Getting the most money for old electronics

May 9, 2011 9:31:25 PM PDT
Many new programs promise to take your old gadgets in exchange for money or credit but which one's right for you?

The problem with having the latest gadget is that as soon as you get it, it seems like the next generation is already out.

"You can trade in your old devices and get the newest bright shiny thing and save some money," said Carol Mangis of Consumer Reports.

At least that's what some big box retailers are promising.

Action News checked out buyback programs like the one from Best Buy and put a few of our gadgets up for sale online. Our gadgets included an 8-gigabyte AT&T iPhone 3G, a Panasonic 36-inch tube T.V. bought back in 2004 and an Acer laptop from the 90's.

Our producers put all of those items up for sale on CraigsList. The iPhone 3G was also put up for auction on ebay, which does come with sellers fees.

We didn't get any bites on the laptop and nothing after posting our tube TV for $70.00. But after we lowered the TV's price to $40.00 we got three offers.

As for the iPhone, the technology recycling website, offered us just $75.00. Our CraigsList posting got us an offer of $120.00 in cash but we got the best return on ebay! The winning bid was $182.50! Even after we deducted about $25.00 for fees and shipping that is still more than $40.00 than the next best offer.

We asked Consumer Reports about the buyback programs offered by retailers like Best Buy and Walmart.

"We really want people to be aware of what the limitations of the program are before they buy into the hype," Mangis said.

Consumer Reports pointed out that only devices bought from the retailers are eligible for their buyback programs which means, none of our devices were eligible. Plus you have to commit to the buyback programs in advance.

"Unfortunately, they charge you a fee for you to buy into the buyback program so you're paying money up front," explained Mangis.

At Walmart, the fees can range from $19.00 for a 2-year program up to around $99.00 for a more expensive product.

Best Buy charges anywhere from $15.00 to $300.00 for its buyback program. The retailer said within the first 6-months the consumer would get a buyback of 50%, 6-months to 12-months they would get 40% back. Right now Best Buy gives back only 10% if you bring in a device 2 to four years after purchase.

To be clear, you do not get cash for your buyback you only get store credit and to get the full amount back your device must be in very good condition.

"Trade-ins are maybe a little bit easier on the wallet because you don't have to pay money up front to participate in one and most retailers will take back devices you might have bought from other places," Mangis said.

Through Target's NextworthTrade-in program you can exchange all kinds of electronics including video games, and even calculators. In return, you'll get Target store credit and you there is no fee.

Costco and Radio Shack have similar trade-in programs.

Remember time is key so don't throw your item in a drawer and forget about it.

Best Buy


Ways to Recycle:

Companies that help you recycle:

LG (including Zenith and GoldStar brands) has 206 drop-off centers in 46 states; Samsung, more than 200 centers in 50 states. Sony has 274 nationally. Sharp, Panasonic, and Toshiba offer a combined drop-off program for TVs and audiovisual equipment at 280 sites in 50 states. Dell offers free recycling of Dell-branded products, with prepaid shipping available online. People who buy new Dell desktop or notebook computers from its Home/Home Office site can recycle any brand of old PC equipment at no charge. Lenovo and Apple have recycling programs, too.

Cell-phone makers and service providers have recycling or reuse programs through stores and dealers. (As with computers, erase personal data from cell phones before recycling; for a free info eraser, see And the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation ( maintains free drop-off points for recycling cell phones and rechargeable batteries at more than 50,000 retail stores and community waste centers across the U.S.

Public programs

To see whether your town has no-fee collection, click on a map from the Telecommunications Industry Association ( Additional info is at, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association.

Despite good intentions, much of this nation's e-waste is exported to developing countries, where some processing is done under hazardous conditions. To encourage responsible disposal, a new third-party audited certification program for electronics recycling, e-Stewards certification, is due to be implemented in 2010.


Protecting yourself when buying or selling online: