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Upgrading to a new phone is expensive, but you can offset some of that cost by selling your old Android phone on the used market. Phones are durable (unless you drop them!) and can last for years, so there’s no shortage of demand.

In fact, there’s a number of websites that act as exchanges for phones. Are these worth your time, or are you better off sticking with Amazon?

Glyde

One of the older names in the business, Glyde is about five years old and is one of the more widely recognized sources of used phones. It’s the website some folks will default to simply because it’s the only one they’ve heard of. The company now handles not just smartphones and tablets but also MacBooks Buying A Refurbished Mac? Here’s What You Need To Know Buying A Refurbished Mac? Here’s What You Need To Know No one wants to lay down a wad of cash for a dinged-up, battered second-hand computer - here’s what you need to know on your search for a pristine, but affordable, refurb. Read More and video games. Selection is excellent overall. Every reasonably popular phone produced over the last few years is included.

Glyde is a transaction facilitator. They serve as a place where people can list their phones for sale rather than a place that sells phones directly to customers. Sellers will find that listing a phone is simple because the website handles all the details for you through a series of multiple-choice questions. There’s no need to write your own description or provide photos. In exchange for this service Glyde takes a percentage cut of the transaction (12% for the first $100, 8% on the rest).

glyde1

The website recommends a price based on “current market value” after you’ve made your selections. Conveniently, this recommendation shows both the sell price and how much you’ll make (as Glyde takes a cut). You can list lower to sell more quickly or higher to try and hold out for more money. Glyde does not provide any estimate of how long your phone might be on the market, so selecting your own price is guesswork.

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Once your phone sells, you’ll be provided with packaging and a shipping label. This is not free but only costs you between $1.00 and $6.00, so it’s not a bad deal. You’re expected to ship within 24 hours of receiving the shipping kit.

Sounds good for sellers, but buyers face a less appealing situation, as there’s basically zero guaranteed purchase protection. You can’t even cancel your order after Glyde sends it’s shipping kit to the seller. You can’t order expedited shipping, you can’t pay with anything but Visa, MasterCard, or Glyde store credit, and you can only return items if they weren’t exactly as described (and since descriptions are as vague as “a few scratches” there’s significant room for interpretation).

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This doesn’t mean you’re going to get ripped off, but the lack of a clear buyer-seller conflict resolution system makes the service feel a bit risky. Glyde is clearly built for buyers who just want a good deal on a phone and aren’t going to obsess about exactly where scratches are located or whether the phone is rooted.

Verdict: Glyde has an excellent selection of devices and is convenient for sellers. If you’re a buyer, though, watch out. Glyde doesn’t provide any more protection than you’d expect when purchasing via Amazon or eBay. It’s arguably worse because there’s no way to see the exact condition of a phone or know  the reputation of the seller before buying. I’m sure a lot of transactions go down without an issue, but the lack of specific consumer protections is worrying.

Swappa

Swappa, like Glyde, is a transaction facilitator. Unlike Glyde, though, Swappa is a bit more explicit about the fact that it is a marketplace. Glyde’s gimmick is the way it makes the tedious process of buying and selling into a simple transaction identical to purchasing from an online store. Swappa does less to hide the nitty-gritty. This makes browsing for a phone a bit easier as you can see transaction prices over time, view top-selling phones, and use a variety of search filters.

The selection is great; in fact, it may be the best in the business. Amazon and eBay have more phones overall, but the fact that Swappa is devoted only to phones makes finding a model with the features you wants a cinch. There’s even a “boneyard” category that lists broken phones 7 Practical Things You Should Do After Cracking Your Smartphone's Screen 7 Practical Things You Should Do After Cracking Your Smartphone's Screen Perhaps a runaway elephant stepped on your recently dropped phone in a parking lot adjacent to the local zoo. Read More . It’s a useful resource for do-it-yourself types who need parts or want to save money by fixing a broken device.

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But the similarities end there. Swappa does not pose any seller fees on “normal” listings, but sellers do have to pay a fee if they list an item as “featured.” This fee is always $10. Listing an item is quite a bit more difficult because sellers have to be more specific about the details of their device. The website is also very explicit about what cannot be sold using the service, which includes phones with water damage and phones tied to a carrier account with an outstanding balance. Sellers also face other options, such as a detailed damage description (if applicable), a modifications description, an extensive list of potential accessories and various shipping options. The site even lets sellers define their return policy.

In short, selling on Swappa is more of a hassle. On the plus side, though, sellers have more information about the market for their phone including current average price, current lowest price, last sold price, and a graph listing average price over time. Unlike Glyde, which more or less says “eh, it’ll be a fair price,” Swappa lets you decide for yourself. Fees are much lower, as well, since Swappa charges no seller fees. Sellers have to handle shipping (and pay for it), but the overall cost is still incredibly low.

Buyers have to pay a fee, which is why sellers pay so little. The fee is a flat $10 per purchase. This slightly increases the cost of a transaction, but you are getting some more protection than you do with Glyde. Swappa explicitly requires every seller to confirm the phone they’re selling is not stolen or tied to an account with a balance due. Buyers can also see who they’re buying from and their past reputation.

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But purchasing through Swappa is not risk free. They’re still a facilitator, not a store, and they don’t offer any explicit protection if the phone that arrives is not as expected. Each seller defines their own return policy, but there’s nothing holding them to that policy besides the threat of getting kicked off Swappa (which, if they’re shady, they probably recognize as a risk they’re willing to take). Swappa defers to Paypal’s buyer protections in the case of a fraudulent sale, so you can only trust Swappa as much as you trust Paypal Why You Don’t Have To Use PayPal For Online Transactions: 5 PayPal Alternatives Why You Don’t Have To Use PayPal For Online Transactions: 5 PayPal Alternatives Online shopping and online purchases have grown into something so important in many of our lives that it’s strange, at least for me, to think of a world where it doesn’t exist. PayPal is one... Read More .

Verdict: Swappa is not the easiest or quickest route. Both buyers and sellers have to put in more effort than they might elsewhere. The website provides a wealth of information that can help buyers and sellers make good decisions, however, and its transaction fees are low. Buyers still receive no explicit protection from fraud but Swappa does check that listed phones are not reported as stolen via their ESN or IMEI number. Buyers can leave seller feedback and read seller-specific return policies before purchasing.

Gazelle

Gazelle operates differently from Glyde and Swappa. It’s not a facilitator but instead a business that directly buys phones and then resells as “certified used” devices. Gazelle buys smartphones, tablets, and MacBooks in virtually any condition. The selection is a bit limited compared to the competition, though, particularly when it comes to older devices.

Selling to Gazelle is accomplished by navigating a guide that asks you the carrier the phone is on, the specific model of the phone, and its condition (broken, used, or flawless). A non-negotiable offer is provided based on your response. If you accept the offer you can either ship the item in yourself or use Gazelle’s own pre-paid shipping box, which usually arrives a couple days after the offer is accepted. There’s no selling fee, of course.

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The offer that’s initially quoted is not guaranteed to be what you’ll be paid. Gazelle inspects every phone it buys and will lower its offer if anything is found that was not reported or if the phone is in particularly bad shape. Don’t expect to receive the promised sixty bucks for a broken Samsung Galaxy S5 if you threw it in a food processor.

Once the final post-inspection offer is made, sellers have five days to accept or reject it. Not responding is taken as acceptance, and you’ll be paid for the device. If you reject the final offer, Gazelle will ship the phone back to you free of charge, so there’s little risk aside from the inconvenience.

The company sells Android phones only through its eBay storefront. Anyone who buys from the company’s eBay store is covered by a 14-day return policy covering broken, defective, or misrepresented items. A 20% restocking fee otherwise applies. That’s not as good as the 30-day “risk free” offer that Gazelle provides on its certified iPhones, but it’s more than what you receive from Glyde and Swappa.

Verdict: Gazelle’s big draw is the fact it’s virtually risk free. Sellers are going to get money. Buyers are going to get a device in the condition promised and can easily return it if it’s not. Selection doesn’t live up to the competitors, however, and the company’s reliance on an eBay store for selling Android phones may turn off buyers who’ve been burned by less responsible eBay sellers in the past.

What About The Price?

Here’s what we’ve learned so far. Glyde is easy for buyers and sellers but offers flimsy buyer protections and has relatively high fees. Swappa‘s fees are much lower, and its storefront more elaborate, but selling is much more complex. And Gazelle provides a simple, risk-free alternative hampered only by narrow selection.

I could stop and call that the conclusion. But what about price? Glyde could be better for sellers in spite of its fees if it attracts higher offers than Swappa. And how much does Gazelle’s approach cost you?

To find out, I selected five phones and graphed the prices sellers receive. The phones I’ve chosen are the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Samsung Galaxy Note III, the Motorola Moto X, the Google Nexus 4, and the HTC One. In all cases, I based my comparison on the version with the smallest storage capacity and a plain black or silver version. My listed sell prices are the recommended price from Glyde, the average sell price from Swappa and the offer price from Gazelle for a phone is flawless condition. I’ve already subtracted applicable fees from the data, and I used Verizon Wireless as the carrier for all comparisons except the Google Nexus 4, which is unlocked.

Average Price That Sellers Receive:

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I always like it when results are easy to interpret, and that’s certainly the case here. Swappa is best for sellers 4 Things You MUST Do When Selling or Giving Away Your Old Computer, Phone or Tablet 4 Things You MUST Do When Selling or Giving Away Your Old Computer, Phone or Tablet Here’s a fun thing I like to do: buy an old hard drive on eBay, then run recovery software on it. It’s a little data treasure hunt, and you’ll be amazed at what you can... Read More , Glyde is just okay, and Gazelle is way behind the pack. Note that my figure for Swappa included the $10 featured item fee and an estimated $10 shipping charge. Even so, a seller on Swappa can expect to make at least $20 more than someone on Glyde and up to $100 more than someone on Gazelle.

Speaking of buyers, let’s see how much they pay when buying a phone from each service. Once again, I’ve included any applicable fees into the price. In the case of Gazelle, which sells through eBay, the price of each phone is the average sell price of the last three active or sold listings on eBay.

How Much Phones Cost To Buy:

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Swappa’s lucrative seller’s market translates to a challenging market for buyers. The inclusion of a $10 sell fee doesn’t help, either. Given this data, you may wonder why anyone would even bother with Swappa. I think the answer can be found in its detailed item descriptions which make it easy to purchase a rooted Android. I observed that a large number of phones listed on the service were advertised as unlocked or rooted, while phones on Glyde and Gazelle are never sold as such. Rooting your Android increases its market value! That makes sense, as rooting is not a task everyone can accomplish with ease, but the amount of value it adds is more than I’d have guessed before writing this article.

Another surprise is how competitive Gazelle is with Glyde. You’d think the former’s return policy and free shipping would cost buyers dearly, but in fact, Gazelle’s pricing is essentially tied with Glyde. That makes Glyde look unattractive from a buyer’s perspective. Why purchase through a service that offers less consumer protection without a significant discount?

There is one potential answer to that question, and that’s selection. On Glyde, you can buy almost any recent phone on any recent carrier. That’s not true with Gazelle, which often lacks popular Android phones on common carriers. At the time of this writing, for example, there was no currently active listing for an HTC One or Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Verizon.

Overall, Which Is Best?

It’s clear that Glyde is a bad deal for buyers and not a great deal for sellers. It offers almost no protection for buyers and charges high seller fees, which, because they’re expressed as a percentage, hit high-value phones particularly hard.

Swappa is the place to be if you’re selling a phone that’s well taken care of, rooted, unlocked, or rare. The market is clearly oriented towards enthusiasts, and enthusiasts are willing to pay more to find exactly what they want. It’s not a great place for buyers, as it offers only modest protections and has the highest prices of the three services compared, but it’s your best choice if you want a specific Android with specific features.

Gazelle gives sellers the short stick. There’s not much reason to sell a functioning device to the company unless you simply can’t be bothered to put up even the most rudimentary listing on Glyde or Swappa. However, Gazelle passes the low prices on to sellers, as it matches Glyde while offering a far better return policy and more detailed item descriptions. Gazelle is the place to go if you want a used Android but aren’t picky about specifications and don’t want it rooted.

What service do you think is best, and have you used it in the past? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

Image credit: Wikimedia/Steven9212

  1. siphon
    September 3, 2015 at 2:55 am

    I agree with the comment from Matt-- I think Swappa is really overrated.

    I did NOT have a good experience the one time I bought a phone on Swappa. The phone I'd bought had a problem the seller didn't disclose. The prevailing attitude tends to be "Why didn't you ask?" But, it was something I hadn't thought to ask about (and without getting into details it was the kind of thing most people would not think to ask). Like Matt describes, the moderators did little other than suggest the seller might want to make good, but there were no teeth in the request. The seller finally did acquiesce to a return, but only just barely in time (before I would have had to move on to contesting the interaction through PayPal). I had to take it to a repair shop to get repair estimates to prove that it was a serious problem, which took me considerable time. I had to provide photos of the damage. And the seller moved slowly at every step and seemed really resentful. The weirdest thing was that the seller insisted that I use a non-tracked shipping method to send the phone back-- a request that in the end I ignored because after spending an hour poring over PayPal and other paperwork, I realized I would have no recourse if the package "somehow got stolen off the doorstep on arrival". The seller was really irritated that I did that but I'm not sure I would have gotten my money back if I had done what they asked.

    Swappa's reputation for having extra protection is IMHO illusory. Yes, sellers get feedback ratings. But it's so easy to register an account. How many phone transactions does the average person do in a couple years? Not enough to earn a reliable fb rating. Only a very few people will have detailed fb ratings-- and those few will be people who really traffic in phones-- which wasn't supposed to be the person-to-person chic image that Swappa is cultivating. Most normal users will have minimal or no fb, so how can you judge them? That's the whole good thing about eBay or other services that allow you to develop or see a reputation across a longer time and variety of items / transactions. Swappa is limited to phones so that opportunity just isn't there.

    I really don't get why Swappa is getting the awesome geek flag of approval right and left. I guess most people (sellers and buyers) are decent and honest and on the average most users will have a good experience, and therefore not be aware that they may have come close to getting duped. Eventually maybe the reality will sink in.

    I should say, I don't think Swappa itself is a bad intentioned site-- I don't think the founders mean to be scam-enablers. I think it's a really well intentioned site. They just as Matt said really don't have any true additional protection for buyers when things go bad. What leverage do they have, after all, when someone can just close out their acct and create a new one in minutes when they get a bad rating? And since most sellers have little fb this doesn't leave them at a disadvantage against other sellers anyway. It's not much of a threat to have a bad fb rating on Swappa. Swappa just feels kind of naive, like somebody who has a little too much trust for what they read. With the right seller (an honest one) I"m sure it's great but I wouldn't buy again on it after my experience.

    In the end I got my money back from my Swappa purchasing fiasco, and bought from a long time cell phone seller on eBay, and was very happy with the purchase. I think next time I'll look for another eBay seller like the one I used last time (long time seller with good reputation and lots of transactions under their belt.) Or maybe try Gazelle since they sound decent from this article. I've felt safer with my eBay transactions in the past than I felt about the one I had on Swappa-- at least I can get a real, long term fb rating on a seller on eBay.

    I know all the cool kids and geeks love Swappa, but that's only because people like me have taken the bullet for them.

    • siphon
      September 3, 2015 at 3:22 am

      PS, I should add to my prior comment since I can't edit it. Obviously it's possible to get screwed badly on eBay too. Personally I'd be too nervous to buy from an individual on there. I bought from a seller who sold tens of thousands of cell phones (there are quite a number of these kinds of sellers)-- someone who basically is a cellphone seller using eBay as a storefront. It looks like Gazelle is actually a similar outfit. I'm sure even sellers like this can turn out to be scamsters, but I figure if someone's basically a cellphone store, they have more of a reputation to uphold and at least probably aren't going to be one of the sleazebags who carefully words the description to be legally in the clear while selling a brick / stolen phone. But I'm sure one still has to ask if the ESN is in the clear and all that.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 7:22 am

      What a fantastic, detailed reply. Thanks for the comment, siphon (and for taking a bullet for the team :D )

    • Randy
      July 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Your feedback here off of one experience can be seen as biased. Hence first impressions count most so it would be fair to say that your first impression wasn't a good one. The same experience or worse could have been had with ebay, craigslist or maybe even amazon.

      I've been using swappa now for 5 months. Started as a buyer and now I have sold all my old phones on there from my previous carriers. It's not a bad selling platform. It's not a bad buying platform either. I think you got yourself caught up with a scammer. Not wanting tracking on a device? Upset that you did? Denying damage? Moving slow in working with the buyer? All this starts to raise flags and swappa should be more diligent in protecting the consumer when they start to see trends like this. I had a package damage in shipping (Fedex) and I offered a refund to which customer opted for partial refund for price of fixing the phone. Their request not mine. We filed a claim with Fedex as well. That was later denied because the receive didn't take pics of the package. showing the condition of it. According to her it looked like it was ran over.

      Some advice on using swappa. Look for sellers who have a feedback rating. This would give some idea as to the quality of product they sell. Some of them are companies and some are individuals like myself. You'll start to see a trend. The dealers are guys with like 100 feedback etc. Their prices can be higher than normal but they sometimes do offer warranties from what I've seen. Read the descriptions. More detailed descriptions tells a lot about the seller. Good working phone is not a description. This devices is in very good condition. The screen has zero scratches but there is some signs of use on the back and side edges of the phone. There is a small ding on upper left corner from a fall. That's a more detailed description.Also pictures pictures pictures. The more pics you get in a listing the more you can look over the device. I sold all 2 of my old sprint phones and 2 of my old AT&T phones and each listing had minimum 9 pics. Scrren off screen on, home screen, side of device with volume side with pwr button, top of device bottom showing the speaker and charging port and headphone jack, and pics of each corner as well as the back.

  2. matt
    April 28, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Swappa is not a safe site. Moderators do absolutely nothing when a sale goes bad. You cannot call or talk to a human. Just paypal disputes. I bought a new straight talk phone crom swappa, took it to walmart. They said it was never scanned instore, meaning it was stolen. I returned it. Luckily the phone tech company that sold it to me had a phone number. An individual seller could have screwed me. They then sent out another phone that was terribly refurbished and had a broken mic that would cost $90 to fix. I returned it and ask swappa for my ten dollar service charge back. They refunded it but then blocked me from leaving reviews on the seller and the website. No wonder why everyone has good reviews. The block negative ones. 17 days later no phone and still waiting on my money. This is a scamming website. If your smart go to a local dealer and stay away from swappa. I learned my lesson the hard way.

  3. alan smith
    December 15, 2014 at 7:38 am

    You can buy cell phones on Casezz.com but I don't think you can sell there, I got some good cases there.

  4. tim
    November 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Swappa is my favorite by far. I've bought and sold several phones and each transaction was pretty painless. I'll never use another site for selling/buying used smartphones.

  5. Tyler
    November 7, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Swappa is the only place you need to go.

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