With the new MacBook Pro models not exactly cheap (especially for Brits), we all need as much help as we can get in paying for them. A decent chunk of the purchase cost for many of us will be raised by selling our old Macs, either ahead of time or once we have our shiny new Macs all set up and behaving themselves.

If you just want a quick sale with no hassle, then our trade-in service is the simplest option. But if you are selling privately, the amount of money you can get for the exact same Mac in identical condition can vary quite dramatically. I’ve consistently managed to sell my old Macs for well above average prices by adopting a few simple tactics …

Box & packaging

This one may come a bit late, but I always keep the box and all the packaging. If you can advertise an expensive piece of technology as ‘boxed,’ it immediately adds $50-75 to the price. I even keep the Apple carrier bag when buying things from the store.

This phenomenon used to puzzle me: I couldn’t figure out why people were willing to pay more for a box that they will either throw away or stick in a cupboard somewhere, but I do have a theory. Buying used makes more financial sense, but I think some people feel they slightly miss out on the experience of buying something brand new – and opening the box gives them something of that experience.

If it is too late for your existing machine, I recommend hanging on to the box when your new one arrives.

Condition & cleaning

Similarly, the closer your Mac looks to a brand new machine, the more it will be worth and the easier it will sell. Now, I don’t baby my MacBooks – I view them as tools, and my existing MacBook Pro has quite literally travelled around the world with me – but I do still try to avoid damaging them. Even a small nick will reduce resale value.

One really simple thing you can do is give the Mac a thorough clean. You’ll sometimes find that marks you thought were small scratches are in fact just dirt. Be careful you don’t scratch the Mac when cleaning it, though!

The biggest danger is that there’s a tiny piece of grit either on the surface of the Mac or a cloth, and in the process of wiping it you end up scratching it. I always start with a brand new microfiber cloth, and go over it really lightly to knock off any grit or similar. Next I dampen the cloth a little and wipe both screen and exterior. I pay particular attention to the keyboard, as those often end up dusty, spoiling the illusion of a new machine. Finally, I use a second microfiber cloth to wipe it dry. Just ten minutes’ work can transform the look of a machine from perfectly fine to as-new.

High-quality photos

I’m firmly convinced that one of the reasons I tend to get good prices for stuff I sell on eBay is that I take high-quality photos – and lots of them. People can see exactly what they are getting, giving them far more confidence in bidding.

Choose a well-lit place – close to a window is ideal. Remove any clutter. Make sure the freshly cleaned machine hasn’t attracted any dust. Take photos from every single angle – including the underside. In that way, buyers can be confident there’s no hidden damage.

Include close-ups of things like ports, again so that people can see they are in good condition. Take close-ups of the screen from several angles, both on and off, so it’s obvious there are no cracks, scratches or dead pixels.

Include photos of the box, and the Mac sitting in the box, and repack the power supply so it all look as neat as it did when you bought it from the Apple Store.

Give a full, personal description

If you’re selling on eBay (and more on this in a moment), it automatically pulls in a spec panel when you enter the details of the model and year, but don’t just rely on this. Double-check that eBay has shown the correct details, especially if yours is an upgraded model.

But even if the panel is correct, a personal description really helps. Highlight the key features – any part of the spec that’s better than the base model of its time – but also enthuse about it a little. It’s probably been a much-loved machine, so say so. Buyers are more confident when they feel they are dealing with a friendly person, and the more confident they feel, the more bids you’ll get and the higher the sale price.

Give a reason for sale

Always give a reason for sale. People are rightly suspicious when buying used computers. They will be wondering whether there’s a reason you want to get rid of it. So when you’re selling to buy a shiny new one, say so.

This was a lesson I learned very early on, when the first question people asked me was ‘why are you selling?’. So now I tell them up-front.

Be ruthlessly honest about any issues

I mentioned taking lots of close-ups, and this is especially important if there are any issues with the machine – cosmetic or otherwise. I’m always really careful to point out any problems.

This is obviously good karma, but it pays off in two ways. First, I find people are more likely to trust you when you’ve pointed out any fault – especially when you’ve taken great pains to show something really trivial. More trust equals more bids equals more money. Second, it means there is no come-back from any tyre-kickers. If they try to complain that there’s a small mark or something, you can point out that you drew attention to it in the description, with a specific photo highlighting it.

I hate to say it, but … eBay gets the best prices

I know, eBay is a pain these days. They take a 10% cut, you get idiots asking stupid questions and PayPal is stacked against sellers if someone chooses to complain. It’s not without risks, and there are stories of people who signed for a Mac then took a photo of a brick and claimed to PayPal that’s what was in the package.

But I still use it because I haven’t had any problems personally, and it gets me the best prices – even after the 10% commission. I always use eBay’s ‘Sold listings’ as a price guide. Do a search on the item you’re selling, then in the left-hand panel towards the bottom, tick ‘Sold listings.’ You can then scan through these to get an idea of the typical price actually achieved.

In general, that will be higher than the price you’ll get selling through classified ads.

But if you follow the advice in this piece, you’ll do better than average. eBay is a competitive environment, and your ad will be much better than most of the other ads, and you’ll get more money. I have on quite a few occasions got significantly more than I would have dared to ask in a classified ad.

Be brave!

Another problem with eBay is that you used to be able to set a reserve price – the lowest amount you were willing to take – and pay just a tiny fee for that. These days eBay charges a lot to set a reserve. So I don’t. I also use a low starting price.

That feels scary, because in theory someone could buy your $800 Mac for $250 or whatever. But in practice, so long as you have it in the correct category with the correct spelling and spec, it doesn’t happen. Remember, it’s a competitive bidding environment. Any experienced eBay seller will tell you that a low starting price will attract more bidders, a number of whom will keep bidding.

Set a very high Buy It Now price

You can set a Buy It Now price – a price for which someone can buy your Mac immediately, closing the auction to other bidders. It’s always worth doing this, and setting a very high price, for two reasons. First, people who are not very up on pricing will unconsciously see that as the ‘worth’ of the item, and that will influence their bidding. Second – and this is especially true for rarer high-spec Macs – someone out there might have been looking for ages for the exact machine you are selling, and be willing to pay over the odds to avoid an extended search. Personally, I take the maximum price I hope to get and add 20%. I’ve gotten it, more than once.

Send via an insured, trackable service

You are responsible for your Mac reaching the buyer. If you can’t prove it was delivered, PayPal will refund the buyer without question. So always use a trackable delivery service with a signature, and always insure it – because it will be your loss if it’s lost or damaged in transit. You can add the cost of this to the ‘postage and packing’ element of your listing when you place the ad.

Finally, never accept payment via PayPal and then hand over the Mac in person! All the buyer has to do is claim they never received it and you will have no proof. If a buyer wants to meet in person, tell them it’s strictly a cash deal. I’m happy meeting in coffee shops, but if you have any qualms, suggesting you meet at a police station should deter any dubious types!

If you have any advice of your own to share for selling kit, do share them in the comments.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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