When you get a new cellphone, what do you do with your old one? Like lots of folks, you may have old electronics stuffed away in a drawer. Now you can turn them into cold hard cash. Many websites offer to buy and recycle everything from old TV sets to iPods, video games, laptops and cellphones. They will quote you a price online, but how likely are you to really get that price or even get paid? We tested it for ourselves.
"You might think that your phone is so old and obsolete, but there is probably someone who still wants to buy it," said Seth Schoen.
Schoen is a tech expert at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He says even broken phones can be of use to somebody. And that's exactly what we hoped. 7 On Your Side collected a box full of unwanted old phones and we tried to get money for them.
"There is probably someone somewhere in the world, maybe another country, who would be interested in using your old phone if it works," said Schoen.
We had several old Motorolas, Blackberries, and an iPhone 4 with a smashed screen.
Not too many sites wanted our old Motorolas. Finally CellItUsed.com offered $12, until we fessed up that it didn't charge up. Then, the bid dropped to $1 and free shipping.
"Some of the websites had really strict guidelines, they would ask a lot of questions," said ABC7 intern Veronica Polivanaya.
Many sites didn't want our 3-year-old Blackberries, but we did get an offer of $17 from YouRenew.com and $20 each from BuyBackWorld.com and from Guzu.com. Guzu also offered to plant us a tree with our order.
The best offers came for our busted iPhone 4. Lots of sites offered us over $100 until we admitted it had a cracked screen. The offers dropped to around $50. However at BuyBackWorld.com, we got an offer for $76.
All the websites warn the real price they'll pay depends on what they find when they actually examine our phone. Right off the bat though, all four websites gave us free shipping, and a promise the phones wouldn't wind up in a landfill. Of course, we got that promise of a free tree from Guzu.
So we print out our free shipping labels, then pack up the phones with bubble wrap, cross our fingers and ship them off. Within weeks we get the notices that our shipments are received, our phones are being evaluated and then the checks arrive.
First, we did get our $1 from CellItUsed for that dead Motorola, YouRenew.com did pay $17 for our Blackberry; Guzu paid the promised $20 for the same device, and finally, BuyBackWorld came through with the promised $76 bucks for that busted iPhone. So what about our tree? We asked Guzu where it's planted.
"Well, if you asked me directly, actually I would have no idea," said Guzu.com co-owner Hesam Meshkat.
Here's our answer. It's with the non-profit group American Forests. The group receives $1 from our Guzu order. It will use it to plant a tree, probably to replace fire devastated forests in the Midwest.
One important note, before you ship your phone to a recycler, make sure to first wipe off all your personal data. That's not as easy as it sounds. The safest method is to return the phones back to their factory settings.
7 On Your Side aired a story in June explaining exactly how to do that. You can find that story here.