Making Money Online

Phone Flipping for Fun and Profit: How to Make Money Reselling Smartphones

Have you ever thought about getting into the phone flipping business? Buying used smartphones, repairing and refurbishing them, then reselling for a profit can be a lucrative side hustle or even full-time business. With the right knowledge and strategy, you can tap into the billions of dollars exchanged in the used smartphone market each year.

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started flipping phones for extra cash:

How Profitable is Phone Flipping?

Flipping phones can be extremely lucrative if done right. Here are some key stats on the profit potential:

  • The used smartphone market is worth over $17 billion annually in the US alone [1]. There’s a huge demand for budget devices.
  • Average profit margins range from 20% to over 50% per device [2]. Popular models like iPhones have the highest resale values.
  • Successful phone flippers make $1000+ in extra income per month working part-time [3]. Some even earn six figures annually running it as a full-time business.
  • You can start small with just $100-200 initial investment and scale up. Apps like Decluttr allow selling with no upfront costs.
  • Smartphones hold their value well if in good condition. Many buyers don’t care if it’s used as long as it works well.

With millions of Americans replacing their phones every year [4], there’s no shortage of inventory to find deals on. With some effort, phone flipping can become a lucrative side hustle or full-time business.

Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Started Flipping Phones

Follow this step-by-step guide to start your phone flipping side hustle:

1. Pick Your Phone Flipping Business Model

There are a few different business models to choose from when flipping phones:

Retail Arbitrage – The most common method. You buy underpriced phones locally, online or at retailers and resell for a markup.

Wholesale – Buy in bulk direct from businesses or manufacturers, then sell to resellers or consumers. Requires more upfront capital.

Contract Trade-Ins – Get device trade-in contracts with phone carriers, manufacturers or retailers to flip their used inventory.

Refurbishing – Buy damaged phones, repair and refurbish them, then resell at higher “like new” prices.

We’ll focus mostly on retail arbitrage in this guide as it’s the easiest model for beginners. Once you gain experience, you can scale up into wholesaling, contracts and refurbishing for higher profits.

2. Find Your Inventory of Used Phones to Flip

Your profit is only as good as the deals you can find. Here are the best places to source used and refurbished smartphones at low prices:

  • eBay – Filter for auctions ending soon with no bids and low start prices. Watch for misspelled or poorly titled listings.
  • Craigslist – Negotiate prices down by paying cash. Look for desperate sellers.
  • Facebook Marketplace – Search locally for good condition used phones at reasonable asking prices.
  • OfferUp, LetGo, 5Miles – Browse these apps for local sellers open to discounts for fast sales.
  • Amazon Warehouse – Search the Amazon Warehouse section for discounted used/refurb phone deals.
  • Gazelle – Buy phones rated “good” or “fair” condition at lower prices to resell.
  • Swappa – All phones listed must pass quality checks making it more reliable.
  • Public lost and founds – Police stations and campuses auction off unclaimed lost phones.
  • Government and school auctions – Look for big device lots from government and university upgrades.
  • Tech conferences/events – Attendees may sell their older phones for quick cash onsite.

With some deal hunting across these sources, you can find popular used models like iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S10 for 30-50% under market value. That huge margin is your profit potential.

3. Evaluate Phones and Make Offers

Once you’ve located potential phone flipping inventory, inspect thoroughly before making any offers:

  • Examine physical condition – Check for cracks, chips, water damage. No major defects.
  • Test all functions work – Power on, test cameras, mics, speaker, Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular.
  • Check blacklists – Use sites like Swappa or IMEI pros to verify not stolen/lost/blacklisted.
  • Inspect IMEI and storage capacity – Confirm they match the specs listed in the ad/description.
  • Factory reset – Wipe and reset to test that it powers on smoothly after a clean install.
  • Meet locally in a safe public place – Avoid mailing cash or buying sight unseen online.

After thorough inspection, make an offer based on condition and your profit goals. Search completed eBay listings to estimate fair resale values. Offer 30-50% less than your conservative resale estimate.

4. Buy Parts for Repairs and Refurbishing

Minor repairs and refurbishing can boost your flip’s resale value significantly. Stock up on the following to spruce up devices:

  • Replacement batteries – Old batteries are the #1 issue. Replace for max charges.
  • Chargers and cables – Having OEM chargers adds value. Aftermarket works too.
  • Cases and screen protectors – A case makes the phone feel like new. Screen protectors are a must.
  • Tools – Invest in small electronics tools for opening phones to replace batteries and perform basic repairs.
  • Cleaning supplies – Rubbing alcohol, compressed air and microfiber cloths freshen up dirty or smudged devices.
  • Refurbishing kits – DIY kits come with screen digitizers, housing, small parts for common iPhone and Samsung repairs.
  • Parts lots – Buy “for parts” phones on eBay to use for screens, buttons, SIM trays and other spare parts.

Doing minor repairs and refreshing with new accessories can add $50-100+ to your flip profit. With practice, learn more advanced repairs like screen and charge port replacements.

5. List Devices for Resale

Now comes the fun part – selling your flipped phones for big profits! These tips will maximize your listings:

  • Detail condition – Note all defects, scratches, signs of use. Capture issues in photos. Transparency builds trust.
  • List specs and details – Storage, exact model number, colors, included accessories to optimize for search.
  • Price competitively – Check completed eBay listings for current pricing. Undercut slightly to sell faster.
  • Maximize title keywords – Include brand, model, condition, specs like color, storage, cracked in the title.
  • Write concise description – Stick to features, condition notes, specs, what’s included. Add some personality.
  • Use high-quality photos – Clean background, avoid shadows or blur. Capture any imperfections.
  • Offer fast shipping – First Class or Priority Mail. Provide tracking. Insuring valuables shipments is recommended.
  • List on multiple platforms – eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp, Swappa, Decluttr. Cross-promote listings.

With an attractive listing optimized for search, your flip can get maximum visibility and sell fast.

6. Grow Your Phone Flipping Business

Once you get the basics down, try these tips for growing your flip business:

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  • Specialize in one brand – Become an expert in high-value brands like Apple or Samsung.
  • Wholesale to retailers – Use bulk deals to sell 5-10 devices at a time to resale shops for more profit.
  • Expand into refurbishing – Develop repair skills and offer “like-new” refurbished devices.
  • Sell locally – Host public phone buyback events or booths at markets and fairs. Don’t rely just on online sales.
  • Build a customer email list – Collect emails to market flips and stay top of mind. Offer perks for repeat buyers.
  • Reinvest and scale up – Pour profits into buying phone lots, supplies and tools to keep expanding your inventory pipeline.

If you enjoy technology and side hustles, phone flipping has huge earning potential with relatively low startup costs and no special qualifications needed. Stick to the basics at first, then expand as you build experience and savings from your profits. It’s a rewarding way to monetize your tech skills.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phone Flipping

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about starting a phone flipping side hustle or business:

Is phone flipping legal?

Yes, phone flipping is completely legal in the US as long as you follow some basic guidelines:

  • Verify devices are not stolen before buying using IMEI blacklisting sites. Avoid shady overseas wholesale sources.
  • Pay any required sales taxes on devices you resell.
  • Honor manufacturer warranties on used phones if still valid. Disclose if warranty is voided.
  • Abide by platform policies when reselling on sites like eBay, Amazon, Craigslist.

As long as you do your due diligence to buy and sell legitimately sourced devices, phone flipping is just as legal as reselling any consumer product.

How much does it cost to start flipping phones?

You can start phone flipping with very little startup cost – often just $100-200 to purchase your initial inventory. Retail arbitrage allows starting small with a few devices before reinvesting profits to scale up. Those with more savings can start at the $1000+ inventory level to earn bigger immediate profits. But don’t overextend yourself initially as you learn the ropes.

What are the risks of phone flipping?

Some key risks to be aware of:

  • Buying blacklisted stolen phones means taking a loss. Always IMEI check before purchasing.
  • Cracked screens and water damage are expensive to repair. Inspect thoroughly.
  • Overpaying for inventory eats into your profit margins when reselling.
  • Speculating on hyped phone releases that end up flopping or getting oversaturated with resellers.

Mitigate these by learning to spot deals in your market, thoroughly vetting devices, and maintaining lean inventory levels as you refine your sourcing process.

How much money can you make flipping phones?

Successful phone flippers can earn an average of $1,000 to $3,000 in extra monthly profits working part-time. Those doing it full-time often make between $50,000 to $100,000 per year. Top phone flippers can clear over $500 on a single iPhone deal. With enough volume across brands and models, six figures in annual profit is achievable.

Do you need a business license to flip phones?

In most states, you don’t need a business license if you’re operating as a sole proprietor. Once you form a corporation or LLC, or begin hiring employees, you may be required to register for a business license and reseller’s permit. As always, check your own state and city regulations. Selling a high volume on platforms like eBay or Amazon may require official business registration to keep accounts in good standing.

Is phone flipping better than shoe reselling?

Shoes and phones are both great products to resell, with similar profit margins. Shoes take up more physical storage space. But used shoes may require more cleaning/restoration. Phones are smaller and easier to ship but have more technical components to evaluate. Choose based on your expertise – tech fans will lean toward phones while those with a sneaker collection already may opt for shoes. Or try reselling both if you have the capacity!

In conclusion, phone flipping isn’t easy money, but takes knowledge, effort and smart risks. With practice, the high profit margins and huge market for used devices make it a great side hustle. Just follow best practices for legal sourcing, inspection, refurbishing and listing. Start small, learn the ropes, then watch your earnings stack up as you gain experience!

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George was born on March 15, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois. From a young age, George was fascinated by international finance and the foreign exchange (forex) market. He studied Economics and Finance at the University of Chicago, graduating in 2017. After college, George worked at a hedge fund as a junior analyst, gaining first-hand experience analyzing currency markets. He eventually realized his true passion was educating novice traders on how to profit in forex. In 2020, George started his blog "Forex Trading for the Beginners" to share forex trading tips, strategies, and insights with beginner traders. His engaging writing style and ability to explain complex forex concepts in simple terms quickly gained him a large readership. Over the next decade, George's blog grew into one of the most popular resources for new forex traders worldwide. He expanded his content into training courses and video tutorials. John also became an influential figure on social media, with over 5000 Twitter followers and 3000 YouTube subscribers. George's trading advice emphasizes risk management, developing a trading plan, and avoiding common beginner mistakes. He also frequently collaborates with other successful forex traders to provide readers with a variety of perspectives and strategies. Now based in New York City, George continues to operate "Forex Trading for the Beginners" as a full-time endeavor. George takes pride in helping newcomers avoid losses and achieve forex trading success.

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