It's a curse of our age of fast-paced technological advancement: The moment we buy that hot new device, it's on its way to being out of date -- and when the sexier new model drops, well, we just have to have it.
Such is the fate of Apple (AAPL) devotees, who will start shelling out hundreds of dollars apiece to be up-to-date technologically when the iPhone 5 arrives Wednesday. The average smartphone owner uses a handset for just two years before relegating it to the back of a desk drawer or, more commonly, the trash.
It doesn't have to be that way. In the past year or so, a bevy of "recommerce" sites have popped up that will pay tech junkies cash for their old hardware.
These sites -- among them Usell, Gazelle, YouRenew, CellItUsed, BuyMyTronics, and Totem -- allow people an easy and secure way to connect with buyers in an age when eBay and Amazon have become dominated by professional power sellers, leaving the common consumer with little chance to purvey his or her own used tech gear.
"Why not sell [your old phone] and use that money that you could make from selling it and trading it in to help offset the absurd cost of the new device?" asks Usell's CEO and co-founder Dan Brauser.
My Droid Incredible 2, for example, is already a bit over the hill, just a year after I got it. It has light wear from being regularly dropped on the sidewalk when I'm rummaging in my pocket for keys, but when I listed it on Usell, I instantly got five bidders. The highest, Sellyourcell.com, offered $60 -- not a huge payday, but not chump change either.
The sites will do more than take used smartphones off your hands -- most will also buy tablet computers, laptops and the like. They're built on a model that makes it simple for a seller to list a device and receive the highest price possible in exchange for it. It works like this: A seller visits a recommerce site like Usell.com, answers a few questions about the condition of the device and then searches a network of buyers. Based on the condition of the phone, buyers will make bids in rapid succession (some have already pre-arranged for price thresholds based on a phone's model and condition), and, depending on the site, sellers have the option to choose which buyer they'll sell to, based on price offer and rating.
The seller is then sent a pre-addressed package with which to mail your electronic gear. The buyer notifies the seller when it's received, and once it's been inspected, the online buyer issues payment through check or Paypal. That buyer wipes the data, refurbishes it and puts it back in the circulation by selling it to a prepaid cellular company or warranty company.
So as you prepare to make your next electronic upgrade, consider the cash you could get for that long-abandoned laptop or forlorn BlackBerry. Then take a look at our slideshow for a sense of the hidden money you could get from gear lying around your house. In some cases it may be only a few bucks, but it's not earning you anything gathering dust -- or worse, in a landfill.
How to Make Your IPhone 5 Upgrade Cheaper: Try Recommerce