare platform fees and shipping costs
When selecting a company, consider its shipping costs and fees. Although DeCluttr and Best Buy offer free shipping and shipping insurance, not all used electronic buyers do. If you have to pay for shipping yourself, that can eat into your profits and negate the value of the sale.
3. Be descriptive
If you decide to sell your item on your own on the Facebook Marketplace, be as descriptive as possible. List all technical features as well as any scratches or defects, and include any accessories that come with your item. If your old cell phone or laptop is still under warranty, make sure you mention that, too — that’s a big selling feature.
In your listing, post several photos, including different angles, so potential buyers can see the current shape of your item. Also, be sure to show the item powered on so they can see it’s in working order.
4. Make sure you wipe the system clean
Whether you’re selling the item yourself or through a site like DeCluttr, make sure you wipe the system clean of all your personal information before you send it in. Check the manufacturer’s website for instructions and tutorials if you're not sure how to do that.
5. Be safe
If you decide to sell your devices in-person, take extra precautions to protect yourself. Even beyond the concerns of COVID-19, meeting strangers in person is something to be cautious about when it comes to your finances and your personal safety.
Consider the following before meeting with a potential buyer:
- Meet in a public place. Instead of meeting at your home or the buyer’s home, ask to meet in a public location, such as a coffee shop. You can also meet at SafeTrade Stations. These are local police stations designated as safe sales locations.
- Bring a friend. If possible, ask a friend or relative to come with you. If that’s not an option, let someone know when and where you’ll be, and notify them when you’re back safely.
- Accept only cash or electronic deposits. Don’t accept checks or cashier’s checks, as they can be easily forged or invalid. Only accept cash or electronic payments via reliable methods like PayPal or Venmo.
By learning how to sell unused electronics, you can turn your old iPhone, laptop, and video games into cash. And if you get the hang of it and even start enjoying it, you might consider learning how to resell as a side hustle so you can keep the extra cash coming in.