You've just upgraded your phone, your laptop, or tablet — so what do you do with the old one? There are some easy ways to skip the landfill and turn your trash into treasure. The real question: where can you get the most money for your old gear?
Retailers want you to walk in the door, so many will pay for your old devices. As of the publish date for this story, an iPhone 3GS will net you $45 in store credit at Radio Shack, $50 at Target, and $70 at Best Buy.
[Related: iPhone 5 — Worth the Money?]
Skip the brick-and-mortar hassle by mailing your goods directly to gadget recyclers. Simply go online and get an estimate. You enter make, model, and condition, and they give you a price. If you like the deal offered, you can print out an address label — postage prepaid — and send the gadget in.
For an iPhone 3GS in good condition Gazelle will give you $27; CExChange will give you $44; and NextWorth $67. Note: all these prices fluctuate according to ever-shifting supply and demand, so it's worth shopping around on the day you're ready to sell.
You probably know the big players here: Craigslist and eBay. Craigslist works fine if you like the idea of selling locally, but be aware that local prices vary dramatically. For example, in Kansas, I saw iPhone 3GS models listed for around $60 but the same phone was averaging closer to $150 on the San Francisco Craigslist. Of course, these are just the list prices; on Craigslist, there's no way to know what they actually sold for. And the biggest downside of Craigslist is that you usually have to field dozens of inquiries and then arrange for a handoff.
But eBay offers a different story. Here, you CAN see what phones actually sold for. And on the day I researched prices, the average final sales price for an iPhone 3GS was $100. So sure, you might fetch a higher price on Craigslist, but for my money, I'd rather put an old phone on eBay and not deal with the hassles of random Craigslist shoppers.
But what if you have older gear that isn't really in demand? Donating gear to a non-profit charity can be a tax write off. Typically, you depreciate about 20% of the purchase price each year. So if you bought a phone for $300 two years ago, you could claim a deduction of as much as $180 for a donation. Check with the charity first to see that they accept electronics.
A final option is Freecycle. The Freecycle Network has over 5000 groups around the world that match people getting rid of old items with those who want it. You won't make any money with this one, but it may keep things that you think are junk from going into the landfill.
No matter what you do with your old gadgets, don't forget to erase all your personal information. Start with a "factory reset" — on most phones, you can find this option within the "settings" tab — and be sure to pull the SD card and the SIM card. The article below has even more info on how to safely remove your personal info.
[Related: Is it Safe to Sell Your Old Phone?]