Do you want to make some side income? I will explain how I make money flipping cell phones.

There are a lot of ways to make supplemental income outside of your 9-5 job, and I have tried a handful of them. One of the more profitable ways is buying and selling cell phones for a profit. The concept is really simple, buy low and sell high.

In November, I flipped 10 phones at an average of $103.44 of profit per phone. That netted me a profit of $1,137.79 of profit in only 1 month. At that rate, an extra $13,653.48 per year is great supplemental income added to my salary. As with anything in life, it’s not an easy thing to do and is at times very challenging. I will get more into this later in the article, but my general technique for this one month was buying phones on Amazon and reselling them Craigslist.

Buy iPhones on Amazon

You can purchase used phones from a variety of sources such as Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and countless other smartphone buy/sell apps. Generally, you would find the best deals on Craigslist because you can negotiate down the price and get great deals on cell phones. For this month, I found some great deals on Amazon for used iPhones so I used that source. I also was able to use my Discover Card which netted me 5% cash-back on all purchases on Amazon.

I am very familiar with iPhone products, so I feel comfortable buying and selling them only. iPhones are easy to resell, and when searching for them on Amazon I have a target price that I am willing to pay. I figure out my target price after I know what the phone is worth. If it is selling for $300 on eBay, that is how much it is worth.

To figure this out, I search for the cell phone model I am considering buying on eBay and scroll down to “Show Only”. I check the “Completed Listings” box, and then I see all completed auctions for that search. I know that the phones with green prices sold at that price, while the phones with red prices didn’t end up selling. This gives me a good idea of how much the phone is likely to sell for.

My goal is to buy iPhones on Amazon for $100 less than what it is selling for on eBay. While buying on Amazon I do realize there is some risk involved. However, Amazon.com provides protection for buyers, because if I never receive a phone purchased or it is not working then I can submit what is called an “A-to-Z Guarantee Protection claim”. This is a very simple process of making a claim against the seller, and then Amazon will refund me completely and immediately. They will then go after the seller themselves. It really does give me some peace of mind since I was about to purchase 11 phones totaling $2,181.54 in costs of goods.

I searched through Amazon and found the following phones that met all my criteria and I knew I could sell for a profit of $100 per phone. You can search for yourself, take a look here.

iPhones Purchased

  1. iPhone 5 16GB White 

    Condition: Used – Acceptable, Needs home button fixed. Apple can do it, or cell phone repair shops will for about $50. Functional without it by using assistive touch and top button. 4/5
    Charger: No
    Box:
    Yes
    Headset: No

    Cost: $119.99
    Extra Costs:
    $37.85 ( Replaced Screen + Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $157.84

  2. iPhone 5 16GB White

    Condition: Used – Good CRACKED SCREEN, functions perfectly. Original box. No charger or headphones. 4/5
    Charger:
    No
    Box:
    Yes
    Headset: No

    Cost: $154.99
    Extra Costs:
    $7.85 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $162.84

  3. iPhone 5 16GB Black

    Condition: Used – Good This phone has been tested and is 100% working. Phone and Charger only, no case. This phone has 1 small dent and a few minor scuffs along the rim of the case. Screen has minor scratches not noticeable when looking directly on. Price has been reduced over scratches. IMEI has been checked and is clean and ready for activation through AT&T. Listed as iPhone 5s, actually turned out to be an iPhone 5. 4/5
    Charger:
    Yes
    Box:
    No
    Headset: No

    Cost: $175.00
    Extra Costs:
    $7.00 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $182.00

  4. iPhone 5 64GB Black

    Condition: Used – Acceptable, ~ Item is in functional working condition and in acceptable cosmetic appearance. Item may have some major scuffing and/or wear on the screen, front and/or rear casing. All accessories may NOT be included and will be delivered in a non-retail box. 3/5
    Charger: Yes
    Box:
    No
    Headset: Yes

    Cost: $182.14
    Extra Costs:
    $7.00 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $189.14

  5. iPhone 5 64GB Black

    Condition: Used – Acceptable, ~ Item is in functional working condition and in acceptable cosmetic appearance. Item may have some major scuffing and/or wear on the screen, front and/or rear casing. All accessories may NOT be included and will be delivered in a non-retail box. 1/5
    Charger: Yes
    Box:
    No
    Headset: Yes

    Cost: $182.14
    Extra Costs:
    $7.00 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $189.14

  6. Phone 5 64GB Black

    Condition: Used – Acceptable, ~ Item is in functional working condition and in acceptable cosmetic appearance. Item may have some major scuffing and/or wear on the screen, front and/or rear casing. All accessories may NOT be included and will be delivered in a non-retail box. 2/5
    Charger: Yes
    Box:
    No
    Headset: Yes

    Cost: $182.14
    Extra Costs:
    $7.00 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $189.14

  7. iPhone 5 16GB White

    Condition: Used – Very Good PLEASE NOTE CONDITION BEFORE PURCHASE: This iPhone is in overall good condition. Shows signs of wear from normal use. The iPhone has been professionally tested and passed a multi-point inspection for complete functionality. This listing will include only the iPhone itself 4/5
    Charger: No
    Box:
    No
    Headset: No

    Cost: $186.76
    Extra Costs:
    $8.99 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $195.75

  8. iPhone 5s 32GB Black

    Condition: Used – Acceptable, ~ Item is in functional working condition and in acceptable cosmetic appearance. Item may have some major scuffing and/or wear on the screen, front and/or rear casing. All accessories may NOT be included and will be delivered in a non-retail box.
    Charger: No
    Box:
    No
    Headset: No

    Cost: $318.38
    Extra Costs:
    $8.99 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $327.27

  9. iPhone 5 16GB White

    Condition: Used- Good. Phone only, decent condition. 4/5
    Charger: No
    Box:
    No
    Headset: No

    Cost: $160.00
    Extra Costs:
    $8.99 (Factory Unlock)
    Total Costs: $168.9

  10. iPhone 6 Plus 16GB Black

    Condition: Brand New iPhone 6 Plus 5/5. Cannot unlock.
    Charger: Yes
    Box:
    Yes
    Headset: Yes

    Cost: $520
    Extra Costs: —
    Total Costs: $520.00

    Total Overall Costs for 10 iPhones

    I purchased 10 iPhones, totaling $2,181.54 and spent $100.67 in factory unlocks and 1 screen replacement and so I spent $1,762.21 in total.

    Total Costs: $1,762.21

Sell the iPhones on Craigslist 

Now having spent $1,762.21 in inventory I needed to sell the iPhones. So I took really great photos of each of the phones because if you don’t include pictures, 90% of the time your post will be looked over. So I made sure to take great quality photos of each phone and used brief and accurate headlines of the phone. I followed these tips to sell all the iPhones on Craigslist.

Be Honest
I was upfront about the condition of each phone and was honest about each phone.

Use Google Voice
I used Google Voice phone number in all my Craigslist posts, which makes potential costumers feel more at ease knowing they can contact me. I don’t like disclosing my personal cell phone number, or have someone calling my real phone number 3 months after I sold them a phone.

Create a Craigslist Email Address
Having a Craigslist-only email address keeps all your Craigslist selling activity separated from day-to-day life.

Be assertive, yet friendly
My time is probably the more expensive thing I have. I let the buyers know I won’t stand for low ball offers, and that they will be simply ignored. I post that in all my ads. Just don’t be a pushover.

No Trades
Trying to make money here, and I only deal with cash.

Use a brief and accurate headline
I use a concise headline, for example it would be- “iPhone 6 Plus 16GB – Brand New (AT&T) Black”

Pricing
I price my phones so I have a little wiggle room to price haggle.

With these strategies in mind, I ended up selling all of the phones.

Profit/Loss Report

Phone

iPhone 5 16GB White

Total Costs

$157.84

Sold

$280.00

Profit

$122.16

iPhone 5 16GB White $162.84 $295.00 $132.16
iPhone 5 16GB Black $182.00 $280.00 $98.00
iPhone 5 64GB Black $189.14 $345.00 $155.86
iPhone 5 64GB Black $189.14 $300.00 $110.86
iPhone 5 64GB Black $189.14 $300.00 $110.86
iPhone 5 16GB White $195.75 $300.00 $104.25
iPhone 5s 32GB Black $327.37 $400.00 $72.63
iPhone 5 16GB White $168.99 $270.00 $101.01
iPhone 6 Plus 16GB Black $520.00 $650.00 $130.00

Total Profit: Sold all phones for $3,420 which left me with $1,137.79 of profit for 1 months work

Tips For You

I made some good money because I bought these phones at a good price and I was able to get them factory unlocked which increases the value of the phone by 20%. Also, since I purchased them on Amazon and was able to get cash-back by using my Discover Card, I profited $109.08 in cash-back. I didn’t use this in calculating my total profit above because not everyone has a Discover Credit Card. However, If you’re looking for a side hustle gig, why not try selling used phones. Check the value of the phone on eBay and see what sellers are selling their used phones on Amazon or Craigslist. The key is finding an arbitrage in pricing: buy low, sell high. Selling phones requires some work, however it is very possible and anyone can do it. Take a look what is available now, there is money to be made! I’m proof that it is possible and this is a great way to pay off your debt. I would suggest buying iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus for AT&T on Amazon, unlocking them, then selling them on Craigslist.

Check to see if you can find some good deals on iPhones to flip:

>> Find used iPhones on Amazon to flip

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7 thoughts on “How I Make Money Flipping Cell Phones”

  1. This gives a whole new meaning to “flip phones!”

    Bad joke, sorry about that. Your success with this made me think of the guy that bought SIM cards wholesale then sold them at retail individually. But then I realized your story is less retail arbitrage and more fix and flip. Do you do the repairs yourself or just go to a local shop?

    Good point about pricing the phones with wiggle room, makes you much more likable as a seller if you come down in price, even if it’s artificial. Plus you probably get some buyers that take it at full price without haggling, even better!

    1. Haha, it really does though.

      To be honest, I’ve never actually considered flipping SIM cards, I might check to see if it is still a profitable venture or if the space is too crowded. If you can find the article you are talking about I would love to read about it.

      My main side hustle right now is selling fitness products through a Shopify store I’ve created… it is http://www.grindfitgear.com. If you get a chance, maybe you could check it out sometime. I am always looking for ways to supplement my income and trying new entrepreneurial pursuits.

      I did all the fixing up myself! I recall buying the first iPhone that came out ~10 years ago and fixing the screen through a YouTube video after it had cracked. Ever since, I was hooked, in addition to being able to replace the screen/digitizer I could easily replace the phones battery, antenna, camera, etc. It was very profitable for me and helped me pay off a portion of my ~26K in student loans within 1 year of graduating. I don’t have time for to do it anymore though because other projects that have my attention now but it really did help me create another stream of revenue.

  2. my business partner did this exact thing throughout college. he would buy any underpriced phones and watches that he could resell, and would then hire me and other friends to handle actually selling the goods. It always seemed like it was an easy side hustle as long as you have enough capital. He said he always like the watches more because he didn’t have to worry about how long he held them in inventory because for the most part they appreciate rather than depreciate.

    1. Yeah, I would only hold the phones for a few weeks max. If I couldn’t sell it for the price point I wanted I would just lower the price a bit and it would sell. Watches can go out of style, but that’s not really my area of expertise! Thanks for reading 🙂

    1. It was a carrier unlock, which raised the value of the phone at least by 20%. Had I not unlocked the iPhones via carrier unlocks, I would have not been able to net these profits!

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