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Sell your MacBook

Questions on buying from recyclers

Hi John. My name is Robert and I am interested in the refurbishing field for macs. I currently have a full time job as a heavy equipment operator and Repair smartphones, game consoles and try to fix anything of value that someone brings to me. About three years ago I took the Practical Board Repair class with Jessa and Louis Rossman, which was great but never got going full time. I live out in the country and think refurbishing would be best option for me after reading a lot of your posts on pro talk and your website. And I really want to quit my job and work from home. I know you get a lot of questions all the time and understand if you don't feel like replying. But here goes. Is there any recyclers you could recommend me getting in touch with? I have heard stories where people have gotten a lot of junk ones. I wanted to start out with like what you said and do a proof of concept first. And buy like 10 and see how it goes. Also what is a good model to go with that is low cost and good profitability? And how much is a good price to pay? I have all the tools and equiment for board repair. And really want to make this work cause my wife says I will never make enough to quit my day job. So I want to prove her wrong. lol I'm sure Im forgetting something but this is probably too much anyways. I do really appreciated any help you can give me. Thanks.


  • Hey Rob! Thanks for the post!

    I could write about 500 pages on these topics, so I'll try to put together a good summary.

    But first, since you have board repair experience, have you thought about buying bad boards, repairing them, and then selling them? I don't know how good you are with MacBook boards vs mobile device boards, but that could be a business in itself if you are good enough at repairing them. People like Louis Rossmann repair boards for individuals, but there is a ton of opportunity to use the refurb/repair model to instead BUY boards (or laptops with bad boards), repair them, and sell them. It's just something to think about -- since you already have a specialized skill, it might make sense to employ that instead of doing something entirely different.

    Buying from recyclers: If you are buying broken/as-is material like I do, then it's necessary to find your own recyclers. That's because any given recycler generally only sells a specific category of as-is item (i.e. MacBooks) to one person who is their designated buyer. They don't have a price list of 3000 different laptops that they hand out to tons of people who may want to buy them. It's generally companies that sell working/tested/guaranteed laptops (like that would do that. But if you buy from those companies, you're going to pay super high prices for working laptops, and only make 10% when you flip them. It's a legitimate thing to do, but it's a different business, and it's super risky, and requires lots of money to start.

    You could Google "electronics recycler" and ask local recyclers if they get any Macs. You could go to, which is a marketplace dedicated to wholesalers, but those people generally know the value of what they have and will ask high prices. Like you may have read in my posts, I prefer to find recyclers on eBay. I search for "MacBook lot", sort by "newly listed", and then sniff out lots of as-is machines that appear to not have been messed with, and sellers who seem to be honest. There's a lot to that, but what it comes down to is jumping in and getting experience. You can click on their lists of other items for sale to verify whether or not they are recyclers.

    I always follow my rule of "never pay more than you can sell it for broken", which I means that I always expect everything in the lot to be broken, and I set my price with that in mind. It keeps you safe -- if everything ends up bad, then that's OK, because you paid the right price. Most likely not everything will be bad, and then you've gotten yourself a good deal. But the second you pay more than that, you're gambling, especially on the first purchase. And a business cannot sustain itself on gambling, period.

    So anyway, I make a first purchase, and evaluate what I get. If it's good stuff, I always e-mail the seller, introduce myself, and tell them to contact me if they get more, with the goal of becoming their one contact to offload that type of material. It takes a lot of purchases from many people and a lot of work, but eventually you will build relationships that can last years, and get you thousands of good machines. It's harder than most people expect -- it might take you a year to find an ongoing source of good inventory. eBay is a great place to look, because recyclers selling as-is on eBay generally don't have that "designated contact" in place.

    Until you are buying in bulk, you can always buy individual machines from Craigslist, eBay, etc. And you can always sell individual machines until you have wholesale customers. Basically you want to do retail until the wholesale players reveal themselves, which they will do over time.

    DEFINITELY do a proof of concept. Challenge yourself with a set amount of money and a deadline, i.e. "I want to turn $1000 into $3000" in a month. If it works, you can move to the next level, but if it doesn't, you can re-evaluate, figure out what you learned, and then do it again. It's great that you still have a day job because you have the luxury of experimenting, and it does take a lot of experimentation -- you don't want to be in a situation where you HAVE to make it work, because then you won't be thinking clearly. You don't want to be a situation where you back is to the wall until you have done a successful proof of concept that has proven you can make the money you need to make.

    Also, check out this blog of mine if you haven't read it:

    Also, in light of the Amazon thing and other factors, I would be cautious. This is not a path to getting rich, and in many ways it's less viable every year. Even when your proof of concept has succeeded and you go at this full time, I wouldn't expect to make more than $35K the first couple years because there is a learning curve, actually multiple learning curves that you are taking on at once. You could possibly do better than $35K, even way better, but in the beginning it's important to be realistic and treat it like a science experiment before putting yourself at risk.

    I would start with the 2009-2012 A1278 (13") and A1286 (15") Pros, and specialize in those. Anything older doesn't have enough value, and anything newer isn't going to be found in any quantity.

    Anyway, hope that helps, and if you have more questions, let me know!

  • RobRob
    edited December 2018
    Ok Thanks!! It's great that you take the time to type out all that info. I will start looking right away. One more thing, how do you come up with value of broken device? Do you just go to eBay sold listings for broken ones or is there a better way? Oh and is there a decent source for chargers that aren't overpriced or crap? Thanks again
  • There are lots of factors. Sold listings are a GREAT tool. But make sure to sort the sold listings by "recent first" rather that "lowest first" or "highest first", because that will give you a better sense of average price, and frequency of sale, whereas high or low might give the wrong impression.

    Basically you need to figure out the math. For instance, this morning I found a listing for 42 white unibodies for $1000 shipped ($23.80/ea). I know from experience that this is a decent "broken" price. These machines sell for about $129 best case scenario. Going by my rule (never pay more than you can sell them for broken), I'm assuming all of them are only worthy of being scrapped for parts. They didn't include hard drives, or chargers, but they all have batteries. From experience I know that probably half the batteries in a lot like this will be workable. I also regularly buy these batteries for $18/ea new. So if I'm acquiring 21 good batteries, I'm getting a value of $18*21=$378. They also have RAM, and I know these mixed lots often have about 30% 4GB RAM (instead of 2GB). So if 14 have 4GB RAM, that's 28 2GB sticks, and those are worth approximately $4/ea = $112. The seller also claims these machines are the faster 2.4GHZ version. I know from experience not to trust what he's saying, because he certainly hasn't gone through all the machines. But it's not uncommon for these lots to be a third 2.4GHZ, and since he's apparently noticed that at least a few are, it's safe to assume that 14 are 2.4GHZ. 2.4GHZ goes for about $20/ea more, so that's $280. 2.4GHZ machines also more commonly come with 4GB RAM, so that gives me more confidence on the RAM front. Also, I know that these particular boards are hardly ever defective or damaged, so that's not a risk. So with just these three factors we have $378+$112+280= $770. I could come up with some more elements that would push this over $1000. At that point, I just have to ask myself whether or not it's worth it to me, and the answer is definitely yes.

    To simplify it further (because the above is a mess), I know from experience that probably 60-70% of these white unibodies are salvageable at this point (and that percentage definitely varies by year/model). But for sake of example, let's say only 15 of them were salvageable (which would be extremely unusual), and that we can piece together 15 good machines out of this lot, minus hard drives and chargers.

    So we'd have 15 laptops selling for $100/ea (low estimate) = $1500. My cost would be as follows:

    x15 laptops = $1000
    x15 250GB hard drives = $180 ($12/ea)
    x15 60w chargers = $180 (12/ea)
    TOTAL COST = $1360

    So even if only 15 laptops could be pieced together out of this lot of 42 (extremely unusual), I would make more selling those 15 than the total cost of all 42. This is another way of verifying it's a good deal. Realistically you might want to include selling fees and shipping as well.

    Eventually you don't have to do all the math, because you know the numbers like the back of your hand, but it's a good exercise at the start. The super-short answer is that for 2009-2012 Pros, right now, December 12th, 2018, acceptable pricing is between $40-$120 depending on year, condition, and completeness. $120 would only be for 2012 models, mostly or totally complete, and in good condition. Beware of 2011 -- you'll run across many in good shape, but they are very commonly plagued with GPU issues.

    It's also easier once you establish suppliers because you get a sense of the quality of inventory they receive, and trust is no longer an issue. With certain of my established suppliers I may not hesitate to pay $120/ea for 2012s, but that's only because I've bought from them 300 times over 10 years, and when they tell me "all the machines power on", I know it's a fact.

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