Market for used electronics matures

Claudia Buck / The Sacramento Bee /

Published Oct 17, 2013 at 05:00AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Standing in a mall food court, Marcellus Lang slipped a used cellphone into an ecoATM kiosk. Instantly, the machine scanned his phone, assessing its condition. Separately, it also snapped his photo, scanned his driver’s license and recorded his electronic fingerprint.

For Lang’s old Evo phone, he was offered $4. Repeating the process with an iPod Touch, he landed a $55 offer. Without pausing, the 25-year-old punched in his acceptance.

Within minutes, the machine spit out $59 in cash, which Lang folded into his jeans pocket.

“It’s cool. You dump your old phone for quick cash,” said Lang, a security guard who said he has used the sell-your-electronics kiosk at Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza Mall several times and likes the walk-up convenience.

For consumers, using an ecoATM is just one of a growing number of options for getting rid of old digital devices, particularly cellphones.

With the average consumer getting a new smartphone every 18 months, Americans are sitting on an ever-growing heap of digital discards. And many of those abandoned phones retain value, either as recycled donations or cold, hard cash.

Plenty of major retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Radio Shack and Wal-Mart, will take your old cellphones and give you gift cards toward a store purchase.

“If you have a phone in good condition, this could go toward a substantial dent in the cost. (The trade-in payments) are worth more than ever before, because every store wants to get your business,” said Jeanette Pavini, consumer savings expert with, based in Mountain View, Calif.

With so many big-box retailers dangling trade-in incentives, “there’s this great competitive environment that consumers can take advantage of,” she said.

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