How to Sell Your iPhone Safely and Quickly

Are you gearing up to get the new iPhone 4 that will be available starting June 24 and planning on selling your old iPhone to clear the way for it? That’s a great idea to help raise some funds for your next iPhone, but where can you sell that old iPhone? And how do you prepare it for its new owner while ensuring that none of your personal data is still on it? We’ve got some tips for you on how to sell your iPhone quickly and safely so you can get that shiny new iPhone 4 in your hands, perhaps with even a little extra cash to spare in your pocket.
sell iPhone

Preparing your iPhone

Your iPhone can have a lot of your personal data on it, including the contact information for all of your friends and family all the way to your bank account numbers stored in password keeper apps. And you’ve probably read at least one horror story about hacked Facebook accounts being used to solicit money from friends or other dastardly deeds, so you have even more incentive to make sure your private information doesn’t get out there. When you sell your iPhone, you can take steps to ensure that all of your personal information is completely erased from the device. The easiest way to do this is to use the Restore function in iTunes – you can find this button in the Summary pane for your iPhone when it’s connected to your computer.

According to Apple, restoring your iPhone will remove all of the data from it – this is the warning you’ll see when you go to do it:

If you’re not near your computer, there’s an option on the iPhone itself to remove all of its data. We don’t recommend this unless you’ve recently synchronized your iPhone with your computer and have a back-up of all your data on it, but in a pinch you can go to Settings/General/Reset where you’ll see this menu:

Choosing Erase All Content and Settings will do just what it sounds like. Note that it can take a while – up to a couple of hours, so be patient and make sure your iPhone is fully charged or plugged in so the process isn’t interrupted by the battery dying.

This Apple support article talks more about the Erase All Content and Settings feature and how it works. On older iDevices, this command actually overwrites existing data so it can’t be read. On new devices, the encryption keys are simply removed, which takes less time.

If you’re really worried about your data getting into the wrong hands when you get rid of your iPhone, we’d recommend restoring it through iTunes first and then using the Erase All Content and Settings command. This 2-step approach should thoroughly wipe your iPhone clean of all of your data and then some.

What to do with the SIM card?

The iPhone 4 takes only a Micro SIM card and SIM cards from previous iPhone models are too big and will not work in it without significant modification (which could render the card inoperable, so do this at your own risk). Once you activate your iPhone 4 with your current cell phone number and account, your old SIM card will be de-activated by your carrier and can simply be thrown away. If you’re selling your current iPhone before your iPhone 4 arrives, keep your SIM card. This will allow you to put into another GSM phone to use until you receive your new iPhone, or at the very least will prevent the new owner of your old iPhone from using your number and cell phone account.

Where to sell your iPhone

When it comes to selling your iPhone, you have many choices. We recommend you choose the best option for you based on your comfort level balanced with where you feel you can get the most money for your iPhone.

Selling locally

Of course, you can go totally old-school and put a classified ad in the For Sale section of your local paper. This won’t be free and the price of the ad will increase the longer you make it. While this probably won’t catch the eye of those most likely to be looking to buy an iPhone, it’s still a viable option to try if this is the method you prefer.

If Craigslist is available in your area, this is another option and is probably the best way to get word out about your iPhone for sale in your local area for free. Craigslist allows you to post for sale ads at no charge and they last for seven days. Unfortunately, Craigslist transactions have been in the news when thieves use the service to meet up with sellers of valuable items and rob them. Using Craigslist can be safe if you’re careful and here are few safety tips:

  • Never put your home address in your ad.
  • Unless you’re comfortable with everyone in the world seeing your phone number, don’t put your phone number in your ad and let the email anonymizing service Craigslist provides hide your email address as well.
  • Only meet potential buyers in public places with lots of traffic, preferably during daylight hours if at all possible. Places like a busy coffee shop or even your local public library could be good places to meet. Thieves are less likely to try robbery when lots of witnesses are around.
  • Don’t fall for the shipping scams. You’ll likely get lots of requests asking you to ship your iPhone to the potential buyer while he/she pays you through an obscure escrow service, or they’ll offer to pay you more than you’re asking if you ship the iPhone before receiving payment. These are all scams! Ignore all of these requests and only work with people who are willing to meet you locally in a public place.

Selling online

Many sites have dedicated marketplace forums where you can offer items for sale, usually for free. We here at have our own Marketplace forum where members are welcome to post their iPhones up for sale – we encourage you to try it!

eBay is another site through which you can sell your iPhone online. If you’re not familiar with eBay, it’s an online auction site where anyone just about anywhere in the world can bid on or buy outright nearly any item you can think of. You must be a member to put items up for sale and to bid on and buy items and joining is free. Members leave feedback for each other on each transaction and you can see a member’s feedback history to help you evaluate whether or not they’re trustworthy enough to deal with. Despite this feedback system and other policies the company has in place, it’s still very easy to get scammed on eBay. Here are a few tips for you as a seller to help you avoid getting scammed (our forum members have a great thread with many more eBay selling tips here):

  • Only accept PayPal as a payment method if you plan to ship your iPhone to the buyer. Also, only ship to the buyer’s Confirmed PayPal address (or the equivalent in the buyer’s country – PayPal does not offer address confirmation in all locations yet) – if you don’t do this, you will not be covered under PayPal’s Seller Protection policies.
  • Be sure to insure your iPhone with whatever shipping company you end up using. This will protect you in case your iPhone is lost or damaged on the way to its new owner. Otherwise, you may need to end up refunding the buyer if it doesn’t reach them, and you’ll have no iPhone to sell anymore.
  • If you offer local pick-up as an option, heed our tips about where to meet your buyer mentioned in the Selling Locally section above.
  • Be sure to specify the requirements for any buyers – eBay will let you automatically block out bidders who have too much negative feedback or non-payment complaints.
  • Monitor your auction regularly to cancel bids by those who may somehow slip through the automatic filters that you can have eBay apply to bidders.
  • For best results and more bids, be sure to provide a thorough description of your iPhone, detailing its condition and any included accessories, and add lots of pictures so that buyers can easily see what they’re bidding on. Buyers will be more likely to bid on your auction if they have enough information to fully understand what they’re buying.
  • Set your auction to end at a time when potential buyer’s in the time zone(s) you’re targeting are most likely to bid on your iPhone. If you will ship only to buyers in the U.S., this usually means you should try to have your auction end in the evening after work for most people across all of the time zones here (anywhere from 7:00 p.m. ET to 10:00 p.m. ET). If you are shipping to other countries and expect your buyer to be in Europe or Asia, time the end of your your auction accordingly. Also, Sunday evenings are surprisingly a good day on which to end an auction – many people are home relaxing and browsing the internet before getting into a busy work week.

Note that eBay charges you fees based on your auction listing and the final value of your iPhone when the auction ends. Plus, PayPal also charges fees for the payment you’ll receive from your buyer (and even more if PayPal must convert the payment from another currency). These fees could easily total $50 or more, so consider this as you think about using eBay compared to other selling methods.

There are companies that will buy your iPhone from you outright with no haggling and no need to wait for an auction to end or deal with strangers on the internet. Gazelle is one such service – all you need to do is enter the details about your iPhone on their site and they’ll let you know how much they’ll pay you for your iPhone. If you like what they’re offering, you can accept the offer and they will send you a postage-paid box for you to send your iPhone to them. They’ll then evaluate it to ensure it matches the description you provided and then pay you accordingly.

Trading In

Radio Shack, an electronics chain store, accepts trade-ins for working electronics items, including the iPhone. Right now, Radio Shack is offering up to $200 (in the form of a Radio Shack gift card only) for iPhones and if you want to take them up on their offer, you sign up for the program and they’ll send you a postage-paid box to ship your iPhone to them. Like Gazelle, they’ll evaluate your iPhone to ensure it matches the description you gave and you’ll get paid in the form of a Radio Shack gift card. While you’ll most likely be able to get more money selling your iPhone on eBay or even Craigslist, this is an easy no-hassle method to sell your iPhone and you can use the gift card you receive to buy the iPhone 4 from Radio Shack.


There you have it! As you can see, there are lots of ways you can sell your iPhone to raise funds for the iPhone 4 or any other shiny object you have your eye on. While it can be tricky, you’ll be more likely to come out with a fair bit of cash in hand thanks to the tips in this guide. If you have any other selling ideas or tips, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!

  • Kramer

    And if you have a jailbroken phone and want to ensure it remains intact for being jailbroken (and not risk it becoming a tethered jailbreak ) ?

  • Jeff

    You can jailbreak an iphone after you fully restore/erase all data & settings…without even using a sim card. Just use WiFi.

  • George Coleman

    I have had great experiences selling my iphones. I sold my iphone 3G to buy a 3Gs and then recently sold my 3Gs to buy an iphone 4. In both cases I sued Craigslist. I wrote a warm personal and “real” story about why I was selling them. The people that bought them both said that they could tell I was an individual and sounded like someone who had really taken care of their phone – (they were both in new condition). Both times I sold my phones for $350. That is a total of $700 !. I paid $99 for the original 3G and $199 for the 3Gs and $299 for the 4. You do the math – there was plenty left to pay taxes and upgrade fees and to get cases and other toys!!!

    This was the first time I got an iphone pre-ordered on launch day and I wanted to be sure I could sell my 3Gs for enough to get a 4, so I had to give up my iphone for the almost two weeks between order and receipt. Th eonly way I could do it was because I have an iPAD that is meeting most of my iphone needs; I am using an old phone I had laying around to hold my sim card and make phone calls during this wait.

    I will certainly use this strategy when I upgrade every time!!

  • George Coleman

    That previous post should have said “used” instead of “sued”. Oh what the mix of two letters can do !

  • Joseph

    One thing that most people forget is to sign your apple account out of the store. Even after a restore and reset you are still logged in. Thankfully you still need to enter your password to sign in, but still, it a little bread crumb that some people want cleaned up. I’m surprised that the iphone software does not do this already and it leaves me wondering what other little crumbs are left around.

    Just go to Settings, Store, and then sign out.

  • bellyheng

    Another thing that is not cleared would be your phone no located here:
    Settings->Phone->My Number…. just overwrite it with any other digits….

  • Djelimon

    Jailbreaking and unlocking seems to increase the value of the phone

  • Melanie

    For the convenience, I think it’s worth it to sell to a site like these, or to Gazelle or Nextworth.
    For selling an iPhone, or any other Mac, iPad, or iPod for that matter, I think is a prime choice of where to sell iPhone.

  • Bob

    Do you leave the old sim card in there when you sell it?

  • ikram ul haq

    i have iphone 4 , problem ****Error performing request*** unknown error***
    with this i cant make /receive call,,,and als sms…
    but my internet is working propley..
    i had down restor all phone,, but this problem is same..
    what i can do

  • ikram ul haq

    when your iphone IME block, then this message come

  • DL Joseph

    Will Radio Shack be offering the trade in program on the iPhone 4 for the iPhone 5?


    i have two new i phone4.. so i want sell one.. do u want it.. plz reply….