Best Buy’s genius gimmick: Buy Back trade-in program is a total ripoff

Best Buy Buybaculator

At the Super Bowl this year, Best Buy announced its brand new Buy Back Program with an odd and confusing commercial featuring Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne. Basically, for a fee, Best Buy will now make a pact with you to buy back your gadgets for 10 to 50 percent of their original retail price if you decide you’re ready for an early upgrade. But is the service really worth its price tag? Find out below.

The costs and savings of the Buy Back Program

Here’s how it works. Much like Best Buy’s Warranty program, when you purchase an item from Best Buy, the cashier will ask if you’d like to enroll that item in the Buy Back Program — there is a fee to join it. If you return your product in 100-percent good condition — working order with the receipt, all the original parts, and proper documentation — Best Buy will give you money back for your item, depending on how old it is. Laptops, netbooks, tablets, and phones are only returnable within two years. TVs can be returned for a very low rate for up to four years. Assuming all of your paperwork checks out and the item is in good condition, Best Buy will give you a gift card for the amount it owes you. You must spend that gift card in Best Buy.

Cost to purchase the Buy Back Program for an item:

  • Laptops and Netbooks – $69.99
  • Tablets – $69.99
  • Mobile Phones ($349.99 or less) – $39.99
  • Mobile Phones ($350 and more) – $59.99
  • TVs ($499.99 or less) – $59.99
  • TVs ($500-$1,199.99) – $99.99
  • TVs ($1,200-$2,499.99) – $179.99
  • TVs ($2,500-$4,999.99) – $299.99

Amount of money you’ll get back (based on product age):

  • 50% back – up to 6 months old
  • 40% back – 6-12 months old
  • 30% back – 12-18 months old
  • 20% back – 18-24 months old
  • 10% back – 24-48 months old (TVs only!)

Still don’t understand? Watch Best Buy’s super-informative video:

Test products

To see if Best Buy’s new program is a good deal, we thought we’d test a few common products. There are an endless number of combinations of products and age we could have chosen, but we chose a few new and old common items: an iPhone 3GS, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and a Samsung 52″ television from 2008. We calculated the price Best Buy pays back based on the age and type of product and compared it to current used prices of each product online. The results are not favorable for Best Buy.

Apple iPhone 3GS 16GB (AT&T)


Age: 20 months

Buy Back Price: $120

Buy Back Program cost: $60

Avg. used price online: $275

Original price (no contract): $600

Potential cash lost through Buy Back: $215

Though Best Buy uses the actual price of phones to calculate its Buy Back prices, users hoping to upgrade from the iPhone 3GS would not have been a good deal after any length of time due to Best Buy’s low payback rates, which top out at 50 percent and dip down to 20 percent as users approach their two year contract renewal. We estimate you could make $200 more from your iPhone 3GS by putting it on eBay or selling it online. However, if you’re content with a $60 payout or don’t want to put in the effort, Best Buy’s plan might be good for you. Just make sure you have all of the parts and your phone isn’t damaged.

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