How Does an Apple Trade In Work?

Fall brings a new slate of Apple products, including updated versions of iPhones and Apple Watches (most recent debuts: the iPhone 13 and the Apple Watch Series 7one of our top picks for the best fitness trackers). The iPhone 14 and other new devices are expected to be unveiled at the company’s Sept. 7 event, as reported by the Wall Street Journal newsroom. Upgrading can be costly, but you can offset that by trading in your old device. Here are a few of the best ways to trade in last year’s devices for cash or store credit so you can score the latest tech for less.

Try the Apple Trade In Program

The most convenient way to turn in your old hardware and get credit toward new gear is by trading it in directly through Apple. The company accepts used iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches and even Android phones. Here’s how it works: If you’re shopping for a new device online, you’ll get a prompt as you’re choosing the model, color and storage capacity; it’s most prominent when choosing an iPhone. You’ll select the device you’re trading in and its condition from pulldown menus. Trade-in values ​​range from $25 to $600 for iPhones, up to $150 for Apple Watches, a maximum of $555 for iPads and up to $1,000 for computers.

Here’s an example: As of August 2022, last year’s iPhone 12 in good condition (it turns on, the buttons and cameras work, the body, glass and display are all undamaged) will net you $400 cash or store credit regardless of the storage capacity . For the same phone in poor condition (say, the screen or cameras are in rough shape) the amount plummets to $100. These prices are generally less than you’d get from selling the item yourself, but the process is a lot easier. If Apple deems your device as not worth anything, it’ll still accept it for free recycling.

You’ll have a few options when you’re ready to complete the purchase. If you’re paying in full, you’ll be charged the retail price upfront, and then receive a credit back to that payment method once the trade-in is received and its condition validated. Alternately, you’ll receive instant credit if you’re paying with an Apple Card, via Apple’s iPhone payment program or through your carrier instead.

Regardless of your payment method, Apple will send a trade-in kit. This includes instructions for transferring your old device’s data to your new one and a postage-paid box for sending the hardware back to Apple. It’ll be inspected when it’s received to verify the condition matches what you reported; if it doesn’t, you’ll have the option to back out or continue with the trade and pay the difference.

If you’re at an Apple Store, the process is similar except everything happens right there on the spot. You can even take advantage of the program if you’re not ready to upgrade but want to get some old tech out of your home—you’ll go through a similar process on Apple’s Trade In site and receive a gift card.

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple

Apple Watch Series 7

Get trade-in credit through your carrier

Cellphone carriers want your used phones, and they’ll pay you for them, though the amount can vary widely—anywhere from $5 to $650, depending on the device’s condition. In early August 2022, for example, AT&T and T Mobile are offering up to $290 for an iPhone 12 with 64 gigabytes of storage, and Verizon is giving up to $276. The carriers frequently offer special promotions around the launch of new devices, so these figures might change when the iPhone 14 is announced (likely in September 2022). Here’s the catch: All three major carriers generally want you to lease your phone, and rather than taking the money off upfront, they lower your monthly payment over two or three years.

Sell ​​your cellphone or device online

Selling old devices yourself requires more work but offers a potentially bigger payoff. There’s the old standbys, eBay, where you can sometimes get a great price, but it’s not a guarantee; a quick survey of recently completed transactions puts the average selling price of an unlocked, 64GB iPhone 12 at about $385, which is less than Apple’s $400 offer. That’s only an average, of course, and it’ll depend on the buyers who respond to your listing and the condition of your phone. You need to handle shipping and pay any associated fees, including 12.9% of the final value (which brings that $385 down to about $340). I’ve had success with eBay, but also a handful of flaky transactions where the buyer never paid or even responded to my messages, and then I had to list the phone again.

Another site, Swapa, lets you sell directly to another of the site’s users with a 3% fee. At the time of publication, Swappa’s average payout for an iPhone 12 is $501, which is more than Apple offers (even after Swappa’s 3% fee) but also entails a similar level of work as selling on eBay. Used-device seller Back Market will also accept trade-ins, which is easier than having to connect with a seller, but is currently offering only $350 for a pristine-condition iPhone 12.

Decide whether you want top dollar or low hassle

If your Apple device is in good shape and your priority is an easy trade-in process, sending it to Apple is likely your best bet, though it’s worth checking out the deals your mobile carrier is offering too. Selling it yourself may earn you top dollar, but you’ll have to do the work of listing it and sending it in, and you run the risk of encountering buyers who ghost or shipping hassles in the process.

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.