FRAMINGHAM, 15 MARCH 2011 - The laws of geekdom state that a newer, shinier, more desirable gadget is always around the corner. And you usually want it. But do you have the bucks?
Now, thanks to a slew of buyback programs and trade-in services, upgrading from last year's model doesn't have to sting. Sure, trading in used technology isn't as lucrative as selling it on eBay or Craigslist, but it's a lot less of a hassle.
PCWorld looked at eight such programs--Best Buy, BuyBackWorld, BuyMyTronics, eBay Instant Sale, Gazelle, NextWorth, RadioShack, and YouRenew--weighing the amount they pay and the benefits they provide to determine which ones offered the best deal in various categories of popular tech products. Let's examine the results for each category, so you'll have a better idea of where to go to get the most money for your old gadgets. (Click any chart image to enlarge it.)
Smartphones: eBay Instant Sale
eBay's Instant Sale trade-in service offered the best prices, on average, for five popular smartphones, including an HTC Evo 4G ($200 in good condition) and a nearly three-year-old iPhone 3G 16GB ($141 in good condition). The site is free to use and offers free shipping and removal of personal data. If you're looking to trade in a phone--particularly an Android handset or iPhone--eBay is consistently the best deal.
On the downside: eBay Instant Sale pays only through PayPal. Once you've committed to a trade-in, you have only ten days to ship the phone. Some competing services, such as Gazelle, honor their trade-in quotes for a month.
Runner-up: BuyBackWorld had the best offer for a 32GB iPhone 4, at $434, beating eBay's quote of $406.
Dishonorable mention: Best Buy's buyback program requires an up-front payment--$60 for smartphones--when you purchase the phone through the retailer. Best Buy doesn't say what the money is for, but unlike other trade-in services, it guarantees that it will pay a certain percentage of the purchase price of your phone, starting at 50 percent and decreasing incrementally over the next two years. But because wireless carriers lock most customers in with two-year contracts, the only way to get money back from Best Buy is to bail out early and pay a huge early termination fee. For example, trading in a 16GB iPhone 4 eight months after the date of purchase would put $220 in your pocket (40 percent of the unsubsidized $700 price, minus $60 for the program), but you'd have to pay AT&T $245 to get out of your contract. It's a lose-lose.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.