Looking to trade up to a newer model? Here’s how to maximize what you get for your old one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Whenever Apple trots out new hardware — as it did on Tuesday with the new MacBook Air — it’s only natural to look at your old hardware and think, “Time for an upgrade!”

Just one problem: You’re not made of money. And you already sunk a hefty chunk of it into your current MacBook. So what’s an upgrade-hungry user to do? Simple: Sell that old machine to help subsidize the new one.

Of course, when you do that, you’ll want to squeeze every last dollar out of it, to get the absolute best trade-in deal you possibly can. Here’s your handy guide to doing exactly that.

Know your hardware

Before you can figure out how much your MacBook is worth, you need to know exactly which MacBook you have. You can find the model number on the bottom of the system or, if it’s handy, the box it came in. Either way, that number will reveal most of the key specs about the system: processor speed, RAM, storage and even color.

For example, if it’s a MacBook MJLQ2LL/A, you’ll know it has a 2.2GHz Core i7 processor, 15.4-inch display and 256GB SSD. Head to Apple’s Tech Specs page to get the full details regarding your model, or just peruse this list of MacBook Pro models.

Now that you know exactly what you’re selling, you have two main options for actually selling it.

Option 1: Sell it yourself

As with selling your car, you’ll most likely get the most money if you sell your used MacBook yourself. And there are three effective ways to do that:

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace

The perennially free want-ad site Craigslist makes it pretty easy to create a listing — just write up the details, add some photos and you’re done.

Now for the downside: A MacBook is a big-ticket item, and that greatly increases your risk of getting ripped off or worse. And, think about it: Do you really want to meet a stranger in a parking lot and hand over your MacBook in exchange for a big wad of cash?

If you do decide to try this option, at least make sure to meet your buyer in a well-lit, public place. (Some police departments offer their parking lots as transaction sites.) Make sure to be completely honest about the condition of your hardware so the buyer doesn’t feel surprised or taken advantage of.

Then there’s Facebook Marketplace, which operates very similarly to Craigslist, with one key difference: It’s linked to your Facebook account, so there’s less anonymity. (It also has a snazzier interface, if that matters.) If you want to give it a try, check out these five tips for selling on Facebook Marketplace.


It takes more work, but eBay is definitely the safer way to sell a used MacBook. It also exposes you to a much wider audience of potential buyers, meaning you might fetch a higher price — though you also have a lot more competing sellers as well.

The cost of creating an eBay listing is quite low, but the company takes a hefty 10 percent of the final selling price. And if you accept payment through PayPal, you’ll be charged an additional fee of 2.9 percent (4 percent if sold internationally) of the final value.

You’ll need to decide whether to auction off your MacBook or set a Buy It Now price. The latter can help you make the sale more quickly, and it also gives you greater control over what you’ll make. Best bet: Check the Buy It Now prices that others have set for your same model, then undercut them by a few bucks.

Just be sure to take note of eBay’s buyer and seller protection policies, which tend to favor the buyer in the event that, say, your MacBook won’t boot or arrives with a cracked screen. In other words, sellers need to do their homework, too.

Option 2: Trade it in

Apple has a trade-in program for many of its products, including MacBooks. Plug in the details of your machine and you can get money for it in the form or an Apple Store Gift Card or a credit toward your next purchase. And if Apple determines your ancient MacBook holds no value, it’ll let you recycle it for free. You can mail in your MacBook or bring it to an Apple Store to trade it in or recycle it.

Apple’s not the only trade-in option. Best Buy accepts used MacBooks in its trade-in program. A MacBook Air MD760LL/A that’s in good condition and includes the power cord will net you a $193 Best Buy gift card, one you can turn around and apply to a new machine.

If you prefer cash as opposed to credit, check out sites like Gazelle and NextWorth — both will pay for your MacBook via check or PayPal. But the process can be a little time-consuming, because you have to ship your system and wait for it to be evaluated. And if the company finds any issues with it, you may get less money than you were originally quoted.

Have you ever sold a used MacBook? What method did you use, and how did it turn out? Share your stories in the comments!

Originally published on Oct. 27, 2016.
Update, Oct. 31, 2018: Added information about new MacBook Air announcement and Apple’s trade-in program.


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