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Trade in anything and save money

By Naomi Mannino ·
Monday, April 23, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

We've always traded in our old motor vehicles toward the purchase of the new one, but now that mindset applies to many other items: electronics, video games, books -- and even CDs.

I wondered which way to go about it because I have an older model smartphone (I am a frugal electronics shopper, not an early adopter or a tech geek. I just choose from the phones offered for free on my carrier's two-year upgrade). So, I compared some popular new trade-in program features using my phone, and here's what I found out about how you can save money by trading in your electronics:

Trade-in options
Service Cost Free shipping Refund method Recycling My old smartphone*
eBay Instant Sale Free Yes Paypal Yes $66.72
Craigslist Free No Cash No $175.00 Free No Check, Amazon gift card, Paypal Yes $66.00
Best Buy trade-in Purchase/
Yes, UPS or in-store Store credit, check Yes $63.22 Free Free for military or in store at Target Check, gift card, Paypal Yes $61.00 Free Depends Check, Paypal Yes $66.00
RadioShack trade-in Free Yes Store credit Yes $66.76 Trade-In Store Free Yes Amazon gift card No $68.00
*These prices are for an older smartphone in good condition with the box, manual, cables and charger.

"I think this trend is generally a good thing because you can save money on a new purchase and recycle worthless electronics easily for free, " says Michael Paulson, retail expert at, a free website designed to help consumers predict prices based on proprietary price and model predictions. "The exception is Best Buy's paid program. Consumer Reports found that the program charges a fee (that) contributes negatively to the amount of your trade-in."

Paulson advises against constantly using trade-ins toward purchases of new electronics models every time they come out. "The economics just don’t work. You just don't get enough for selling your old one because the depreciation can be quick and massive."

In looking up my old smartphone, I can see a trend, though. You could likely get more for your old item by selling it yourself, and the same applies in the car market. You end up paying for the convenience of using the websites that directly offer you money in minutes. Paulson's advice: Get the best price for your trade by doing it before public announcements of new models, while prices are still highest. If you're an early adopter and a tech geek, keep abreast of tech developments in the news to help  gauge when to sell your old gadget.

One exception I found to all of this is books. I'd much rather simply swap titles than receive $1 or less trying to sell back the used book. Sites such as and are fun and saving money is a no-brainer because no money changes hands.

So what will you be trading in soon?

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1 Comment
April 24, 2012 at 8:38 am

I personally prefer as a trading platform because they will not only let you barter for items and real estate, but also services. That's incredibly convenient as you might not always be able to offer an interesting item.