As your mobile phone contract comes to an end and you start eyeing up the new shiny handset, give a thought for what your trusty old smartphone could be worth. The same goes for other gadgets, of course. Tablets, eReaders, even laptops are upgraded more regularly now.

Perhaps you like to hold onto your old devices as a backup in case the new one goes wrong or hurls itself into a nearby cup of tea. The more munificent among you might pass them on to family members or friends who want a better smartphone (or their first), while a large chunk of people will simply put the old unit in a draw somewhere and forget about it. But this could be passing up the chance to cash in on a booming second-hand market that exists for smartphones and other tech gadgets.

See also: Mobile phone deals

With so many SIM-only deals offering brilliant value for money by removing the cost of a smartphone, people are regularly buying used handsets. Selling your old phone or tablet should give you some cash that could help fund the purchase of a newer model or to put towards something else such as a holiday.

You can sell directly on sites including ebay and Gumtree, or use a “we-buy-any-phone” style website if you prefer a more straightforward transaction. Swap sites offer a chance to exchange your gadget for something else, most of the phone operators have now started trade-in deals, or there’s always the choice to donate the handset to a worthy charity.

To get the most money for your device, it’s important to keep it in good condition. Cracked screens, scratched metalwork or plastic or non-working functions innards will seriously affect the amount anyone will pay for your used tech.

Thankfully these things are easy to avoid if you keep it in a case and use a screen protector. Sure, you might lose some of the slinky feel and hide the elegant design, but at the end of your contract you’ll be rewarded with more money from the sale than if you don’t look after your stuff.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the sooner you sell your old handset the better, as the pace of change in technology means that devices quickly devalue. Remember to return your gadget back to its factory settings before you pop it in the post. This will erase any personal data, passwords and so on.

So let’s explore the various options for selling tech gadgets, the pros and cons of each, and the kind of prices you might expect to receive for smartphones in particular. We’re using an iPhone 4S as an example here: a popular smartphone that’s nearly two years old. Apple equipment does tend to hold its value very well in the second-hand market so the prices you see will be at the top end, but Android, Blackberry and Windows phones still all fetch respectable sums.

Sell your tech gadgets: Trade in your smartphone

Before you head off to the various websites listed below, check whether you can get a decent trade-in price. Many of the mobile phone operators in the UK now offer trade-in deals directly to their customers. O2, Vodaphone, Three, and EE all offer to buy your old unit off you for prices very similar to the recycling stores. So when you’re negotiating your next upgrade make sure to ask them how much they would give you for your old phone.

Trade in your smartphone

Sell your tech gadgets: ebay and Gumtree

One of the first places people often look when buying second-hand tech is ebay. The auction site has been around since 1995 and has proven itself to be a great place for shoppers to buy and sell new and used equipment with a good deal of security.

Setting up an account is free and easy: go to www.ebay.co.uk and click the Register option in the top-left corner. Once you’re up and running you can list items for sale by clicking the Sell option in the top right-hand side of the screen. The new-look sellers page is very simple to use and just requires you to have a picture of your device and insert a brief description.

ebay

Be honest about the condition of your device and highlight any scratches or damage that it may have, preferably with a picture. It might lose you a few pounds but you’d be surprised how many people are quite happy to buy something with a few nicks and scrapes as long as they know up front. Including the original box and accessories is always a good idea if you still have them.  

One of the ways that ebay protects buyers is through the use of feedback scores. Each time you complete a transaction on the site both parties are asked to rate each other. The point of this is that the community monitors itself and you can see if someone has been selling things that were broken, not as described, or took a long time to post/pay.

This can be a disadvantage for new members on the site as they have no ratings. Bidders are less likely to buy an expensive item from you if they have no idea how reliable you are. One tactic is to buy a few cheap items first so that you can get some good feedback from sellers and bolster your profile. If you don’t fancy this route, and have no intention of using eBay for anything else, then it would be wiser to find a friend who is already an active user of the site and ask them to sell it for you.

There are two ways of selling on ebay. One is to use a fixed price and the buyer can purchase the item immediately. The other is a traditional auction where you set a start price and let people bid on the item until the time period of the listing ends (you can set up to 10 days).

Obviously with the first option you know how much you’re going to get for your device, but this can draw less potential bidders if the price is too high. A good rule of thumb is to watch a few items similar to yours and see the amounts they sell for, then adjust yours accordingly. If you like, you can invite buyers to make a ‘best offer’ which you can accept, refuse or make a counter offer.

The auction style brings more risk but also the chance that a few ebayers will get drawn into a bidding war and drive the final price up. If you’re worried that you might lose money, you can set a reserve price which means that the item won’t be sold unless the bidding reaches a certain level. Again price this in line with other, similar items and try to make it enticing enough for bidders to stay interested, after all they’re looking for a bargain.

We watched several iPhone 4S 16GB models and found that the average auction price was around the £210 mark, with a few outliers that went much higher - we even saw one that finished up at just over £400! Remember that eBay charges a fee of 10 percent of the sale price, and any additional features you add on the listing (a reserve price, extra photos) will also incur small charges. It might seem high, but the number of potential buyers means you’re almost guaranteed a sale.  

The nationwide nature of ebay also means that you’ll usually have to post your gadget. Make sure you set an appropriate postage cost in your listing, which includes insurance. If the buyer never receives the item, they will ask for a refund. You’ll need to claim on the insurance to make your money back.

Gumtree

Gumtree

Gumtree is a classified-style site which allows you to sell your items for free. Simply describe your device, attach a picture, set the price, then wait for an email or phone call from an interested buyer. It’s a fast and easy way to trade.

You don’t have the assurance of a rating system so you’ll need to exercise more caution as there are a few ne'er do wells out there who will try to take advantage of you. We heard of one recent example where a buyer turned up late in the evening (when it was darker) and paid in cash on the doorstep for an item, only for the seller to discover a few minutes later that the money was fake. In these cases you have no-one except the police to turn to, so always ensure that you inspect the money before handing over the goods.

When we checked Gumtree, the average asking price for the iPhone 4S 16GB was around £250, although, unlike with ebay, you’re not able to check whether the devices were successfully sold or not. Typically, buyers haggle with sellers for a lower final price through Gumtree.

Next page: Sell your smartphone for a guaranteed price