I just did something that I’ve been putting off for years; found, cleaned and sold more than $2,000 worth of old cellphones, laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles. Not a bad haul for a few hours on a Saturday morning during a pandemic.
Rooting around in my garage, drawers, and closets for all the dusty devices I’ve been storing took about an hour, but the actual selling part? That took less than thirty minutes.
Granted, I have more digital doodads than the average person since it’s my job and all. But according to a recent survey, Americans have some $43 billion worth of old gadgets sitting around collecting dust – and losing value as time goes on. Four in every 5 people have an old cellphone, and most people stand to make at least $200 by cashing them in.
Turn your connected clutter into cash
I’ve talked about dozens of different ways to turn your connected-clutter into cold, hard cash in the past including eBay, Craigslist, Nextdoor, ecoATM, and many others. But for this particular pandemic weekend project, I used one single site called Decluttr.
I picked this one because it’s selling to a company – not peer to peer – so there's no writing descriptions, taking photos, managing auctions, meeting people face-to-face, or even leaving the house. (Score!) I’ve always been a fan of doing the least amount of work for the biggest return, and this is as easy as it gets.
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I did a price check with other similar sites, too, and found that Decluttr routinely offers more than other similar sites, especially on higher-priced items such as a MacBook Pro. Here’s a sampling of the gadgets I ended up selling:
iPhone 7 (64GB, Unlocked):
Sony PS4 (Black, 500GB):
MacBook Pro (2.4 13” Touch 2019):
iPad Pro 12.9, Wi-Fi, 4G, 512GB):
How to do it yourself
When you’re selling tech gadgets, versus DVDs, CDs, books and other items you can sell on Decluttr, the easiest way to do it is to pull up the full site on a laptop or mobile device.
Choose “Sell Tech” from the top menu bar or hit the big green “Start Selling” button. Enter a little bit of information or follow the prompts to find your specific device, choose a carrier or “unlocked,” and choose between “good, poor, or faulty” as the condition. The company outlines how to figure out which category to choose. Add as many devices as you want to sell and send them all in at the same time. You can also download and use the Decluttr app, (iOS, Android) too, but that’s easier to do for media like DVDs and books because of the barcode scanner feature, which isn't available for gadgets. For tech, it’s actually easier to use the site.
You don’t need to include chargers, accessories, or your gadgets' original packaging, but the company will recycle them if you do. You’ll get an instant price quote based on that initial info you provide, but you’re not quite done yet.
Don't make these common mistakes
Just because you get quoted a specific price, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically walk away with big, big bucks. Take a few minutes and read through the company’s fine print.
For gadgets, Decluttr says the price they offer is valid for 28 days. They also explain that they might “revalue” the item. This might happen if the gadget you send isn’t in the condition you listed, or if it’s a different make, model, or connected with a carrier when you choose “Unlocked.”
If the company makes you a counteroffer, you have 14-days to accept or decline it with the link they send via email. If you decline it, they’ll send your gadget back.
Once the gadget gets to the Decluttr warehouse, it goes through a quality assessment process, checked to make sure it isn’t lost, stolen, or counterfeit, and scrubbed of all your personal data.
The most common mistakes people make:
Sending the wrong gadget(s). For instance, telling the company you’re sending them an Unlocked 128GB Samsung Galaxy S9, but instead send them a slightly different model, such as an S8 or 64GB. I almost did this and caught it when I went back over everything.
Be honest about the condition because if you fudge a little and get quoted a higher price, only to have the gadget show up with scratches, a broken screen, or it won’t turn on, the company will either make you a lower offer or return the gadget.
Be sure to package the gadget(s) with enough newspaper or bubble wrap that they won’t get jostled around or damaged in shipping.
Make sure your device isn’t locked, paired, red-flagged, or blacklisted. If you think there’s a chance you still owe a carrier on your smartphone, or that you bought it second hand and it might have been stolen, be sure to check the IMEI before you send it. There are a few ways to do this, including both free and paid versions.
Pro tip: Clean and prep
After you get your price quote and choose the “Sell This Device” option, follow the prompts to create an account, and add some additional information, such as how you want Decluttr to pay you. You can choose either PayPal or direct deposit to your bank.
The company sends you a welcome packet and prepaid labels via email. But before you package and send your gadgets off, be sure to clean them up and wipe them down.
Backup your device (if it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or anything with photos, personal information, and content you want to keep), then unpair it and return it to factory settings. Be sure to remove any memory cards and your SIM card.
This is all fairly easy to do through the device settings. When in doubt, a quick Google search generally walks you through it quickly and simply.
Then, turn it off and wipe it down. I use Zeiss mobile screen wipes (starting at $8 for 30) all the time for this exact job. They come in little individual wet wipe-type packets, so you can stash them in pockets, purses, glove boxes, and desk drawers. They’re a gentle, but really effective way to clean mobile screens and a quick few wipes do away with smudges, grease, and dirt.
I always snap photos of the items too as I have them packed and prepped to send off so that if there are any discrepancies later, I can show the company exactly what I sent.
Show me the money!
The next step is to check your email for any messages from Decluttr, in case they revalue your gadget. If that happens, you’ll have the option to ‘Accept’ or ‘Decline’ the revised price via a button in the actual email. If you decline it, they’ll return your gadget free of charge.
And that's it. This really is one of the easiest ways I’ve found yet to make a little extra money, get rid of stuff I don't need and do something good for the planet, too.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to make money on old cellphones, laptops, headphones, iPads