How I Sold My Girlfriend’s Water Damaged iPhone 4 On eBay

My girlfriend recently found an older iPhone 4 in her night table from a few years ago. A while back she had dropped it in the toilet (I don’t understand why girls frequently drop their phones in the toilet?). She was up for an upgrade so she didn’t have to use her insurance to get a replacement. Her phone was water damaged; however it was still functioning. After she had dried it out, the phone would turn on but the screen’s colors were washed out.

Fast forward to a week ago. The phone was still sitting in our bedroom because she never realized that she could sell a broken cell phone. I decided that the phone has been collecting enough dust and it was time to earn a little bit of extra cash. The iPhone 4 is now very outdated. It is a white Apple iPhone 4 16 GB for AT&T. She still has the original Apple box and charger, however the Apple earphones are long gone.

I am writing this article as a guide for anyone that has an older cell phone or tablet and wants to sell it for extra cash. If you’ve been following my blog, you already know you can sell your used cell phones, but you may not have known that you can also sell your used devices that are broken.

When selling a used mobile device, broken or working, the three factors I consider are most value, time and convenience, and risk. Obviously I want to make the most money, with the least amount of risk, in the least amount of time and effort. Since it currently a hectic time with the holidays just around the corner, I decided not to sell on Craigslist. Craigslist sometimes can require a lot of time and effort to meet up with potential buyers, and time is something I didn’t have much of earlier in December.

Where Can You Get The Most Money For A Water Damaged Device?

For the sake of convenience, I checked out some of the more popular buyback websites. was not accepting trade-ins for the iPhone 4 at the time. Because the phone is water damaged, and only offered $10 cash for the phone. Hmm… maybe my girlfriend was right that the extra cash wasn’t worth the trade-in effort. I decided to move on to Glyde is a hybrid of a buyback website and a marketplace. Glyde decides how much you can list your phone for and a buyer can choose to purchase your phone. Then Glyde sends you prepaid box to ship your device in. Unfortunately, Glyde only offered me $16 for the water-damaged phone.

My last stop was eBay. I’m a very experienced eBay user so I knew the potential of the marketplace. You can sell your phone for the most money on eBay but you have to package it and ship it. Time and effort would be a trade-off for more cash. I checked the most recently ended auction for a white Apple iPhone 4 16 GB AT&T phone that had water damage. The auction ended at $85 with an extra $10 for shipping. Wow, what a difference from all the other websites. I also used Movaluate as a double-check and it said my device was worth $75. So there you have it, selling on eBay would give me seven to eight times the amount of cash that any of the buyback websites would. Of course there are eBay and PayPal fees but I should still make a lot more money on eBay than I would with a buyback site.

Listing A Phone On eBay

I am going to walk you through selling a phone on eBay from start to finish and I will show you the results of my auction. You might be using this article as a guide or simply as a case study to determine where to sell your own phones.

Obviously, you’ll need to head over to to start. You’ll need to login or register an account if you don’t have one already. eBay offers free seller accounts, which give users the ability to list up to 50 items a month; these items can be listed using an auction with the option to offer a price for “buy it now.” Each listing can also feature up to 12 photos of the item. There is a fee users must pay once an item sells though, which is 9% of the total sale amount, but never more than $250.

After your logged in, click “Sell” at the top of the page. The first step is to create a title for your listing. I added as much detail as I could in the box: “Apple iPhone 4 16GB White (AT&T) – Water Damage Functional”.

Next is the condition. I chose “for parts not working”. Although the phone I am selling actually works, it does not work how the manufacturer intended it to. The screen is washed out. There isn’t a specific condition for water damaged so “for parts” was the best option. I’m not too concerned about this because I plan to include a very detailed description about the status of the phone.

The key to auctions on eBay are great descriptions and great pictures. I used my current iPhone to take pictures to upload to the eBay listing. Here are the pictures and description I used:

“For sale is a white Apple iPhone 4 16 GB (AT&T) that has water damage. The water damage is from several months ago; however, the phone is functional. The screen is washed out and the power button sometimes sticks. The phones has a screen protector and has always been kept in a case. There are very little, if any at all scratches or nicks on the phone’s exterior. I will be including both the original box and charger for the phone. Please only bid on this item if you intend to pay for it. I only accept PayPal and US buyers.”

After the description you can choose to list the phone as an auction or buy it now or both. I chose auction only and started the bidding at $0.99. I’ve had enough experience on eBay to know that there will be enough bids to get the price up to the fair market price.

ebay iphone description

At the bottom of the page you can select the shipping, listing duration, and return options. I selected to only ship within the US and I am not accepting returns. I chose to list the phone for 7 days and started the auction on Monday night at 11 PM.

A few extra things to do are to remove the SIM card and clean the phone. I simply wiped it down and used an air can to blow out the charging port.

Seven Days Later

For the first five days, nobody bid on my listing. However, I was not worried because most buyers wait until the end of the auction to try make the high bids in the last few minutes or seconds of the auction. I also noticed that there were 12 watchers, meaning 12 people saved my listing to monitor and be alerted about. This revealed to me that there were several people interested, and they just hadn’t bid on the phone yet. Most likely, they were already bidding on other phones that were ending sooner and were saving my listing as a backup.

I didn’t receive a single bid until the sixth day of the auction. The first bid was for $0.99, which was my starting price for the iPhone. Yes, it would suck if my phone sold for a high bid of $0.99, but I was confident this would not happen since I had already done my research on this specific phone’s recent ending prices.

A few more bids trickled in, yet the price was no higher than $20 by the end of the sixth day. Day seven arrived and it was the last day of the auction. There was about a full day left since the auction was set to end at night. I logged in to eBay during the last few minutes to watch the final bids coming in. My iPhone 4 sold for a total of $90 plus shipping. There were a total of 8 bidders and 17 individual bids. I successfully earned what I had expected on eBay and got more cash than I would have on a buyback website such as Additionally, I got great value for the iPhone. I sold an iPhone that was four years old and had water damage for $90. What a great deal! Always remember, your old smartphone may be worth more than you think, and even more than your carrier is willing to fork over through a trade-in.

ebay iphone bids

Accepting Payment

Immediately after the auction ended, I checked the winning bidders feedback and location. I wanted to make sure that had a positive eBay reputation and were within the United States. I specifically stated in my listing description that I would only sell and ship to the US.

The buyer checked out great. He had a feedback score of 232 and 100% positive feedback. He was also located in Florida. Everything looked good, so I sent the buyer an invoice from eBay. Within 24 hours I received payment via PayPal. I logged into PayPal and checked the transaction to verify that the seller had a confirmed shipping address and that the transaction was eligible for PayPal’s seller protection program.

Shipping the iPhone

Before you ship the phone to the buyer, you want to make sure it is ready. You should perform one last cleaning the phone the best you can, include all accessories with it, and delete all of the data from the phone. Make sure that before you send the device to anyone, you clear all the information from it. Back it up to your computer and, at the very least, restore the device to factory settings. Take out any external storage in the device, and if you include an external storage card, make sure you format it so it is cleared of any data. Just deleting files will not remove them completely from those who know how to find them.

I needed to use a small secure box to ship the iPhone. Luckily, I did most of my Christmas shopping online and had just received a handful of UPS packages to my apartment. One of the boxes was slightly larger than the size of the Apple retail iPhone box. This would be a perfect fit as it would allow room for protective wrapping between the iPhone box and the shipping box.

I put everything in the box including a receipt, and then packed and taped it up. The receipt I included was a basic printout of the auction description, eBay listing #, and the buyer’s details. Then I added the shipping label to the top of the box, and dropped it off at the post office.

ebay iphone shipping

When shipping the phone you want to take several precautions to prepare for theft, damaged, or lost items during shipping. I paid extra at the post office to track the package, insure it, and require signature upon delivery.

The last step was to add the tracking number to the eBay transaction details so the buyer could track the package. Additionally, I left positive feedback for the buyer because of his prompt payment.

Fees (eBay, PayPal, and Shipping)

I received $90 for the iPhone plus $9.50 for shipping expenses for a total payment of $99.50. However, there are several fees for the transaction I must pay.

The eBay fee is $9.95 (9% of final bid plus shipping).

The PayPal fee is $3.19.

Shipping Fees at USPS were $9.85. These were reduced since I had my own box.

Total Fees: $19.98.

As you can see, the fees add up to quite a bit. This is one of the downfalls to using eBay to sell your used cell phone. If you sold it on Craigslist, there wouldn’t be any fees. After you deduct all of the fees, the total cash value I received for the iPhone 4 was $76.92. This dollar amount is still well over what any cell phone buyback website offered.

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