Damage makes shoppers out of all smartphone users. When our phones are cracked, dented, temperamental, or simply not working as they should, it's easy to move into replacement mode.
But just as your phone is less desirable to you when it's damaged, it's also less interesting to others. If you try to sell your damaged phone, you'll get less than you would if the issue never took hold.
In this article, we'll tell you more about:
How people damage their phones, including more about what seems to be the most dangerous part of the planet for phones.
How much less a damaged phone is worth, with hard numbers pulled from our platform.
Risks involved with fixing your phone even if you work with an expert.
Other options you can try if your phone can't be sold, including recycling.
How Do People Damage Their Phones?
Our phones are precious cargo, and since modern phones come with a four-figure price tag, it's reasonable to expect that we treat these devices with care. Unfortunately, research suggests that we often break our phones. Some of us break devices repeatedly.
Research published in Market Watch suggests that these are the most common types of damage we inflict on our phones:
Cracked screens: 29 percent of devices have this issue.
Scratched screens: 27 percent of phones have this problem.
Drained batteries: 22 percent of phones have this issue.
This same study suggests that we'll live with the phones we break. A full two-thirds of people said they'd keep using a damaged phone if it still seemed to work. Even if we cut our fingers on the broken glass, we'll keep hanging on to our phones if they turn on.
That might be good news, as some of us break our phones repeatedly. Research from AT&T suggests that breaking one phone puts you at additional risk for ruining the next one.
Of all the places one can break a phone, the parking lot is the most common. Some 32 percent of device damage happens in this spot. Since most of us spend a lot of time in parking lots as we move to and from work, we're all at risk.
Our phones can do a great deal for us, but they're also very delicate. The glass that covers the front of a phone can resist pressure, but any kind of twist or uneven force can cause teeny points of stress that bloom into webs of cracks. Each fissure can let moisture into the guts of your phone, creating even more significant issues.
Proof That Damage Hurts Your Price
Just how much can you lose when you damage your phone? We wanted to find out. We searched through our database, using data from four different types of phones. Our results demonstrate that those little cracks and dents can hit your wallet hard.
Our first experiment was with an iPhone 6S. This model has 16GB, runs on AT&T, and comes with a power adapter and cable. If your phone is:
Flawless, you'll take home $106.
Fair, with minor dents and scuffs but no water damage or cracks, you'll get $71.
Broken, with either water damage or a cracked screen, you'll get just $35.
Apple phones come with the highest resale value, so we were surprised to see such a big dip in value for what might seem like cosmetic concerns. But when we looked at other models, the situation grew even more serious.
Our next research involved a Samsung Galaxy S7, with 32GB and a connection to AT&T. If your phone is:
Flawless, with absolutely no screen distortions of any kind, you'll get $85.
Flawless, but with screen distortions, you'll get just $15.
As this demonstrates, some phones come with known faults that grow worse with use. If you're unlucky enough to have a device like this and you didn't get it fixed when it was under manufacturer warranty, you'll pay the price now.
Our next experiment was with the 32GB Google Pixel, running on Verizon. If your phone is:
Flawless, you'll take home $60.
Fair, with dents and dings that don't impact performance, you'll get $25.
Broken, with cracks or water damage, we can't accept your phone.
Some models are priced so low that they're honestly not worth fixing and reselling. If you bought your phone at a low price and you didn't care for it, the damage could keep you from selling it again.
Our final experiment involved the LG G6. This 32GB model runs on AT&T. If your phone is:
Flawless, you'll get $50.
Fair, with dings and scuffs, you'll get $20.
Broken, with cracks or water damage, we can't accept your phone.
Again, some phones are truly damaged beyond repair and not worth fixing. If you try to sell them, you might be disappointed.
Can You Fix It First?
Now that you know damaged phones come with a smaller price tag, you might be tempted to whip your phone into the shop for a repair before you sell. You might also think about putting on your DIY hat and tackling the problem yourself. This isn't a great idea.
Some types of damage can't be repaired, even by professionals. Repair professionals interviewed by CNBC said they could fix:
But some problems remain outside their scope of work. They might attempt a fix only to break the phone yet more, and that can harm their reputation and ability to get new customers.
Another repair professional explains further. His customers come to him with phones damaged by water, and they expect him to sop up the damage and render their devices fully functional. Often, he can get them working temporarily. But then, the phones can fail days later. Water damage translates into rust and corrosion, and the situation worsens as time passes.
Trying the repair on your own can seem wise, but as repair professionals explain, you'll need to lean on tools you purchase online and videos posted by repair gurus. Often, the tools you buy are too wimpy to do the job, and the videos are hard to follow. Use the wrong tools and make just one mistake, and you'll render your phone completely useless.
Some repairs can make your phone less valuable to your buyer. For example, if you have a third-party battery installed in your phone, your buyer could struggle to get that phone worked on by Apple. Manufacturers are picky about repairs, and if they spot them, they could also make your phone a lot less valuable.
What Can You Do?
While it's true that a damaged phone nets you less money than one in pristine condition, you'll still have a little green to spare if the damage isn't severe.
And if your phone is damaged beyond repair, you aren't stuck throwing it in the garbage. Talk to your local waste management company about your recycling options. You'll keep dangerous metals out of landfills and groundwater.
Americans Spent Over $3 Billion Last Year Fixing Their Smartphone Screens. (November 2018). Market Watch.
Broken Phone Stats: Heartbreaking? Or Hilarious? (September 2017). AT&T.
The Existential Dilemma of a Broken Smartphone. (May 2016). CNBC.
Why Water Damage Cell Phone Repairs Often Fail. (October 2013). Jet City Device Repair.
Why You Shouldn't Fix Your Own Cell Phone. Mobile iPhone Guy.