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 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, 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.