How to Flip Cell Phones for Profit

flip cell phones for profit
January 12, 2023

Learn how to buy and sell smartphones for profit. This phone flipping guide will explain how to flip cell phones for extra income. Learn what to check before buying phones and where to sell smartphones online for money.

Buying and selling smartphones is a very legitimate way to make money. I've been flipping cell phones over the years and will tell you that it is worth the time as long as you do some research and don't get ahead of yourself. It takes a bit of time and patience while you're starting out.

After doing it for some time, you can expect to make upwards of $20/hour or more with phone flipping. The best part is you can do this on your own time and whenever you want. I'll outline the process on how to successfully flip smartphones for money.

How to Make Money Flipping Cell Phones

The principle of making money flipping things is simple. You buy something at a lower price and then sell it at a higher price. However, you need experience and training to be able to actually make this work - but it is possible. When you think about it, successful businesses are based off of this "Buy Low, Sell High" concept.

If you can master that simple concept, then you can flip cell phones.

If you learn how to buy low and sell higher then you'll be able to flip whatever you'd like, not just cell phones. I first started flipping things for profit by going to garage sales or thrift stores and selling those items on eBay. Learn how to apply this concept and work for yourself by buying cell phones and selling them for a higher price to make a profit. 

You can start flipping smartphones with as little as $100. Start small and work your way up to more expensive phones as you learn more about them. You will gain experience along the way and learn how to separate good deals from bad ones. You'll be able to keep growing the initial $100 until you're buying phones worth $500 to $1000 or more.

Why Smartphones are a Good Idea to Flip

Almost everyone uses cell phones and they are only becoming more widespread. Cell phones are easy to buy, and they are easy to sell (especially iPhones). They are small and easy to ship, which is a huge benefit for flipping. The profit from flipping cell phones can be substantial if you do it correctly.

You can do it on your own time, when you want and how you want. You can make at least double minimum wage once you know how. 

Buy Smartphones on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace 

The best places to buy cell phones to flip is from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

The idea is to buy local and sell online. These are the best places to find cell phones for sale. When I find a phone that is in a price point I like, I will usually ask them if they are willing to lower the price point if I will drive to meet them somewhere that same day.

Try to be accommodating in exchange for a lower price. Some people will come down and price and some will not. I tend to only buy a phone if I know I will make at least $50 from it. If you are not sure how much a cell phone will go for you are buying, then read on. 

I always made sure to buy phones during the daytime and to meet at a store or gas station with lots of people around. You don't want to put yourself in a sticky situation if you don't have to.

Consider having a friend or family member tag along with you when you go to buy the phone. You can never be too safe when buying things from strangers. It's never a bad thing to be overly cautious.

What to Check Before Buying a Phone to Flip

IMEI Number

The first and foremost thing you need to check before buying a cell phone is to make sure the IMEI number is clean. "Clean" means that the cell phone is in good standing with cell service providers or isn't stolen. I use Swappa's IMEI Checker for this. It's a great tool which I've found to be very accurate.

I always ask for the IMEI number from the seller before I even meet them. I check it beforehand and then double check the phone when I get there to make sure it's the same IMEI number they texted me. I do this to make sure they didn't give me a clean IMEI # of a different phone while trying to sell me a blacklisted phone with a bad IMEI.

If the IMEI number is blacklisted then move on and find a different phone to buy. You don't want to mess with a blacklisted phone.


Be sure to test the phone screen by tapping across all areas of the screen. This way you're testing for any dead zones or dead pixels.

You will most likely not want to buy a cell phone with a cracked screen unless you know how to repair it. In my opinion, it's not worth the effort to replace the screen, especially with the increasing complexity of cell phones these days. 

If you plan on selling your phones on Swappa, they will not allow phones with cracked screens to be sold on their main marketplace. They have a "Boneyard" where you can sell phones with cracked screens. But, you'll obviously be getting less for your phone if the screen is cracked.

I used to repair cracked screens on iPhones, but stopped with the iPhone 7 as they became more complex and not worth my time as much anymore.

Speakers and Microphone

You can do a simple speaker and mic test by talking to Siri or saying "O.K. Google" if it's an Android phone. If there are any issues with the speakers or microphone, then I wouldn't buy it.


Test each and every button on the exterior works and check to make sure each part of the phone screen responds to touch. Buttons can be sticky or unresponsive so be sure to check all of them. Luckily newer phones have less and less buttons so this is an easy check.


Take pictures and videos with the front and back cameras. Turn the flashlight on to make sure the light on the phone works. Check the quality of the pictures to ensure that both cameras are functional.

Charging Port and Battery 

Ask the seller for the charging cord or bring your own to test it. If the phone has trouble charging or you need to adjust the cord to get it to charge, then don't buy it.

When you buy a phone, you can clean the charging port or crevices around the phone with a compressed air cleaner like one I got from Amazon.


Check the Wifi by connecting to an open Wifi network or your personal phone's hotspot. You can check the Bluetooth by connecting to a pair of wireless headphones or to your car if it has Bluetooth. Personally I've never had issues with the Wifi/Bluetooth on a phone but you can never be too careful.


Check the selling price of the phone you are about to buy. Go to to see what phones are currently listed for and in what condition. Subtract $10 for the listing fee (which can vary on depending on the phone) and $15 for shipping and then you will know how much the cell phone will sell for. Note that Paypal will take 3% as well.

While you are on Swappa, go look at the inventory for the phone you are looking to buy and sell. At the bottom of the page, there's a section with recently sold phones. There you will see the final sales price. This is a very realistic selling price for smartphones. This gives you a good idea and lets you do research on how profitable a phone will be before you actually go out and buy it.

Be sure to build in the profit margin you want for each deal. Remember to include extra cushion for the Swappa, Paypal, and shipping fees.

Where to Sell Smartphones

Swappa - Swappa is my absolute #1 place for selling cell phones. They don't charge you 10% like eBay does and they have a solid number of customers.

eBay - If you already have an eBay profile and want to make things a bit simpler to get started then you can use eBay. Please note they will charge you 10% in final fee values which equate to $50 if you are selling a $500 phone. The tradeoff to this is that there are many more users on eBay to purchase the phone.

How to Safely Ship a Cell Phone

While you can use any postal carrier you want to ship a cell phone, I prefer using USPS. They have always been reliable and get the job done at a fair price. The following is what I always include in my shipping when I ship a cell phone.

Priority 2-Day Shipping 

If someone is paying you a few hundred dollars or more for a cell phone, they probably don't want to wait a week to get it in the mail. I know I wouldn't want to wait that long. I believe the phone will sell faster if you use 2-Day shipping as well. 

I've never had an issue with Priority 2-Day Shipping.


Always insure the cell phone for the sales price and get the tracking number and receipt from USPS. Don't risk losing a phone worth $500 just to save a few bucks!

Signature Confirmation
Signature confirmation phone flipping

Signature confirmation, like insurance, is there to protect you. If someone signs for the package, then USPS won't leave the phone outside at the destination just to possibly get stolen.

A person will actually have to sign for the cell phone once it reaches its final destination. This also only costs a few bucks and can save you hundreds as well!

Bubble Wrap and Solid Packaging 

Last but not least, don't skimp on the bubble wrap and tape for shipping. Be sure to make the phone nice and snug in the box with the bubble wrap before you ship it.

When I ship phones, I first put the phone and accessories in their own individual sandwich bags to keep out any moisture. Then, I wrap the phone in bubble wrap several times.

Lastly, be sure you are using a very sturdy box and that there is no extra space for the phone to slide around. Fill any space with newspaper or plastic filler.


There is no easy or quick way to cell phone flipping success. But, if you are willing to work hard then this is a legitimate side hustle that can make you a decent chunk of change.

I flipped cell phones throughout college and it let me be my own boss and work with electronics which I have a big interest in. I learned a ton and had fun doing it, which is a lot better than when I worked at fast food restaurants.

The best part about flipping smartphones is that you can be your own boss and do it all on your own schedule.