How to convert unwanted gadgets into cash

Many big electronics retailers now offer in store recycling and credit schemes (Yui Mok/PA) (Yui Mok/PA Archive)
Many big electronics retailers now offer in store recycling and credit schemes (Yui Mok/PA) (Yui Mok/PA Archive)

UK households are being urged to clean out and recycle their old electronics after it emerged that we are hoarding more unused electronics than ever.

Brits have about 30 unused gadgets in their home, which has risen from 20 four years ago, according to Material Focus. In total, 880 million unused electrical items are sitting gathering dust in miscellaneous gadget drawers and neglected shelves. A further 103,000 tonnes of electricals are thrown away each year, an alarming amount of e-waste that often pollutes the environment.

The issue is that a lot of these items could have been recycled for their components, meaning we’re missing a unique opportunity to help do our bit for the planet.

What is more, people could actually get cash to send in their electricals, so this could be a good chance to earn some extra money while clearing out unnecessary waste.

If you want to sell your device, you are spoilt for choice but don’t wait too long. Here’s how to get the ball rolling.

Which companies will pay for your old gadgets?

Most PC manufacturers will recycle your devices, and some (including Apple) will give you credit toward your next purchase but, for a better deal, speak to third-party companies, which usually pay more.

Music Magpie, Spring and CEX are all good starting points for selling tech.

Companies or individuals with larger quantities of equipment to sell should find out what Mazuma or Envirofone will give you.

You should also glance at comparison sites SellMyMobile and CompareMyMobile for other services prepared to give you cash for your old gadget. You sometimes find big differences in the price you get, so do shop around for the best deal.

It may also be worth checking with cashback websites such as Quidco or TopCashback, as these sometimes offer a little extra money when you sell your old device through some services, but these deals vary and aren’t always consistently available, so you’ll need to check first.

Another convenient way to swap electronics for money are those EcoATM machines you’ll find in select supermarkets, where you can sell tablets and smartphones while picking up your groceries.

For all these places, fully functional devices with no broken parts will always raise more money than more worn gadgets, and you usually pick up more cash if you sell them with the original power cable.

How this works

  • Tell the company about your device to get an online quote.

  • Once the company checks your device matches the description, a quote will be confirmed and you’ll get paid, often within 24 hours.

  • If the device isn’t in the same condition you claimed, you may get offered less money and the device will be returned to you

  • When selling through these services, always package the item as instructed and take photos before you post. You may want to use tracked delivery for more valuable items

You may raise more money selling at auction sites

Unless your device is in mint condition, you’re unlikely to get much from the trade-in websites. Sometimes, you may not even realise your device has a fault - like a missing pixel in your screen – meaning you get next to nothing. Sometimes, it’s not easy to get your devices back once you’ve submitted them either.

If you want to raise a few more quid for your gadget, then try your luck with Gumtree, Vinted, Facebook Marketplace or eBay.

Consumers tend to get better results (and higher bids) when they take time to grab good photographs and write detailed descriptions of the products they want to sell. It’s also very important to use the right categories.

You should be honest about the condition of the gadget, as buyers can and do return equipment that doesn’t match the description, and when they do you will lose out because of extra handling costs and the time the whole process takes.

You may also get a negative report against you at the site you use. Even if it goes well, be prepared to pay sale fees, and you may need to wait for a while before you get paid.

Ask friends and neighbours

Of course, your friends and neighbours may be desperate to get hold of what you want to sell, so speak with them first.

You can spread your net a little further online. All over London, millions joined local WhatsApp groups during lockdown, and it’s often worth posting to those spaces when you have old gadgets to get rid of.

After all, if you sell your device at a fair price to a neighbour, you’ll not only make them happy, but you will also pocket more of the cash than you’ll keep after commission if you sell on an auction site. Don’t ever share your actual address in a public group, as there may be less trustworthy people taking an interest in those spaces.

Give old gadgets to charity

If you don’t want the hassle of selling your device, there are other ways to make sure those precious electronics don’t go to waste: most manufacturers now offer recycling schemes and charities such as Little Lives UK will collect and refurbish older electronics to give to children who lack access to tech.

While many charity shops won’t take tech, some do: the British Heart Foundation may even collect larger items. You can also look at what mobile carriers have to offer.

Three’s Reconnected service takes the old phone you donate to hand over to someone who needs it, as does the Virgin Media O2-backed Community Calling initiative. Another alternative is Warrington’s Wee Charity, which collects items to be refurbished with profits pumped into local community groups.

How to recycle old electronics

You may find you’ve left it too long and your old gadgets have become too ancient for anyone to be interested in buying them. And, while your original iPod could be a collector’s item if you’re lucky, you may feel as if there is little options for other unwanted items. But don’t just throw these things out; those gadgets contain harmful chemicals and metals that pollute the environment.

Instead, Londoners can find lots of recycling options, even for ancient electricals, through the Mayor’s London Recycles website.

National schemes such as SquareBox will pick up old tech and break it down for the valuable components it contains.

The high-street electronics retailer Currys offers a free recycling service that handles 65,000 tonnes of old tech every year. Currys will also give you credit for more recent tech.

How to prepare your old devices

Before selling your devices, it’s vital you remove all your personal information, passwords, data, photographs and banking details from them. While some services promise they will do this, it is far better to be certain before they leave your hands. Criminals really do find valuable personal data, such as banking details, inside old gadgets and this information is frequently exploited.

Protect yourself by following your manufacturer’s instructions to delete all your data and return your gadget to factory settings before you let it go. If you use cloud services such as iCloud or Google, you must also deregister your device from those accounts.

But even with those slight hassles, there’s no doubt about it – Londoners have more ways than ever to unlock cash from their old electronic devices.