Smart Buying


Trade-In Your Old Electronics for Cash

How many dusty electronic gizmos and gadgets do you have languishing at home? It's easy to convert those old cell phones, computers, iPods, video games and movie DVDs into quick cash.

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A number of big-name shopping sites, including Amazon, Best Buy, eBay and Gazelle, will offer cash or store credit for your gear. The process is quick and painless, and you won't have to pay shipping costs -- even if the buyer rejects your hardware and returns it. And while you may earn more by auctioning your gear on eBay, it's hard to top the simplicity of the cash-for-electronics marketplaces.

Although each marketplace is different, you'll usually get top dollar for trading in high-demand items, such as Apple desktop and laptop computers. That's the case with Gazelle. Gazelle chief gadget officer Anthony Scarsella says you can estimate what you'd get for your used item by seeing what it's selling for at the Gazelle stores on Amazon and eBay. Figure you'll get 10% to 20% less, given that the merchants must add a markup to make money. Top-end items bought at Gazelle stores include Hasselblad cameras and 40-inch monitors.

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Easy Sell

As you might expect from the world’s top e-tailer, Amazon has an extremely user-friendly interface with its Trade-In Store. The site accepts trade-ins for store credit in four categories: books, video games, DVD movies & TV, and electronics. To submit an item, you enter the product's name in a search window, then answer a few quick questions about its condition. If Amazon is interested, you'll receive an offer on the spot.

But what if Amazon, upon receiving your device, decides the product is worth less than its original offer? You have the option of automatically accepting a reduced price or having the product returned to you at no charge.

I gave the service a try. Amazon offered $63.25 for my Apple iPod nano, which was a few years old but still in excellent condition. I accepted the offer and printed Amazon's free UPS mailing label, which popped up in a browser window. Next, I boxed up the iPod, drove to my nearest UPS Store, and dropped it off. Painless.

Within a couple of weeks, Amazon notified me via e-mail that it had examined and accepted my iPod. It immediately credited my gift card balance.

I'll confess that I suffered from bout of seller's remorse. Could I have made more by auctioning the device on eBay? Probably. I checked eBay and discovered that bidders were offering up to $100 for iPod models similar to mine. Lesson learned: If you want top dollar, trade-ins aren't necessarily the way to go -- though, of course, there's always risk in an auction.

My second Amazon sale involved a collection of long-forgotten movie DVDs and PlayStation 2 video games. The payment-per-item was nominal, ranging from 25 cents to $4.30, but the $17.25 total was worth the effort.

My third try wasn't a charm, however. Amazon offered $46 for another iPod of mine, an older click-wheel model with a 60-gigabyte hard drive. I thought the device was in "good" condition, but Amazon disagreed. It claimed the device had too many scratches, so no sale. It returned the iPod on its own dime.

The eBay Difference

EBay's Instant Sale works pretty much the same way that Amazon's Trade-In Store does, albeit with two notable differences. Before returning a product to you, eBay first asks if you'll accept a reduced price. And unlike Amazon, eBay pays cash, not store credit. The fastest way to get paid is to open an account with eBay's PayPal service (if you haven't already) and transfer the funds to your checking account.

EBay offered $36.35 for my Apple TV video-streaming device, sight unseen. After examining it, however, eBay lowered the offer to $30.90 -- once again, visible scratches were to blame. (What scratches? Am I blind?)

Anyway, I accepted the lower offer, mostly because it was higher than the amount competing trade-in sites were willing to pay. Gazelle, for instance, offered just $27, and Amazon wasn't interested in my Apple device at all.

Many Options

Other sites besides eBay offer cash, too, including Gazelle, which also operates trade-in services for big-name retailers such as Costco and Walmart. If you'd rather not pack up your gear, go to a participating Best Buy or Radio Shack store, where someone will appraise and buy your products on the spot. Many trade-in services will offer to recycle your device free if they don't want to buy it.

The primary perk of trading in a device: Fast cash. You don't have to deal with a tedious online auction or weekend garage sale. But always compare prices at several sites before you accept an offer. While you're at it, surf over to eBay to see what sellers and auctioneers are asking for your product. Finally, if you want more moolah than the trade-in guys are offering, it may be time to dust off your auction gavel and list it on eBay.

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