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The best buyback programs

Jared Newman | March 15, 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?

Laptops: Gazelle

Instead of requiring you to pick from a dizzying list of model numbers, Gazelle's laptop trade-in service asks you to specify the brand name and then fill out the specs from a series of drop-down boxes. The process is more reliable than other services because you're choosing specs instead of looking for specific laptop models, and the process generally resulted in the best prices of the six competitors we surveyed that accept laptop trade-ins. Gazelle offers free shipping and pays by PayPal, check, Walmart Prepaid Visa, or Amazon gift card; it will donate your profit to charity if you specify that outcome.

On the downside: Gazelle's fill-out-the-specs method doesn't treat solid-state drives as a feature to be considered, but neither does its competitor NextWorth, which takes a similar approach.

Runner-up: eBay Instant Sale provides a reasonable alternative if you'd rather fill out a model number and pray that your computer is listed in the system database. Prices are decent.

Dishonorable mention: RadioShack had a paltry list of acceptable laptops, and its trade-in prices were below average. Don't bother.

Apple iPad: eBay Instant Sale

Trade-in prices for the first-generation iPad dropped significantly after Apple announced a thinner, lighter, and faster model; only eBay Instant Sale is still willing to pay more than half of the iPad's original price. As of Monday, the site was paying $258 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model in good condition, and $468 for a 64GB 3G model.

On the downside: The same two shortcomings associated with eBay Instant Sale's smartphone policy apply here: Payment is limited to Paypal, and the window for shipping your gear is brief.

Runner-up: Keep an eye on BuyBackWorld. Before Apple introduced the iPad 2, this site was offering the best trade-in values on first-generation iPads, so it may be worth considering in the weeks before Apple launches the inevitable iPad 3.

Dishonorable mention: Best Buy again. The program didn't exist when the iPad launched--but hypothetically, if you had purchased the $70 plan for a 64GB iPad 3G on launch day, you'd stand to make only 40 percent back now, or $261.61 after subtracting the up-front cost.

Kindles and Galaxy Tab: BuyBackWorld

BuyBackWorld had the best trade-in prices on all three generations of Amazon's Kindle: Its buyback price for the current Kindle Wi-Fi plus 3G model is $87. Similarly, its $243 offer for Samsung's Galaxy Tab, while not a great value, is better than anything competing services have volunteered. Buyback World offers free shipping and pays by PayPal, check, or charitable donation.


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