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. Fortunately, there are a wealth of online trade-in options out there for you to choose from.

Once you’ve chosen your device buyback partner online, 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 device to its new home.

With each of the different types of parcels requiring different packaging and shipping rules, the whole process can feel more than a bit daunting. A cell phone, for example, must be packaged carefully because it contains a lithium-ion battery. 

There are a few guidelines you’ll need to follow when shipping a cell phone so it reaches its destination safely.  

How to Ship Your iPhone


How to Safely Package a Cell Phone

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 is rigid, strong, and will fit the phone well. A box that is too big will leave too much room for the phone to move around inside and cost more to ship. A box that is 2″ x 4″ x 8″ 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, and more. 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 the first layer of protection. Make sure you wrap the charger or USB cable for the phone in bubble wrap 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 to help prevent your phone’s lithium battery from causing a hazardous situation during shipment.


UN 3481 Label for shipping lithium ion cell phone batteries


Lithium-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 the United States Postal Service, 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 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. In fact, eBay actually requires signature confirmation for cell phones valued at over $750.

Keep all your paperwork (shipping receipt, tracking number, insurance docs, etc.) together in a safe place 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

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

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 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 will get free tracking with USPS First Class Mail. If you buy postage at your local post office, however, it will cost extra. 

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 boxes for free from your local post office. A USPS Priority Mail Small Flat Rate box costs less than $10, comes with $50 of free insurance and free tracking, and the box fits a cell phone perfectly. This service usually takes three 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 one to five days. While it is generally more expensive than 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 it 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.


Carrier Shipping Costs

You can research the exact costs of using each of these options with their respective online shipping calculators. Accordingly, each 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. In other words, the further away the destination is, the more expensive shipping will be. If you live far away from the cell phone’s 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, and economically. If you’re in the market to sell your old cell phone, consider using GadgetGone. Not only do we provide a free USPS Shipping Label, but we can even mail you a free shipping kit, making getting your cell phone from Point A to Point B about as easy as it gets.


Ready to Sell?

Get a Quote