Home » Selling Guides » Phones

Craigslist Used Cell Phone Selling Checklist

Want to sell your used cell phone on Craigslist? This checklist includes everything you need to know about how to optimize your Craigslist listing so you can sell at the highest price, how to avoid identity theft, and how to ensure a safe transaction. Download a printable version at the end! Contents
  • How to optimize your Craigslist cell phone listing
  • o Title/headline o Description o Additional fields o Images o Negotiation tips o Additional advice o Craigslist phone ad example
  • How to prepare your phone for sale
  • How to ensure a safe transaction and avoid scams
  • Printable Checklist

How to optimize your Craigslist cell phone listing

Whether you’re selling an iPhone, Android smartphone, or old flip phone, these Craigslist optimization tips will help you get the highest payout for your old cell phone. Title/Headline Your Craigslist title is the first thing potential buyers will see, so it has to stand out and command attention for your ad. Here’s how to write a compelling title:
  • Use keywords: Think about what search terms (keywords) buyers are using, and include them in your headline. Buyers typically search for specific models, carriers, colors, and capacities, so be sure they’re part of your headline. Example: iPhone 5 16GB space gray Verizon
  • Include the price: When you include the price, your headline will stand out and attract serious buyers who are comfortable with that price (or at least using that price as a starting point for negotiations)
  • Condition: Even though you can include the condition of your phone in a separate section on your listing, mention it in your headline – particularly if it’s in good or better condition. Not sure how to evaluate your phone’s condition? Check out this guide.
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Why should someone buy your phone over competing sellers? Study existing posts to identify a USP that helps you stand out from the competition. It might be as simple as stating the original charger and headphones come along with the phone, or you might own a rare color or special edition. Your condition might also serve as your USP.
  • Speak the language: Know what Craigslist classifieds abbreviations mean and use them if they’ll enhance your title. For example, “OBO” means “Or Best Offer;” while “NIB” means “New In Box.” This also goes for your description. For more, check out Webopedia’s list of classifieds abbreviations.
  • Do not use ALL CAPS, which can make your listing seem like spam
  • Say as much as you can in as few words as possible – and always be mindful of key search phrases
  • Don’t try to pack everything into your title – leave a few morsels for your description, which can help sweeten the deal for prospective buyers
  • Refrain from using adjectives and hyperbole – over-the-top, funny, and “clever” headlines might get attention, but they might also turn serious buyers away
Description (Posting Body): Your Craigslist description should accurately represent your phone, justify your asking price, and emphasize the features that are most important to buyers. These tips will help you achieve all three criteria:
  • Begin with a sentence or two: Explain your USP, your reason for selling, and offer a brief history of the phone. This helps give buyers an overview of what you’re selling and can create desire that motivates buyers to act fast.
  • List phone specs in bullet points: Don’t make buyers read through paragraphs of information; instead, list the most important specs in bullet points. If you don’t know your phone specs, you can find them for any model from GSM Arena. Include the phone make and model, storage capacity, color, and operating system (for example, iOS or Android). If your phone has been jailbroken, be sure to mention it.
  • List accessories and additional benefits: If you’re including accessories or other additional benefits – for example, if you’re willing to trade or accept the best offer – include this information in bullet points.
  • Use keyword variations: Like your title, be sure to use keywords in your description. Understand that Craigslist’s search function does not find similar words, so you should also use multiple variations of keywords so your listings show up in Craigslist search results. Examples: iPhone, iPhones, iPhone5, iPhone 5.
  • Describe the phone’s condition: Add in details that speak to condition. For example, your phone might be “scratch-free” or always kept in an Otter Box. If your phone has damage, explain it.
  • Include the carrier: Buyers want to know what carriers the phone will work with, so list your carrier. You can also mention whether your phone is a CDMA or GSM model, which will help buyers understand which additional carriers it will work with. If your phone is unlocked, be sure to mention it in the description
  • Add an incentive: If you can offer an additional incentive to sweeten the deal, add it in the description. Examples include a discount if it’s purchased by a certain date, offering to travel to the buyer’s area to complete the sale, or throwing in a protective case.
  • Leave out contact information: Craigslist has an input field for anonymizing contact information; plus, you probably don’t want to broadcast your cell phone number or email address over the Internet. That said, if there are certain times buyers should call you can mention that in your ad.
  • Keep it short and sweet: Short sentences and paragraphs make your ad easier to scan and understand.
  • Consider using HTML: You can use HTML to call out important information in your ad – for example, you can bold certain features or turn them red – though it’s probably not necessary. If you want to use HTML, reference this list of supported Craigslist HTML elements. Here’s a Craigslist HTML cheat sheet that claims bolding the most important benefit can increase response rate by as much as 20 percent.
  • Add video links: Consider making a video that showcases your phone and linking to it from your Craigslist ad. You can upload the video to YouTube or Dropbox and share the URL for free.
  • Delivery: Will you meet in person? Are you willing to mail your phone? If so, who covers shipping? If it’s the buyer, it’s a good idea to separate that fee in your listing.
  • Know what to emphasize: Are you offering a great deal or a high-quality phone at a great price? The difference can impact how you write your title and description. Check out these copywriting tips for more information.
  • Let buyers know if you’ll trade: If you are not willing to barter or accept trades, you can eliminate time-wasting inquiries by making your position clear. If you are willing to accept trades, list the types of items you’d be willing to consider

Additional Fields

Craigslist offers several additional fields; be sure to take advantage of them to help buyers find your listing in search results. At minimum, you should fill out:
  • Contact information: Cater to different buyers with multiple contact options: phone call, text messaging, and email. Use Craigslist’s free email relay service to keep your email address private
  • Price: Listing your price allows your phone to display in filtered searches. Check out, the “blue book of used cell phones,” to see what the private market value is for your phone. This is a good way to set a price buyers will pay. Consider setting your price at 15 to 20 percent more than you’re willing to accept – that way, when buyers want to negotiate you can come down on price and still get what you want while making the buyer feel like they got a bargain. It’s a win-win for both parties
  • Specific location and zip code: Let buyers know what area you live in and your zip code to show up in filtered searches.
  • Posting details: List your phone make, model, and condition. You probably don’t need to input its dimensions.
  • Show on maps: Check this box to have your listing show up on map-based searches. You’ll be able to adjust the map pin on the next page. Exclude your street address to maintain your privacy.


Good images will make your listing more attractive and help you accurately represent the phone you’re selling. Here are some tips for using images to sell your used phone on Craigslist:
  • Clean your phone first: Use a soft towel and non-abrasive cleaner to remove any dirt, lint, or screen smudges that will make your photos unattractive.
  • Upload multiple images: At minimum, take photos of the front of the phone with the display off, the front with the display on (to prove it powers on), and the back. Upload the best image first, since it will be used as a thumbnail in search results.
  • Take compelling, high-quality photos: Good lighting and a white background are essential. Check out Pixelz for a tutorial on how to take great product shots with your smartphone. For an in-depth professional (yet cheap) approach, read this Shopify guide to beautiful product photography.
  • Optimize your photos: Use photo editing software (Fotor, Pixlr, and Canva are free) to optimize your photos for Craigslist. Photos kept under 600X450 pixels will not be compressed or resized. Techwalla has a nice tutorial on optimizing photos for Craigslist

Negotiation tips

  • Buffer your price: Some buyers will want to negotiate the price, which is why it’s a good idea to give your listing a 15 to 20 percent buffer. Be prepared to justify your price by fully understanding your phone’s market value, your USP, the value of accessories and add-on’s, and the condition your phone is in.
  • Privately set a bottom dollar, but don’t disclose it to buyers: Instead, be willing to walk away from a deal if the price isn’t right. If you’re offering a fair deal, chances are someone else will buy your phone.
  • Find other ways negotiate: Price isn’t the only negotiable factor. You can sweeten the deal and maintain your price by adding in accessories, agreeing to meet in the buyer’s area, or via some other incentive. If you have an undisclosed add-on ready to throw in, you can be prepared to negotiate.
  • Do not appear desperate: If it looks like you need cash fast, it will be difficult to remain firm on price. Rather than buying now to take advantage of a good deal, buyers might wait it out to see if you come down.
  • Be polite and avoid conflict: If negotiations sour, simply move on to another buyer.

Additional advice

  • Timing matters: Timing can play a role in how much you can get for your old cell phone. Phones gradually lose value over time; and they lose value even quicker during the weeks preceding and immediately after a new model launch. From the seller’s standpoint, it’s usually best to sell as soon as possible to get the most money for your phone. Check your specific model on to see a graph depicting current pricing trends.
  • Share your ad: After you post on Craigslist, share your ad to expand your reach. Your Facebook page and local buy and trade groups are good places to start. You can also use email and other social media outlets, as well as link to your ad from local classifieds services.
  • Choose the best category: Only post in one category to avoid confusion. Most cell phones are posted in the “For Sale ‘ Cell Phones” category, and that’s where buyers are looking.
  • Make multiple posts for multiple phones: If you’re selling multiple cell phones, don’t combine them into a single ad. Rather, create separate ads for each to increase their visibility in Craigslist’s search. When you create your ad, you can elect to have your other ads listed at the bottom of your post.
Example listing/template Here’s an example you can use as a template for your own Craigslist ads:
TITLE iPhone 5 16GB space gray Verizon, good condition $150 DESCRIPTION [INITIAL SENTENCE WITH DESCRIPTION, USP, HISTORY, AND REASON FOR SELLING] IPhone 5 16GB in space gray on the Verizon network for sale, scratch-free and in good condition (I’ve always kept it in an Otter Box). Everything works perfectly. I bought the phone new from the carrier and am selling because I’m upgrading to an iPhone 7. [SPECS WITH KEYWORD VARIATIONS] Specs: [ACCESSORIES] Accessories included:
  • Original charger
  • Original headphones (never used)
[ASKING PRICE AND INCENTIVE] Asking $150 firm. I’ll throw in the Otter Box for free if it’s sold before Friday. No trades please. [VIDEO LINK] Video link: [CONTACT INFORMATION] Email any time; please call or text after 5pm only.
Here’s how it looks without the helper text:
iPhone 5 16GB space gray Verizon, good condition $150 IPhone 5 16GB in space gray on the Verizon network for sale, scratch-free and in good condition (I’ve always kept it in an Otter Box). Everything works perfectly. I bought the phone new from the carrier and am selling because I’m upgrading to an iPhone 7. Specs: Accessories included:
  • Original charger
  • Original headphones (never used)
Asking $150 firm. I’ll throw in the Otter Box for free if it’s sold before Friday. No trades please. Video link: Email any time; please call or text after 5pm only.

How to prepare your phone for sale

You’ve sold your phone on Craigslist – great! Now you need to protect your identity, financial data, private photos and other information. Here’s how to do it:
STEP 1: Make a backup of your data. This is important if you want to move your photos, contacts, apps, and other data to a new device.
STEP 2: Erase all data. You need to completely wipe your phone so there’s no chance someone can access your sensitive data. The process isn’t as simple as resetting to factory settings.
STEP 3: Remove SIM and microSD cards. You don’t want to include these in the sale, as you’ll need your SIM card for your new phone and your microSD card (if applicable) can contain sensitive data.
STEP 4: Turn off identification features. If you follow the guides above, this will already be done; if not, be sure to turn off activation lock and disable Find My iPhone and any other identification features.
STEP 5: Clean your phone. You want your phone to look its best when you meet to complete the sale!

How to ensure a safe sale and avoid getting scammed

Your phone is ready to bid you adieu and embark on a journey with its new owner. Here’s how to ensure a safe transaction and avoid scams. Vet the buyer Learn as much as you can about the buyer before meeting. Get their full name and email address, and research them online. Check out their Facebook page, if they have one, which can offer insight into the type of person you’re dealing with. Meet in a safe place Public places with a lot of foot traffic are best, since they discourage criminal activity. You might suggest meeting in front of the buyer’s local carrier, since they can activate the phone immediately after the sale. Other good options include restaurants, department stores, busy college campuses, and hotel lobbies. Take a friend Bring a friend along to discourage any shenanigans and also to serve as a witness to your transaction. It’s also a good idea to let a trusted person know who you’re meeting, where you’re meeting, and set up a check-in time to verify the transaction was completed safely. Only accept cash Do not accept checks, which are easy enough to write without sufficient funds. Do not mail your phone Mailing your phone can be a good way to expand your pool of potential buyers, but it carries the inherent risk of getting scammed. The only circumstances under which you might consider mailing your phone are if the buyer prepays via PayPal (though they could later file a claim that the phone is not as-advertised) or a check that has cleared, or if you use a legitimate escrow service like Even then, the fees for escrow might not be worth the sale. Do not agree to use escrow services suggested by the buyer, as they could be scams. Ultimately, if you’re willing to mail your phone you might be better off selling it on Ebay rather than Craigslist, since Ebay has built-in protections for buyers and sellers. Renegotiation Some buyers will make an offer online, then make a lower offer in-person. Their intent is to get a lower price since they have cash in-hand and can offer an immediate sale. Be prepared for this potential by privately setting your bottom-dollar price. It’s possible they’ll notice a blemish or other feature that warrants a price reduction, but if not be willing to politely decline and walk away. Follow these tips, and you should be able to get the most money for your used phone on Craigslist, protect your identity, and ensure a safe and scam-free transaction. If this process seems like too much of a hassle – particularly with no guarantee of sale – you can also consider selling your phone to buyback companies. You’ll still get more money than carriers and manufacturers will offer, and you can guarantee a convenient, safe, immediate sale. Instantly compare the best buyback offers online with DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CRAIGSLIST USED CELL PHONE SELLING CHECKLIST