If you were to look in your closet or garage, what kind of old electronic skeletons would you find? In mine, I found a Rio MP3 player, a BlackBerry Curve 8900, an iBook and other relics from my gadget-loving past.
Rather than letting your old devices collect dust or throwing them out, which is an environmental hazard, there are more useful ways to dispose of your retired gadgets. You can recycle them, donate them or sell them to make a little extra cash — perhaps for your next electronics purchase.
Ebay and Craigslist are two of the most popular ways to sell old electronics. But if you don’t want to deal with creating an ad or haggling with potential buyers, there are alternatives. In this column, I’ll outline some services — including NextWorth, Gazelle and BuyMyTronics — that let you trade in used tech products for money or gift cards.
Before I get into what each company offers, it’s important to know what you should do with your old electronics before you sell them. Devices like smartphones and laptops contain a lot of personal data, and you want to make sure that you delete all that information, since many of these services resell the products.
Backup and Delete
The first thing you’ll want to do is backup all your data. The method for doing so varies depending on the type of device, operating system and other factors. I won’t get into the details of each, since that would take up a column of its own. Instead, I’ll just touch on a couple of major products. Google and YouTube are good resources for finding tutorials on how to backup and wipe all kinds of electronics.
If you have an iPhone, iPod or iPad, you can do so using iTunes. If you have an Android device and a Google account, things like contacts, calendar and Google Play app purchases are synced and backed up there. There are also cloud storage solutions and third-party apps available, such as Dropbox and Titanium Backup.
For Windows PCs and Macs, you can backup data and personal files to an external hard drive or cloud service. Also, since some software, such as iTunes or Adobe Photoshop, can only be activated a certain number of computers, you’ll want deauthorize your account from the computer, so you can use it on your new one.
Once you have everything backed up, you’ll want to permanently delete everything from your device. For the iPhone, iPad or iPad, you should turn off services like iCloud and iMessage, if enabled, and then you can restore to factory settings by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Contents and Settings. Android users can perform a factory reset right on the device itself.
Computers are a little more complicated. It’s not as simple as dragging everything to the trash or recycling bin and emptying it, since recovery software can find deleted files. The safest thing to do is wipe your hard drive clean, which also deletes the operating system. You can do this using the built-in Disk Utility on Macs, or software like Darik’s Boot and Nook or Eraser for Windows. Alternatively, you can completely remove the old hard drive and replace it with a new one before selling.
One final step you might want to take is to reinstall the OS. You can do this with the OS discs that came with your computer, which you hopefully still have. Now you’re ready to sell.
NextWorth will buy back a variety of electronics, including smartphones, digital cameras, e-book readers and even calculators. The company also accepts Mac and Windows laptops, but not desktop PCs.
On the site, you can enter the name or model number of the product you have, and then you’ll be asked a series a questions about the condition of the device. For example, for my third-generation iPod touch (32 gigabytes), I was asked whether the display was cracked, if all the buttons were working and if it was engraved.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, NextWorth will give you an instant quote for your trade-in. If you accept, you can choose to get your payment through PayPal, as a check, or as a Target gift card. NextWorth pays for shipping, and once it has received the device and it checks out (that is, it’s in the condition you originally stated), it will take approximately a week to process your payment.
The company told me it is working on shortening that timeline. But NextWorth has also partnered with Target and other retailers, so you can go into participating stores and trade in your device there.
Another note about NextWorth (this applies to Gazelle and BuyMyTronics, too): The company performs a data wipe once it receives your device, but they also recommend doing it yourself before sending it in. In addition, all three services check to make sure that turned-in products have not been reported lost or stolen.
Gazelle operates similarly to NextWorth, but is more limited in the types of products it accepts. You can trade in cellphones, tablets (Android, iPad and Windows), iPods, Apple TV, Apple computers and displays. But even then there are only certain models that are eligible for trade-in. My BlackBerry Curve 8900, for example, was not on the list of approved BlackBerrys.
Before trading in, you’ll need to answer a couple of questions about the condition of the product, and then Gazelle will provide you with an offer. If your old gadget is worth more than $30, the company will pick up the shipping expenses. Once Gazelle inspects your device, it takes about a week to process payment, and you can choose to have it sent via PayPal, check or Amazon gift card.
That said, Gazelle only offered $31 for my iPod touch; NextWorth offered $33.
BuyMyTronics offers trade-ins for a wide range of products, including digital cameras, PDAs, GPS and game consoles. It doesn’t accept Windows PCs or laptops, though.
All three services are easy to use, but I like that BuyMyTronics offers pictures of the different models for each category in case you forgot the full product name. It also simply asks you to check off whether it’s new, working or broken, and then gives you an instant quote.
It offered the most for my iPod touch at $35. But when I checked to see how much my 32GB iPhone 5 would bring in, NextWorth offered the most, so it pays to do a little comparison shopping.
BuyMyTronics pays for shipping. Once they receive your device and it passes inspection, payment via PayPal or check is processed in about a week. Alternatively, BuyMyTronics has two retail stores — one in Dallas and one in the Bronx, N.Y. — where you can bring in your used electronics for instant credit. The company also takes trade-ins at GameStop stores, and often have special in-store credit offers.
With all these options for trading in devices, there’s really no reason to keep your old electronics around the house. These sites will help you get rid of the clutter and make some extra cash while doing it.