Money mensch: How to cash in on an old mobile phone

By Martin Lewis, December 17, 2009

Sitting somewhere in the back of a drawer is buried treasure. It is a by-product of our near annual “mobile phone upgrades”. We instantly jump to the newer sexier model, leaving our old mobiles dumped in drawers.

If you have got an ex-mobile lying around unwanted and unused, then you can ditch it for quick cash. Now this may come as no surprise, because there are plenty of adverts from firms offering cash for your mobile, but don’t just jump to the first you see.

There are mammoth differences between what they pay. It varies site to site and from phone to phone. For example, I found the amount offered for a Samsung Z700 ranged between £55 and £5, meaning that you could lose 90 per cent by picking the wrong site — or perhaps even more on ebay (more to come).

How to get the best price
Self-evidentially, the key is to go to as many sites as possible to see who will pay the most. The easy way to do that is to use the comparison site. You simply tell it your phone make, and it will tell you who will pay what. Now I should declare that it is no surprise I think this is a cracking service, as I designed it and had it built myself.

How mobile recycling works
Once you have a price, you log on to these sites, and they will send out a padded envelope to post to them. At this point, it is advisable to send it “Recorded, Signed For”, which will insure it for up to £39 for an additional 75p.

Before sending off the phone, it is important to make sure that you have wiped off any data such as names, addresses and numbers. You should make sure that the phone is charged, but switched off, that you have taken the SIM card out and removed any security numbers or PIN numbers that could make it difficult to test.

The recycling firms expect phones to be in decent working condition, with only mild cosmetic damage. Anything worse and you will lose at least ten per cent of the value.

You should bear in mind that about one in five phones is rejected once received. If that happens, you can choose to accept a lower price, or ask for it to be sent back to you. If you have got an expensive phone that is just missing out, it may be worth paying to get it fixed and sending it in again.

Even if you cannot get a price, remember that old mobile phone batteries should be recycled responsibly. Do not just put them in bin as they can be harmful to the environment.

You may be able to get even more
Before you even think about using one of these sites, you should consider whether you want to recycle your phone at all. You may be able to get more elsewhere, though often it’s more hassle.

Consider eBay
Often you will get more for it by selling it through the likes of eBay, particularly if it’s a high-value handset. In that case, rather than sending the mobile to the developing world as they usually do, the recyclers themselves may sell it on eBay, so you just cut out the middle man. Though of course that is more hassle. The difference is small for low value handsets so, in that case, recycling companies are a better bet.

Sell it to a friend
Even if you do not want your phone any more, a family member or friend might. Deciding on the price might seem tricky, but my advice would be to take the best price being offered by the recycling sites and add ten percent. If your friend wonders how you decided on that figure, show them this article!

Do not give it to charity
I am not being churlish, it is just that I have never seen a recycling site that gives a decent amount to charity. They often get a great deal less than you would get for the phone by recycling it yourself. So you would be far better off to recycle the phone yourself then donate the money to the charity — that way you would also be able to claim gift aid tax back on top.

Before you give your phone away or recycle it, consider whether you really want to get rid of it. You could get it unlocked so that you can use it for cheap calls when you are abroad, or use it with a Pay As You Go SIM that gives you a cheap text package. Think before disposing of something that you might still have a use for.

Last updated: 3:36pm, January 6 2010