Aussies sitting on $6.4 billion worth of unused mobile phones

With new smartphones released every year and technology getting even better, upgrading to a new phone is a temptation that many of us feel. If you are looking to upgrade your device, the big question is — what do you do with your old phone?

According to recent data from online shopping marketplace eBay, Australians are sitting on more than $6.4 billion worth of unused mobile phones. That’s right — that old phone sitting in your desk drawer could earn you some extra cash if you decide to sell up.

Navigating through the process of buying or selling a refurbished or second-hand phone can be a complicated one. Not only can it be difficult to work out the value of your pre-owned phone to then onsell, but as a buyer, buying a second hand or refurbished phone from a private seller could make you vulnerable to paying more for a device with questionable quality.

Pre-owned phones proving to be popular with eBay shoppers

This research from eBay also stated that in Australia, a mobile phone is sold on eBay every two minutes, with pre-owned phones accounting for 30% of these mobile sales. Apple, Samsung and Google are also the most popular brands with the best returns.

With the recent release of premium phones such as the iPhone 13 series and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, if you’ve been thinking of upgrading to a new phone, it might be time to sell your old device.

“Most of us have at least one handset gathering dust at home. Our data reveals Aussies could make hundreds of dollars selling their pre-loved phone — a significant amount to either put towards one of the latest phones or set aside ahead of the expensive Christmas period,” said Brooke Eichhorn, eBay Australia’s Head of Luxury and Consumer Selling.

To help Aussies looking to sell their old devices, eBay is aiming to make this easier to ensure that buyers are getting information on how much they could list their device for, while also ensuring that buyers have more protections.

If you’re selling your pre-owned phone, you can use eBay’s online tool that allows you to select the features and conditions of the device you’re looking to sell, which will then give you an estimated price.

For anyone looking to pick up a pre-owned or refurbished phone, eBay has also revamped its refurbished mobile phone category with additional protections. Now, eBay will pre-vet all sellers which list the mobile phone as being ‘refurbished’ in this category. Verified sellers will also offer 30-day returns and one year of warranty as standard.

How to get the most cash for your phone: Reselling your phone vs phone trade-in offers

Of course, selling your phone isn’t the only way you can make money off your old device. Many telcos and retailers will offer the option to trade in your device if you chose to upgrade. If you’ve bought your phone on a plan from a telco (such as Telstra, Optus or Vodafone), or from the manufacturer (such as Apple), you might have the option to upgrade your device and save some money by trading in your old device.

While a trade-in might be tempting for the convenience, eBay’s research states that you can earn upwards of $400 more than the amount offered for a handset trade-in from telcos or retailers. For example, from the eBay research, selling a 128GB good-condition iPhone 11, you could get up to $400 for trade-in through Optus, up to $435 trade-in from Vodafone or up to $535 from Apple. The same device could sell for up to $643 on eBay.

Keep in mind that the amount you’ll get from selling your phone or trading in your phone, will depend on the condition of the device. While you could technically sell your phone for whatever amount you want, it’s unlikely that you’d sell the device for higher than the asking price for similar used or refurbished phones. Also, if the phone isn’t in the best condition, especially if it has cosmetic issues such as dents and scratches, you might have a harder time selling this device than phones in excellent working order.

The advantage to selling your device is that you will get to set the price you sell it at, and you’ll also keep the money for yourself to use as needed. A trade-in via a telco will set the amount and usually credit the trade-in amount to your account, saving you a certain amount on your phone bill. Similarly, choosing to trade-in your old iPhone with Apple will either give you credit towards your next purchase, or a gift card to use at another time. Going via the trade-in option limits how you can use that money and tends to be aimed at those looking to upgrade their device, rather than those looking to discard unused devices and get some extra cash in the process.

Choosing to trade-in instead does eliminate some of the stress of selling your device. Even if your phone is in poor condition, the telco or manufacturer might still take the device and give you a smaller amount for the trade-in, while trying to sell a phone in poor condition yourself could be harder. A telco or manufacturer will also organise for you to send the phone to them, while selling it yourself means you’ll need to organise collection or postage.

Upgrading your phone? Compare the latest phone plans

If you’re looking to upgrade to a new device, the iPhone 13 series is available to buy outright or on a phone plan from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. You can use our mobile phone plan comparison tool to see a wider range of devices available from telcos.

The following table shows a range of 24-month plans for the 128GB iPhone 13 as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a range of 24-month plans for the 128GB iPhone 13 Pro as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

What to look out for when buying a used or refurbished mobile phone

Selling an old phone is one way to get some extra cash, but buying a second-hand or refurbished phone can be a great way to save some money if you’re looking for a new device.

If you’re not concerned about picking up the latest smartphone, and you don’t mind a pre-owned phone, you can save a bit on devices that are one or two years old. Some of these phones might even be in near-perfect working order and with hardly any scratches. It’s also a great way of picking up a phone for your child without spending hundreds on the newest phones on the market.

However, ensuring that the phone is in good condition, and that you essentially get what you pay for, can be hard. While eBay has put in some protections for customers buying refurbished phones through the site, this is mostly limited to eBay’s control over those selling a refurbished phone rather than a second-hand or ‘used’ phone.

Refurbished devices have typically had some part of the device replaced, such as battery, which can make a phone almost as good as new depending on the overall condition. Refurbished phones are also sold through other retailers and telcos, and a good option if you want to save money on a phone and don’t mind that it isn’t new.

Buying used phones might be harder to navigate. You’ll receive the device in the same condition as when it was last used by its former owner. That means that battery life may be reduced, and it might not function as smoothly as refurbished phones typically do. You also might need to be wary of scammers or getting a phone that doesn’t meet your expectations. If the listing sounds too good to be true for the price, it’s possible that it might just be that.

Related: What is the best cheap phone in Australia?

Is selling your old phone worth it?

Most of us wouldn’t say no to some extra cash in our pockets, especially during the lead-up to Christmas. However, handing down your phone to a family member, such as child or grandparent, might be a better option in the long run. Rather than buying your child a new or refurbished smartphone, handing down your old device could end up saving you money and you’ll know the phone’s condition.

Many of us are also guilty of falling into the trap of keeping these devices in case of an emergency, such as a lost or damaged phone. So, you might need to weigh up the likelihood of needing a backup phone ‘just in case’.

Selling your phone to a stranger, whether through a site like eBay or Facebook Marketplace, could also be a bit risky. If you do agree to sell the phone in person, rather than posting it to them, ensure you stay safe by meeting them in a public place near other people, maybe with a friend or family member nearby.

Ultimately, while getting that extra cash from selling your old and unused handset is tempting, and potentially profitable, you’ll need to decide what is best for you. Whether you choose to sell it or go with a trade-in offer, take care to read the terms and conditions of your chosen option to ensure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

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