Thanks to improved technology recycling programs across the U.S., disposing of broken, unwanted or outdated electronics in an eco-friendly way has become much less of a hassle in recent years. But how to get cash for old electronics remains a mystery to many folks, who often would rather just throw out old laptops, TVs and iWhatevers than try to recoup a reward for recycling them. Specifically, figuring out how much an item is worth and how to get the most for it continues to trip up many would-be recyclers.

Since the weeks after the holidays are a prime time for discarding old electronics and replacing them with newer, trendier ones — all those e-presents sitting under the tree! — here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to make a quick buck off your old gadgets.

So what can I get?

Don't bother unloading your e-waste at a pawn shop, where you'll be left wondering if you've gotten a fair deal or not. Companies such as Gazelle, Nextworth and YouRenew will gladly take a variety of old electronics off your hands and offer cash in return — or in some cases gift cards or charitable contributions — based on market data and the condition of whatever you're trying to part with. If the item in question is in rough shape and cash isn't an option, they'll still help you recycle it.

If you ultimately decide not to sell through one of the above companies and would rather sell an e-castaway yourself via a website like Craigslist or eBay (or at a garage sale), it's still worth exploring their sites to figure out the worth of an item.

Based on information taken from Gazelle, below is exactly what you can get for a variety of pre-owned items that are in functional condition and come with all accessories. The below rates reflect the condition of the item, "poor" indicating serious wear and tear while "perfect" means the item looks brand new.

The smart phone: iPhone 3G 16GB: $25 (poor condition) to $125 (perfect condition)

The digital camera: Kodak EasyShare M580: $11 (poor condition) to $54 (perfect condition)

The laptop computer: MacBook Core 2 Duo T8300 2.4GHz 13.3" 160GB Super Drive: $45 (poor condition) to $223 (perfect condition)

The gaming system: Microsoft Xbox gaming console: $4 (poor condition) to $20 (perfect condition)

The e-reader: Amazon Kindle 2 Wireless Reading Device: $11 (poor condition) to $57 (perfect condition)

The video player: Roku Netflix HD Digital Video Player: $1 (poor condition) to $38 (perfect condition)

 

What affects the price?

The going rates for used electronics may drop significantly if you don't include things like the original packaging, cords, cables, cases and instruction manuals. For example, the price of a pre-owned iPhone 3G in pristine condition drops from $125 to $115 if the original cables and AC adapter are not included.

And as evidenced above, the physical condition of an item plays heavily into how much you'll get back for it. A few deep scratches or a couple of dents can drastically lower the resale worth of an item, so it helps to take good care of your stuff if you're thinking about reselling it later on.

What about sensitive data?

Apprehensive about reselling used electronics, specifically cell phones and computers, because of all the data that are still alive and well inside them?

The companies mentioned above will erase any sensitive information on an item for you before it's resold, so no need to fret about doing it yourself. If you decide to sell an item through other channels, erasing data yourself can be an easy and inexpensive effort using free security programs (and no, deleting files won't make them completely disappear). For cell phones, check out ReCellular's Data Eraser, and for computer hard drives, watch this excellent instructional video over at PCWorld. If you doubt your own data-erasing abilities, pay a quick visit to your local computer specialist.

What if I can't get cash for an item?

Have an old item that's beyond repair and won't sell on the secondhand electronics marketplace? In addition to recycling through Gazelle or other online companies, many retailers including Best Buy offer free or low-cost recycling programs that ensure an item won't be landfilled. For cell phones, the Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of mobile providers that also have individual take-back/donation programs.

And if you can't get cash for an item because it doesn't work or is in complete disrepair, that doesn't mean you should just unload it at a nonprofit organization like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. These organizations are not e-trash depositories — their goal is to resell what's given to them, so if you donate an item, make sure it works. Otherwise, they'll have to pay to recycle it.

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