Cell phones are insanely expensive. With the latest flagship models tipping the scales at over $1,000, you’re probably looking to sell your old model to help offset the cost of your shiny new investment. Once you’ve sold your cell phone, it’s time to ship it. If this is your first time shipping a cell phone you might not be sure of the best way to get your old phone to its new home.

Different types of parcels have different packaging and shipping rules. A cell phone for example, must be packaged carefully because it contains a lithium-ion battery.  There’a a few guidelines you’ll need to follow when shipping a cell phone so it reaches its destination safely.  


How to safely package a cell phone

How to Ship Your iPhone

The last thing you want is for an expensive cell phone to get damaged or broken during the shipping process so proper packaging is a must. Choose a cardboard box that will fit the phone well, is rigid and strong.  A box that is too big will leave too much room for the phone to move around inside, and cost more to ship. A 2x4x8-size box is a good choice for mailing a cell phone. You can pick up a small box at most big box stores like Walmart, Target, Office Depot etc. These generally only cost a dollar or two but if you’re feeling thrifty you can always reuse boxes from Amazon orders you’ve received. 


The phone should be wrapped in two or three layers of bubble wrap as a first layer of protection.  Make sure you wrap the charger or USB cable for the phone in bubble wrapped as well.  Around the bubble wrap, place a layer of paper, packing chips, more bubble wrap, or cardboard pieces so the phone doesn’t shift around in the box during transit. The more secure the phone, the less chance that it will get damaged.


Cell phones contain lithium batteries which need extra precaution. Cell phones are designed to keep batteries grounded when attached so do not remove the batteries before shipping.  It’s also important to ensure that battery terminals are not exposed during shipping. Tip:  Turn the phone off before packaging because the phone has a lithium battery, which can be hazardous during shipping.

UN 3481 Label for shipping lithium ion cell phone batteriesLithium-ion batteries are considered highly flammable and can overheat in high temperatures, so they usually require a special “UN 3481” label on the package. If shipping via USPS for example, packages containing lithium-ion batteries must have a DOT-approved lithium battery mark on the address side. USPS provides these labels for free at any post office. Check with the shipping carrier you use to see if any additional labels or paperwork are necessary.


Shipping Options

Once the phone is properly packaged, it’s ready to be shipped! All carriers now offer free tracking so that’s a plus. Purchasing insurance is usually worth the extra money for the peace of mind of knowing you’re protected if anything happens while your cell phone is in transit. Insurance will generally cost $10-$20 extra, depending on the carrier you use and the value of your cell phone. If you sold your cell phone on an e-commerce platform like eBay it might also be worth the extra $2-3 for signature confirmation just to be extra cautious (for cell phones valued over $750 eBay requires signature confirmation) 


Keep all your paperwork together in a safe place (shipping receipt, tracking number, insurance docs) so you don’t lose them. Trust us, these will come in handy if something happens to your package.

Tip:  Take a photo of the device with a timestamp before you seal the box to show how you packaged the phone just in case anything happens to the phone during the shipping process.


Which Carrier Should I Use?

The most common carriers for shipping cell phones are USPS, UPS, and FedEx. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each.  


Ship a Cell Phone With USPS:  The United States Postal Office is usually the least expensive option. They’ve come a long way in the reliability department over the past few years, though many still have mixed feelings on shipping with them. USPS First Class Mail will be the cheapest option, provided you’re able to keep the package weight under 13 ounces. If you print a label online you’ll get free tracking with USPS First Class Mail. If you buy postage at your local post office it will cost extra. 

USPS Small Flat Rate Shipping Box for shipping cell phones
USPS Small Flat Rate Box


For the best blend of value and reliability you’ll want USPS Priority Mail. A HUGE benefit to using Priority Mail is you can get free boxes from your local post office for this service. A USPS Priority Mail Small Flat Rate box costs less than $10, comes with $50 of free insurance, free tracking and the box fits a cell phone perfectly. This service usually takes 3 days or less for delivery in the continental US.


Ship a Cell Phone With UPS:  UPS’s Ground Shipping will get your cell phone to its destination within 1-5 days. However, it is generally more expensive than the USPS. Their online tracking platform is constantly updated and very reliable. UPS Ground is a great choice if you want fantastic reliability and don’t mind waiting a little longer for your package to be delivered. You can expect to pay somewhere between $10 and $20 for UPS ground.


Ship a Cell Phone With FedEx:  FedEx is generally the most expensive option, but will get your phone there quickly, whether you choose Ground or Air shipping. The biggest benefit to FedEx is their guaranteed delivery times. If you need a cell phone overnighted or just need to know it will be guaranteed to arrive by a certain date, FedEx is the best pick.

You can research the exact costs of using each of these three through their respective online shipping calculators, which will vary depending on how fast you want the phone to arrive.

USPS Price Calculator

UPS Price Calculator

FedEx Price Calculator

The cost for shipping may also vary depending on your location relative to the destination further away = more expensive). If you live far away from the cell phones destination a flat-rate service might be your best option. If you can’t drive to a shipping facility, both UPS and FedEx offer package pickup for a fee. USPS will pick up your package for free. 


Hopefully these tips will get your cell phone to its destination quickly, safely & economically. If you’re in the market to sell your old cell phone, consider using GadgetGone. We provide a free USPS Shipping Label and we can even mail you a free shipping kit which makes shipping your cell phone incredibly easy.


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