How to sell your old iPhone or iPad


iPhone X scuffs
Be honest about wear and tear on your old iPhone.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Maybe you got a new iPhone or iPad for Christmas. And now you must deal with offloading your old device. (Thanks a lot, Santa.)

You can give away your old iPhone, or sell it, but before you do either of those you need to do a little prep work. Today we’ll see how to find out how much your old iPhone or iPad is worth, and then how to make it safe to sell.

Selling your old iPhone or iPad

There are many ways to sell a used iPhone or iPad. The best way to do it comes down to your preferences, and to the most popular marketplace in your town or country. But a few basic tips apply to all sales, no matter how or where you advertise the iPhone or iPad you want to turn into cash.

Let’s sell a fictional iPhone 6s Plus 64GB, unlocked. We’ve owned it since new, and it’s in great condition. Maybe it spent its life in a case. We kept the box, and we still have the original charger, Lightning cable, and EarPods in good condition. The EarPods have never even been unpacked.

How much is your old iPhone worth?

Photo: Faris Algosaibi/Flickr CC

Your old iPhone is worth what people will pay for it, and no more. It is not worth the higher price you hope to sell it for. Too high a price and your ad will languish until you reduce it. Too low a price and you’re losing out.

There are a few ways to determine the best selling price.

One is to skip private sales and go straight to a company like Gazelle or Cult of Mac’s own gadget buyback service, both of which buy used phones and tablets. The price will likely be lower than you could get if you sold it yourself (these services need to resell the devices, after all), but the process is easy. You just complete the form, then send off the iPhone in a provided shipping box. For that iPhone 6s Plus, Cult of Mac’s buyback program offers $205. (Gazelle will pay $180.)

If you want to spend the time to sell your device directly to a regular person, you need to get a feel for what kind of price the market will bear. For that, Mac2Sell can help. This great service offers pricing insight for people selling any kind of Apple gear, from Macs to iPhones. I use Mac2Sell whenever I sell Apple gear. Answer a few multiple-choice questions, and you’ll get an estimated price. One nice part of the service is that it can tell you the price in various countries, making it useful for folks outside the United States.

Mac2Sell is ugly, but smart.
Mac2Sell is ugly, but smart.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Mac2Sell reckons we can get $610 for that iPhone 6s Plus. Not bad, if true! That might be a bit unrealistic, however, as some eBay sellers offer the same device for But It Now prices of just $429.

To really get an accurate idea about how much your old iPhone is worth in your area, you should check out the competition. Local ads reveal how much other people are listing the same items for. Pay attention to the details — capacity, included accessories, and so on — and make sure that you’re not pricing yourself out. It may be better to knock a few bucks off the price for a quick sale.

In our case, let’s say that local ads are actually all around the same $610 as estimated by Mac2Sell. We should advertise ours at $590. That sounds a lot cheaper.

How to write a good iPhone ad

This is important. Take a look at the listings in your local eBay Classifieds, or Craigslist, or whatever. Some of them immediately attract you. Those are probably the ones with good photos. You need to make your iPhone stand out from the competition, so you should clean it up, wait for good light, and take some nice photos. They should be in focus, they should show every side of the iPhone, and you should include pictures of the accessories you saved.

This is why you kept the original box, and perhaps even left the EarPods and Lightning cable untouched inside it. All of this stuff will increase the perceived value, and allow you to charge top prices.

Photos Mac metadata
On the Mac, one setting switches off location sharing for all photos.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

It’s OK to include a bit of the surroundings — an iPhone artfully arranged on a nice desk is better than a straight shot on a white background. But don’t go crazy, and don’t get too many identifying details into your photos. You don’t want to be posting photos of the inside of your home on the internet. Also, use a tool like Metapho to remove any location data from photos before posting them.

Whatever you do, do not use product photos from Amazon or Apple or wherever. Your buyer will want to see photos of the actual item they’re buying.

Speaking of which, be honest. Call out all dings and scratches, and include close-up photos of them. The buyer will trust you more if you lay it all out. Think about it in reverse. If you’re buying, and you see a few small scratches called out in an ad, you’ll feel that the seller isn’t hiding anything.

Finally, make the copy friendly and personal. Don’t go crazy, but do a little more than copying and pasting the specs from Apple’s site. Perhaps say why you’re selling, or mention something you like about the device.

Also, make sure you provide the relevant specs early and completely. Include the iPhone model, the storage capacity, color and any info about carrier locks. For iPad, don’t forget to say if it is a cellular only, or just a Wi-Fi model. If you don’t, people will ask, or they’ll just skip over to the next ad.

Prepare your iPhone or iPad to sell

There are a few steps you should take before you hand your iDevice onto someone else. The most important is that you should erase all settings and content, returning the item to its factory state. Before you can do that, though, you must switch off a couple of security features.

Make a backup

If you already migrated to a new iPhone, you can skip the backup.
If you already migrated to a new iPhone, you can skip the backup.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You may not need to do this if you have already gotten a new iPhone and set it up. But if you’re selling to finance the purchase of a new device, then you should make sure you have an up-to-date iCloud backup so you can restore your new iPhone or iPad when you get it. To check your backups, head to Settings > iCloud Backup, and check the date of the last backup. It’s probably within the last day or so. If not, tap Back Up Now to do just that.

Sign out of Find My iPhone

find my iPhone sell

You won’t be allowed to reset your iPhone until you have switched off Find My iPhone. That’s a good thing, because it stops bad people from resetting a stolen iPhone. For us, it’s easy. Just head to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone, and toggle the setting to Off. Enter your passcode and you’re done.

Unpair Apple Watch

If you use an Apple Watch, now is the time to unpair it. This is done using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. In the app, go to the My Watch tab, select your watch, and then tap the little i button. Tap Unpair Apple Watch, and type in your passcode.

Reset your iPhone

This is the nuclear option, so be careful.
This is the nuclear option, so be careful.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Finally, you can reset your iPhone to factory settings, erasing all your personal info. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content And Settings, and follow along with the instructions. You’ll be asked a few times if you really want to erase and reset your iPhone, and you’ll need to tap in your device passcode.

And that’s it. Give your iPhone a final polish, put it back in its box with its accessories, and go meet the new buyer. Good luck!


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