New smartphone under the tree? Cash in your old phone

Assorted Christmas presents

If a new smartphone was on your holiday wish list, you might be wondering what to do with your old phone.

After I upgraded to an iPhone 5, I wasn't sure what to do with my 3-year-old 16GB iPhone 3GS, considered a dinosaur when age is measured in technology time.

I found an answer online: eBay InstantSale.

Here's how it works. You go to http://instantsale.ebay.com/ and enter the kind of phone you have. They'll ask you the model, whether or not it works, and if you're including a charger (yes and no, for me). They'll give you a price quote and give you a free shipping label.

I compared that to what Gazelle.com, another electronics buying site, offered and went with eBay because it named a higher price.

I boxed up the phone, dropped it in a FedEx box with that prepaid shipping label and waited. A few days later, I got an email that eBay received my phone, but the offer had changed.

The original price quote was $41.22, which dropped to $24.73 upon receiving the phone.

The chart below shows some more quotes we found in mid-December for working phones.

What you might earn for your phone

Model Quote
Apple iPhone 4 32GB AT&T $149.84
Apple iPhone 4 16GB Verizon $88.14
Apple iPhone 3GS 8GB $45.07
Samsung Nexus S GT-i9020A $59.51

Apparently, my phone had "one or more dead pixels or bright spots on the display" and "thin pressure cracks around the ancillary keys and/or the input jacks." I could take the new offer or have the phone mailed back to me.

I thought about the second option.

A friend pointed out that I could use it as a gym-only iPod or turn it into an iPod touch by linking it to our wireless system.

But with a laptop and iPad already, I really didn't need it. So I opted for the lower price and was paid immediately via PayPal.

Did I feel a bit scammed? Sure.

But I knew my phone had seen better days when I mailed it. And every extra dollar helps when you have three nephews on your holiday list.