In my mudroom, there are two drawers. In the one on the left, you'll find the electronics -- phones, iPods of all shapes and sizes, Gameboys -- that my family has abandoned over the years. In the one on the right, you'll find the paraphernalia for those devices -- chargers, rechargeable battery packs, headphones and various other connectors. I'm betting there's a drawer or two in your house that contains similar items. That's because every day, Americans throw out more than 350,000 cell phones (that's more than 125 million per year) and 130,000 computers.
But what I've learned this week is that we're passing up a tidy sum -- plus some potential tax deductions -- by dumping them or leaving them to gather dust. Thanks to frequent introductions of newer, better models, like last week's new Apple (AAPL) iPad, there is a robust secondary market for technology that, while not the latest or greatest, still has plenty of life left. A top of the line iPad 2 WiFi 64GB, for instance, can fetch you more than $350. None of the stuff in my junk drawer is worth that much, but some digging around this week revealed there's a good hundred bucks in there. Here's the scoop:
Sell it: Head to uSell.com: It's a deal aggregator, so it saves you the trouble of doing a lot of research to determine how much that old MP3 player is worth. All you have to do is find your product model -- say, a first generation iPod touch, 16GB -- and describe the quality. Does it turn on? Is it scratched? Using this information, uSell will show you offers from various re-sale sites across the web. For example, offers on that iPod touch ranged from $2 to $19. You then pick the site offering the highest price, and send your item to the resale site for free. Assuming the quality of your item matches the description you wrote on uSell, you will get the promised value.
uSell is still a relatively new site, so you can only find cash offers on cell phones, MP3 players, tablets, e-readers, game consoles and digital cameras. For cash offers on laptops, GPS devices, external hard drives, Blu-Ray players and more, head to Gazelle.com. Gazelle isn't listed on uSell, but the offers are usually pretty good, so it's always worth checking there, too. (For example, that same iPod touch received a $23 offer on Gazelle.)
If you'd prefer to go about selling your old device the low-tech way, Best Buy (BBY) is another option for most devices, and again, the value you receive is dependent on the condition of the item. On the aforementioned iPod, you'd get the following: $20.70 for good condition, $15.53 for fair, and $10.35 for poor.
Donate it: Goodwill and Dell have teamed up to create Reconnect, a program that allows you to donate an old computer as easily as old jeans. They'll take computer monitors (even if the screen is cracked), keyboards, printers, mice, speakers and more. To deduct these donations from your taxes, you must determine the value of the item beforehand -- do it online using the estimates from uSell or Gazelle -- and Goodwill will provide you with a receipt, just as it does for other types of donations. Save those receipts for tax time. You can go to reconnectpartnership.com to find the drop-off point closest to you.
Recycle it: The most comprehensive electronics recycling program belongs to Best Buy, which takes items ranging from TVs to boom boxes to alarm clocks. Office Depot (ODP), Office Max (OMX) and Staples (SPLS) also offer recycling services, but before you go, check to make sure they'll take your item. To find the recycling option nearest you, visit 1800recycling.com and enter your ZIP code and the items you wish to recycle. Most of the time, you won't get anything except the knowledge that you are protecting the environment, but Apple offers a cool deal where if you turn in your old iPod at an Apple store, you get 10% off a new iPod.
With Maggie McGrath