The Secondary Cell Phone Market and How You Can Make Money From It

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So, you’re getting a new cell phone for your birthday, Christmas, or another holiday?

If you live in the US and are planning to upgrade to your first Smart Phone (or a better, fancier Smart Phone) on one of the major US cell phone carriers, you most likely will be following the sequence of events listed below:

  1. Go down to your local cell phone carrier’s store.
  2. Get a new Smart Phone at a significant discount, as part of a service contract extension deal.
  3. Hand the cell phone company your current phone as part of the phone exchange/service contract extension deal.

However, have you ever considered what happens to your old cell phone once you hand it over your carrier during the exchange? Do they sell used cell phones for a profit? Or, do they place the old phone in some type of cell phone recycle program?

More importantly, have you ever wondered if you could you come out further ahead if you took matters in to your own hands and sold your old phone yourself?

The Secondary Cell Phone Market

Here enters the secondary cell phone market…

According to an article by, only 3% of cell phone users recycled their old cell phones. Nevertheless, the article stated that of the people that did not recycle their phones, almost 44% left their old phones sitting around their home in boxes and/or drawers. Do you have any old cell phones in boxes or drawers at your house? I think I do! The rest of people either sold their phones on the secondary market or gave it to friends and family.

From these statistics, it is obvious that the secondary market for cell phones is alive and well these days. In fact, a Boston based study claimed that Smart Phones retain anywhere between 40-60% of their original value when sold in the secondary market. So, instead of simply letting your old phone sit around your house and take up drawer space, it could be very beneficial to search around the Internet in order to find a buyer for your old phone.

In addition, before automatically surrendering your old cell phone to your mobile phone carrier as part of an upgrade deal, it might also be prudent to compare the savings you’ll obtain with the upgrade versus how much you’ll make from selling your old phone to an independent party. You might just find that you can come out ahead selling the phone yourself. This could be particularly useful if you are dissatisfied and wanting to leave your current cell phone carrier anyway. At the very least, you’ll know you checked in to all of your options before proceeding.

How about you all? Have you ever sold your old cell phone in the secondary market? Or, have you merely exchanged your old phones for new models? Why did you choose the route you took? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

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About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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Leave a Comment:

@prairieecothrif says January 31, 2012

I actually still have many of my old phones. Don't ask me why but I do. I have given a couple away to friends but that is about it. At least they are not in the landfill.

    MyPerFinJourney says June 22, 2012

    Thanks for sharing Miss T! I'm surprised the cell phone company didn't request that you return them when you got a new phone! They can usually make a few dollars that way!
    My recent post How to Grow a Business in Tough Times

Ways to Invest Money says February 1, 2012

I have about 3 phones lying around and thats not including some of the ones my wife has. I dont know why I keep them. I used to give them to people but then started seeing all this stuff about how people can get information off your phone. Even though I wipe them I guess it just a fear not really sure. The thing is when you give them to the carrier they just turn around and sell them as refurbished ones.

Bill says September 1, 2012

I’ve sold all my old cell phones on the secondary market. Often I’ve recovered at least 50% of the original cost. I typically do a hard reset and then put them on or

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