Buying used tech (and reselling it later) is a win-win. It’s good for the environment and good for your wallet. But to get the most for your dollar, it’s useful to know which items tend to hold their value over time—and which ones depreciate at the drop of a hat. That way, you can strategically plan your purchases so you’re keeping as much money as possible in your pocket.
The Gadgets That Hold Their Value
When you browse sites like Craigslist, eBay, and others, it’s clear that some products are fetching prices closer to their original retail cost than others. Apple is a great example: “iPhones, MacBooks, and Apple Watches are popular products to buy and sell used,” says Sara Beane, Media Relations Specialist at Swappa. “The market shows that it values Apple products over time, and that they tend to depreciate slower over time.” If you look at the data for phones sold on Swappa, it’s clear that iPhones stay closer to their original MSRP during the first two to three years compared to competing products. After that age, the gap closes, while iPads, MacBooks, and Apple Watches continue to keep their wide gap past those first few years.
Beane notes that there are products on both smartphone platforms that hold their value well, though. Samsung’s Galaxy line and Google’s Pixel line, for example, lag behind iPhones a tad but hold their value better than many competing Android brands.
The same goes for other well-known brands that are best-sellers on the new market. “Typically, items that sell best on our platform are well-known technology brands such as Apple, Samsung, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo,” explains Brandon Vaughan, spokesperson for OfferUp. Even if there’s a lot of supply, high demand keeps these products selling well—so you can be pretty confident there’ll be a buyer for that PS4 you bought just to play God of War. Even if your product category is a bit more niche, you may find the top brands in that hobby hold their value longer. I’ve seen this anecdotally with some cameras and audiophile headphones, for example—though less so with audiophile speakers, since their size necessitates local sales where demand may be slim.
Keep in mind that these things can fluctuate over time too. Both spokespeople noted that video game systems sold extremely well during the pandemic, thanks to high demand from people staying at home, with the Switch skyrocketing above its retail price thanks to stock shortages. So while brand name and popularity are a big component in long-term value, seasonal surges and outside factors also play a huge role. When a new iPhone comes out, for example, the last generation starts to drop in value quickly—so if you have a spare phone on hand, it might be worth selling last gen’s option a few weeks before Apple drops new models to pocket a bit more cash.
The Gadgets That Depreciate Quickly
Not all items are in such high demand, though. In many other cases, selling a used gadget may come with more significant loss.
Take, for example, those Android phones mentioned above. While Galaxy and Pixel phones tend to hold their value decently, other lower-demand Android phones depreciate faster. Looking at Swappa’s stats on the LG G8 ThinQ, for example, reveals a slightly lower average selling price than for the Galaxy S9—even though LG’s offering is a whole year newer and was priced higher at launch. The demand just isn’t there.
From anecdotal experience, I’ve found the same is often true for laptops. While popular, highly rated laptops like MacBooks can sell for decent prices, many Windows laptops—especially lesser-known budget or midrange models—seem to lose a ton of value as soon as you drive them off the proverbial lot. (I scored a brand-new Acer Aspire 5 on OfferUp for less than half its retail price a few years ago, despite it’s being a solid performer even today.) It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for this, but it’s likely that the Android and Windows ecosystems have so many manufacturers and product lines that demand for any one specific model is lower compared to specific, high-demand competitors like MacBooks. So people tend to shop with a bigger focus on price than getting the specific item they want.