How I Make Money Flipping Cell Phones

flipping cell phones

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 from 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 it Credit Card which netted me 5% cash-back on all purchases on Amazon. Boom!

I am very familiar with iPhone products, so I felt 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.

To find how much a phone is worth, check how much the phone has sold for on eBay using “Completed Listing” searches.

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 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. If you wanted to follow along with my process, click here to search for used iPhones currently selling on Amazon. You can find what the iPhone is selling for and then use eBay completed listing search to see if there is an opportunity for profit.

How I Find Cheap iPhones To Resell

I should mention that this case study was done in early 2015. Therefore, as you probably should know, Apple releases new iPhones every year generally in early September. So you might want to target newer phones than the ones that were available to me at the time. I would suggest searching Amazon for used iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus.

Why? You can usually find a better deal on the model that is prior to the current newest model. People generally toss their “older” phone on Amazon for semi-arbitrary prices as they are just looking to sell it quick.  Based on my experience, I find it easy to buy AT&T phones so you can unlock them and that will increase your profit potential. Generally, the higher storage (GB amount) the phone has leads to funky pricing because people do not know the phone’s true value, so you can usually get a better deal on those.

I have made a search that I use which finds the lowest price for all used iPhone’s on Amazon which you can find below (Includes used iPhones of all colors and storage sizes):

iPhone 6:

For reference: You can sell an unlocked iPhone 6 for about $250-280

iPhone 6 Plus:

iPhone 6 Plus
For reference: You can sell an unlocked iPhone 6 Plus phone on for about $280-$350

iPhone 6s:

For reference: You can sell an unlocked iPhone 6s for about $280-$340

iPhone 6s Plus:

iPhone 6s Plus
For reference: You can sell an unlocked iPhone 6s Plus for about $330-$370

So to recap: Buy cheap used AT&T iPhone on Amazon (Check what it’s selling for on eBay), unlock the phone, sell it on Craigslist, eBay or anywhere where you can sell electronics for a profit. It’s possible to make money by flipping iPhones!

10 iPhones Purchased Through Amazon

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

6. 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. 2/5
Charger: Yes
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
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
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
Headset: No
Cost: $160.00
Extra Costs:$8.99 (Factory Unlock)
Total Costs: $168.90

10. iPhone 6 Plus 16GB Black
Condition: Brand New iPhone 6 Plus 5/5. Cannot unlock.
Charger: 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.

1. Be Honest

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

2. 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.

3. Create a Craigslist Email Address

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

4. 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.

5. No Trades

Trying to make money here, and I only deal with cash.

6. 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”

7. 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 as you can see my profit/loss report below.

Profit/Loss Report

iPhone Model

Total Costs



 iPhone 5 16GB White $157.84 $280.00 $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.

You Can Make Money Reselling iPhones or flipping Cell Phones!

I ended up with $1,137.79 in profit for a months work 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 it credit card. I wanted to mention though because it’s my favorite go-to card and I would recommend it. I have a special offer with Discover and if you sign up through this link, you can get a $50 cash sign up bonus! Yes, seriously! Also, if you plan on buying these phones on Amazon, you can get extra cash back through eBates.

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 using the steps outlined here. 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.

What’s next? Try it for yourself. I have made a custom search that I use which finds the lowest price for all used iPhone’s on Amazon. This includes all iPhones of all colors and sizes, sorted by lowest priced first.

Cheapest used iPhones Currently Selling on Amazon Marketplace

iPhone 6 on Amazon

iPhone 6 Plus on Amazon

iPhone 6s on Amazon

iPhone 6s Plus on Amazon

Now get out there and make some money. Have you thought about flipping cell phones or iPhones? What’s stopping you or have you had success? I’m interested in other people’s experience, leave a comment below if you have questions!


Related: 20+ Easy Side Hustles Millennials Can Start TodayBest Money Making Apps for 201730 Best Side Hustle Ideas To Make Extra Money

Brian Meiggs
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Brian Meiggs

Brian is the founder of My Millennial Guide, a website aimed to help people take control of their financial lives. When not helping others reach their financial and career goals, Brian can be found at the gym, traveling, crossing items off his bucket list, or exploring Washington, DC! You can learn more about him here.
Brian Meiggs
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  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!

    • 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 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.

    • 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 🙂

  3. What service or company did you use to remove the lock ? Was it a carrier lock? icloud lock? or simple phone lock? (i.e. digits locked via the touch screen?)

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  5. I noticed that your purchase consists mainly of iphone fives. Is it because the older the model, the greater the price variance (and thus potential good deal)? I did a quick scan on Ebay for iphone 6, 16GB and found there is no much room for profit.

    • The reason why I bought iPhone 5’s was because at the time those were the phone’s I bought in which I knew I could make a profit. I did this case study a few years ago, right now I would gun for iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. I would not advise buying the newest phone as the prices are way too high. After your quick search, you may not always find deals that is why it’s important to look for deals diligently daily, or weekly, as deals do pop up when sellers ignorantly, or not, sell their phones for a quick selling price.

  6. Great blog here! Additionally your web site rather a lot up very fast!
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    • I appreciate the kind words. I’m using BlueHost and you can get a reduced rate for hosting here. I would recommend them, as they have 24/7 customer service so they will be able to help any time of the day. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I enjoyed reading the post. I work in a repair shop that doesn’t buy phones, but I often have customers with broken phones ask if we buy them. I tell them that we don’t, but off the record, if one of us is interested, we do. I recently had a customer come in with a broken Samsung galaxy s7 edge that had a screen so horribly shattered, you couldn’t see anything but lines and a green cast over said lines. He asked how much it was to repair it and I explained that it wood be a couple hundred dollars because the cost of the screen alone is over $200, not even including labor. He offered it to me for $20. I accepted, thinking that it may never work again because of the cost, but I wanted a take apart Samsung to study. It turned out the manager previously bought another customer previously a defective screen that he couldn’t use, so we slapped it on. Sure, it has a few purples lines on the right side and a few dead pixels, but for $20, it’s a cheap upgrade from my galaxy s3.

    I’ve thought about flipping phones for a while since we get so many customers willing to sell their phones for quick cash in our shop. One guy even gave one of us his broken iphone 6 in exchange for a free tempered glass on his other phone we just repaired.

  9. Thanks for sharing. I’m a college student trying to find ways to make some extra cash. Would you recommend this side hustle to college students?

    • Absolutely, I did it while I was in college and I get a few emails a month from students who are also currently in college and are thinking the same way you are.

      If you ever need some more advice, feel free to reach out to me!

  10. I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my site 🙂

    • I would try it out, there is money to be made. Also, as a college student you may have more time on your hands than if you had a regular 9-5 job! If you ever want to chat more, feel free to reach out!

    • Seems that way! Perhaps, people getting rid of their newer phones to get the iPhone X or another phone type? Thanks for the comment.

  11. […] Millennials are quick to get lured in by the appeal of getting closer to owning an asset every month. However, an article in The Guardian warns millennials of getting sucked in without adequate thought. Often millennials will stretch themselves financially to pay off mortgage loans in the hopes that their income will significantly rise. Unfortunately, this rarely happens in a decent enough timeframe, leaving their personal finances in a state of mayhem. In fact, relative to earlier generations, today’s cohort of young people is making less money, considering their education; they are more indebted with student loans and are likely to be underemployed and finding alternative methods to flip money. […]


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