Guide to Selling Broken Phones

You've smashed the screen of your phone and upgraded to a new model. Last year's iPhone holds no charge. Your Samsung Galaxy has a faulty microphone, and your tablet's touch screen has dead spots. You may assume these damaged and discarded devices are write-offs, destined for the bin.

But by tossing a faulty smartphone or tablet, you could be throwing away money, not to mention contributing to electronic waste that can harm the environment. Many tech recyclers will pay good money for your broken, beat-up devices, so they can repair and refurbish them or mine them for materials and parts. Even if they can't offer you cash for your damaged device, they can sometimes recycle it for free or the cost of postage.

How Do You Determine the Condition of Your Phone?

Every phone buyer and recycler will have their own specific criteria for assessing and categorising phones. After selecting an offer from Sell My Phone, you'll be directed to the buyer's website, which should provide further details about assessing the condition of your phone and what they categorise as working and broken.

The recycler has the final word on the condition of the phone you send in, but here's some general guidance for categorising phones.

A used but working phone:

  • powers up as new-and turns off
  • has a functioning operating system
  • has a functioning screen with no cracks, pixel damage, or defects
  • if it has a touch screen, all parts of it work
  • for iPhones, has a functioning home button
  • has a functioning camera, with no cracks on the lens
  • has a working microphone and speakers
  • has a functioning charger port
  • has all keys and buttons present and working
  • has its original battery (some recyclers)
  • has no water damage (the liquid contact indicator must not be red)
  • has all its parts
  • doesn't have a bent case
  • has no deep dents or scratches
  • may have light cosmetic damage (eg. small scratches)
  • doesn't necessarily have to be fully charged but must have a working battery
  • can be network locked
  • must not be password, PIN, or fingerprint locked

A broken or faulty phone may:

  • not turn on and off properly
  • have a cracked or bleeding LCD screen
  • have a faulty touch screen
  • have faulty software
  • have broken components such as cameras, microphones, speakers, charging ports, headphone jacks
  • have a battery that won't hold much charge or have a replacement battery (if the recycler specifies that 'working' phones have the original, manufacturer-issued battery)
  • have deeper scratches or dents
  • have missing or malfunctioning keys or buttons

Take a good look at your device: do you think it's damaged? If it is, categorise it as that way and see what money recyclers will offer you for it. Don't attempt to classify a damaged phone as working or conceal any faults. Recyclers run thorough checks on the phones they receive and will give you a revised offer if they determine your 'working' phone is actually broken.

Can I Sell a Water-Damaged Phone?

Water damage is a common phone ailment. Unfortunately, it often renders your phone useless for refurbishment or resale.

Most, but not all buyers, will not accept water-damaged phones. If you have a water-damaged device, search for offers for it as "faulty or broken" and click through to the recyclers' websites to read their terms and conditions about the condition of phones they accept. A few may still accept water-damaged phones. It's worth checking before writing off the device entirely.

Even if you've resurrected your water-logged phone with the bag of rice trick, it is likely still ineligible for resale. Recyclers will check the liquid contact indicator (LCI) on your phone to determine if it's ever been exposed to water, even if it works now. If the LCI is red, they generally will not buy the phone from you. You can check the liquid contact indicator on your phone yourself; it will be red if it's been activated by water. On Apple iPhones, there are LCIs near the SIM-card slot, in the dock connector, and in the headphone connector. On Samsung Galaxy smartphones, there's an LCI underneath the battery cover near the battery contacts.

What Else is Not Accepted?

  • not turn on and off properly
  • phones that are not in one piece
  • sometimes, phones that have multiple faults, such as a smashed LCD screen and water damage, that make them beyond economical repair

In general, phones must have a battery and not be password, PIN, or fingerprint locked, or, in the case of Apple devices, have the activation lock turned on. They also must pass checks on the CheckMEND database, which will flag phones that have been reported as lost or stolen or for which insurance claims have been filed.

Is It Worth Repairing a Phone Before Selling It?

If your phone has a major, but easily repairable fault that means the difference between it being classified as working and as broken, it could be worth having it repaired-for instance having the screen replaced or getting a new battery put in. But you should only have the repair done if it costs less than the difference in quotes for working and broken versions of your phone.

Be aware that some recyclers require working phones to have original, manufacturer-issued batteries and replacements won't suffice. Additionally, some cheaper replacements of iPhone screens cover the home button, requiring you to use an on screen home button. If this is the case, the phone will be classified as broken.

The Reseller Has Offered Me a Different Price than the One Originally Quoted

Often, recyclers will generate an average quote for damaged phones; that's the one that will appear on our site. When the reseller receives your device, they will then individually test it and may get back to you with a more specific quote, based on the actual condition of your device. Sometimes, if they determine the phone's damage is too extensive, that revised quote could be zero. Recyclers are under no obligation to buy the phone you've sent into them.

If they revise the quote, the recycler will contact you within a set period of time (specified in their terms and conditions, so reading the fine print on their website can be helpful) from receiving the phone with the new sum they're willing to pay. You'll then have another set period of time to either accept the new quote and sell the phone to them or request the recycler return the phone to you.

Recyclers vary on whether they'll charge you postage for the return of a phone or not, but generally they won't return phones they've deemed worthless but will instead recycle them.

Even if You Can't Get Cash for Your Phone-Recycle It!

Sometimes you'll get quotes for £0 for your device from the recyclers you compare. That's because they've determined that your specific make and model of phone, in the condition it's in, isn't worth repairing or refurbishing or stripping for parts. Other times, you'll send a phone in as broken, for a quoted price, and the recycler will determine it's too badly damaged and revise the sum they offer you down to zero.

In both of these cases, all isn't lost! You may not get cash for your smashed up phone, but you can still ensure it doesn't end up in a landfill, its materials possibly leaching into our groundwater and soil. The UK generates 1.3 million tonnes of electronic waste every year, some of it toxic. Every phone that can be recycled, even if doesn't earn you cash, cuts down on this figure and on pollution.

Some recyclers will even send you a free post envelope in which to send them your £0 phone to be properly recycled. Others may require you to pay the cost of shipping it to them, but really, postage is a small price to pay for protecting the environment.