Did you get a new phone over the holidays? You can sell your old phone and potentially earn a significant amount on the sale. However, the amount you’ll earn will depend on what kind of phone you’re selling and where you sell it. 

There is a brisk market for used phones, fueled by dozens of websites that will either buy your phone directly or help you sell it to another consumer. However, you need to be wary. A few of these sites are notorious for making great offers that they rescind the moment your phone arrives in their offices. 

Moreover, you’d be wise to take a few steps prior to the sale to protect your data and put yourself in a position to get top dollar.

What do you need to do?

Unlock your phone

Most people buy new phones through a phone company that gives them a discount or “free” phone if they sign up for a data plan. In reality, these data plans are installment agreements, where you essentially pay off the phone over a period of time. The carrier “locks” the phone so it can only be used on that phone company’s network for the duration of the deal.

Once you’ve satisfied the term of that agreement, your phone is paid off. And FCC rules give you the right to unlock it. Unlocking your phone allows it to be used on any carrier network. It’s important to do this before you sell because locked phones generally command lower prices. 

So how do you unlock your device? The short version is go to your carrier’s website and follow the instructions. Unlocking generally is done remotely by simply filling out a form that verifies you’ve paid it off. But in some rare cases, you’ll need to go into your cell company’s office. 

Wipe your data

You probably transferred your photos, apps and other personal data to the new device the moment you bought it. If not, back up your old phone so you don’t lose anything. After that, you’ll want to wipe the device so the new owner of your phone can’t access your photos or steal your banking information. 

Wiping instructions are provided by your phone’s manufacturer, not by your cell carrier. So, if you have an iPhone, check Apple support. If you have a Samsung device, check there.

Sell your old phone

Now you’re ready to sell your old phone. At this point, you have basically two choices: You can sell your phone directly to another consumer or you can sell it to a reseller. Selling directly to another consumer usually gets you the most money. But, it’s often faster and easier to sell to a reseller.

Sell yourself

If you choose to sell directly to the end consumer, the best site to use is called Swappa. Swappa is an online forum where buyers and sellers negotiate directly. The only cost here is that both buyer and seller pay a 3% fee to the platform for providing the connection and collecting payment.

Is it worth it to sell yourself? We compared offers for an iPhone X to see.

At Swappa sellers were asking anywhere from $164 – $340 for a good condition iPhone X with 256 MB of storage capacity. Since buyers can negotiate here, asking prices don’t equate to sales prices, however. The site says these phones typically sell for between $203 and $240, depending on their condition, storage capacity and whether they’re locked or unlocked. After fees, the seller would walk away with $196 – $233.

Sell to a reseller

Don’t want to spend time negotiating with another consumer? You can sell your phone in minutes online to a phone reseller. As the name implies, these companies buy your phone for resale. In some cases, they polish and fix the phones they buy, replacing screens and buffing out scratches. In others, they do little more than move the phone’s listing from the “sell here” side to the “buy here” side of their websites.

ItsWorthMore

One highly-rated reseller is called ItsWorthMore. (SideHusl.com rates sellers of electronics based on the value of purchase offers, ease of use, reliability, and complaint history.) ItsWorthMore offered between $110 and $147, for the same iPhone X. Unlocked, the phone was worth $147. The same phone locked by AT&T got a $130 offer; locked by T-Mobile, it commanded a $110 offer. 

TheWhizCells

TheWhizCells offered $135 for this phone unlocked or locked by AT&T. If locked by T-Mobile TheWhizCells was willing to pay just $115. 

Gazelle

Gazelle, one of the oldest and best-known resellers, offered $121 for a “lightly used” unlocked iPhone X; offered $106 for the same phone locked by AT&T; and offered $92 if it were locked by T-Mobile. However, if you choose to sell here, know that Gazelle has a history of consumer complaints. Consumers say purchase offers are often slashed on receipt for reasons the consumers claim are unjustified.