by Bill Snyder

Sell Your iPhone Now to Get the Best Price

Aug 17, 20123 mins
Computers and PeripheralsiPhoneMobile

When the iPhone 5 launches next month, prices for used iPhones will plunge as upgraders flood the market. eBay, Gazelle and even Verizon will cut you a deal, but the clock is ticking.

Remember the movie version of Aladdin where the wicked magician goes through the town chanting “New lamps for old?” Verizon, a not-quite-so-wicked wireless provider, is doing the same thing, offering to buy your old iPhone and apply the price to your new phone. But there’s one big catch: if you don’t sell before the middle of September, you’ll get a lot less.

A Verizon store employee this week told me I’d get $84 for my trusty iPhone 3GS. But when Apple announces the iPhone 5, which many analysts figure will come in mid September, the price for older iPhones will go down, he says. Indeed, the last time I checked the buyback price I would have gotten well over $100 from Verizon. Now it’s $84.

That makes a lot of sense, of course. Anytime a new gadget comes out, consumers who have an older version to unload dump them on the market, and the very basic laws of supply and demand kick in, pushing prices way down.

That law doesn’t just apply to Verizon, of course. Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer for Gazelle, a Web site that buys and sells used electronics, told the New York Times:  “Prices will go way down.”

We’re talking good money here for trade-ins. Gazelle will pay you $160 for the 16GB version of the iPhone 4 if it’s in good condition, and $180 if it’s “flawless.” Even a broken iPhone is worth $45. Considering that a new iPhone 4S with 16GB of memory goes for $199, you can see that a trade-in makes tons of sense. (Remember though, phones you buy from your wireless provider come at a subsidized price. If your contract has not expired, you won’t be eligible for a subsidized upgrade and you’ll pay much more for the new phone.)

As it happens, Gazelle’s offer for my 3G S is a bit lower than Verizon’s — I’d get just $65. However, Gazelle’s offer contains a tasty sweetener. If you agree to sell the phone today, the offer is guaranteed for 30 days. That means you won’t be without an iPhone while you wait for the iPhone 5 to ship. And you won’t be caught in the suction as iPhone prices plummet next month.

If you’re willing to go to more trouble to get a better price, there’s always eBay. Even an 8GB iPhone 4 built for AT&T’s network commands $270. That’s more than the price of a new iPhone 4, but again, the difference is the subsidy. People who are still locked into a contract would save money by buying that phone on eBay.

The bottom line here is pretty simple. If you’re one of the millions of consumers who will be lining up to buy the iPhone 5 this fall, selling your old iPhone (or other models) now is a good way to save money on the purchase. But the longer you wait, the less you’ll save.

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