Web sites that promise to pay for your old gadgets look bright around the holidays, when every extra dollar can count toward new gifts or even utility bills. But are the services worthwhile? How much can you earn?
We examined nine services that pay for your unwanted digital wares. These are among the newest options to help keep electronics waste out of landfills, while uncluttering your closets.
We looked up what each service said it would pay for working iPods, PDAs, laptops, gaming consoles, and more, with cables but lacking their original boxes. For dead devices, some offer a pittance, or will connect you with willing recyclers and charity recipients. Our chart (at right) shows what each site claims it pays for specific equipment. Keep reading for highlights of the trade-in services.
We can't yet vouch for the start-to-finish experience of mailing in products to these companies. Those that find your equipment in worse shape than you estimated will downgrade the trade-in value.
If you only need to offload an old phone, look out for our upcoming comparison of sites that specialize in refurbishing and recycling handsets, including Cell for Cash, Simply Sellular, and ReCellular.
Gazelle supports the broadest array of products including satellite radios, storage devices, games, and Blu-ray DVDs--which is great if you want to pack just one big box. You get back a check or Amazon gift card. Only Gazelle provides a box and pays shipping. Like similar services, it asks about the level of damage and accessories your items have, and recycles those without market value. We preferred this site's layout and ease of use overall. At the same time, though, its quotes for MP3 players are often lower than what competitors claim to pay. Gazelle can donate your cash to a charity if you don't need it. Quoted payment: $225 to $1,179 for 22 items
Consumer Electronics Recycling offers the fastest payment time of as little as a day after getting your gadgets. However, we found its mailing instructions unclear. We excluded this site from our chart because it's only useful for PDAs, smartphones, and iPods. But quotes from NextWorth, which specializes in iPods and iPhones, tended to be higher. You pay for shipping.
Quoted payment: $139 to $212 for seven items
Quotes from EcoNEW for items in so-so shape were higher than rivals'. However, due to its unique way of asking about damage, we have a hunch that such estimates could sink after you mail in a marred product. Payment comes within three weeks via gift cards--not cash--for Office Depot and Sam's Club, as well as Navy Exchange stores for military personnel. EcoNEW pledges to wipe your hard drive clean thrice, in accordance with Department of Defense standards. Quoted payment: $1,173 to $1,431 for 16 items
BuyMyTronics accepts cell and smart phones, PDAs, computers, iPods, Zunes, and gaming systems. Soon laptops, digital cameras, GPS devices, and camcorders should join the list. BuyMyTronics pays you via check or PayPal within a few days of receiving your goods. A shipping discount is available. Its offices run on wind power. Quoted payment: $614 to $1,048 for 6 devices
NextWorth handles iPods and iPhones only, so we left it out of our long chart. However, it quoted some of the highest prices for the Apple gadgets. The service requires a serial number before you ship your stuff. NextWorth is supposed to start taking laptops, cell phones, as well as gaming and GPS devices early in 2009. Quoted payment: $568 to 708 for 6 devices
VenJuvo is the only service to accept large plasma TVs. We liked its offers for many camcorders, plus it supports five MP3 player brands other than Apple. The only cell phones it accepts, however, are iPhones. VenJuvo nicely provides the option of payment via check, PayPal, or credit at Sears stores. Unlike rival services, it helps you donate to a charity you pick. And it promises to do the government-approved triple-wipe of computer hard drives. Quoted payment: $1,155 to $2,608 for 14 items
MyBoneYard will take a variety of laptops, desktops, and monitors, but it doesn't happen to accept our models from IBM, Dell, and Sony. Like VenJuvo it accepts plasma TVs, although at smaller sizes. MyBoneYard appeared to be the least lucrative for our set of electronics. Its payment--in the form of a pre-paid Visa credit card--could take the longest, between three to 10 weeks. It also wipes PC hard drives three times. Quoted payment: $87 to $116 for 6 items
TechForward is another service along these lines, but it's excluded from our chart because it requires a new purchase. If you expect to trade in today's glossy gadget for next year's upgrade, TechForward can help you plan ahead at the point of purchase. First, you'll need to register a new product's serial number and pay a service fee of up to $60, depending upon the specs. The service guarantees to buy back your gadget within six months to two years of purchase, as long as you mail it back in good condition.
TechForward's trade association, Ownership 2.0, promotes a trade-in model of using electronics. This is one of the few programs to honor some value for old printers, LCD monitors, GPS devices, and Blu-ray DVD players, in addition to laptops, desktops, and MP3 players. It doesn't deal with cell phones. Look elsewhere for trade-ins if you're going to hang onto a product for longer than 24 months or if you're trying to offload old-school gizmos.
All of these companies will delete personal data from your devices and pledge not to ship items overseas for unregulated recycling. If none of the above options appeal, you could list your tired tech for sale on eBay or Craigslist, or give it away on FreeCycle. Apple, by the way, will shave 10 percent off a new purchase if you bring an old iPod into its store.
If you're not looking to get any money back, organizations including TechSoup will help you donate to nonprofits and public libraries. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition maps recyclers that pledge not to ship e-waste overseas. MyGreenElectronics lists free recycling options from corporations and the U.S. Post Office. This Insider Secrets video from Tom Merritt walks you through the options.