airpods 3 are here, but can you trade in your old airpods to save some money?
© Provided by CNET What can you do with your old AirPods? Sarah Tew/CNET

The much-anticipated AirPods 3 were announced at Apple’s Unleashed event on Monday, and yes, you can order the new 2021 AirPods now. But if you already own a pair of the second-generation AirPods (or older) and want to upgrade, can you trade in the older set? 

The answer is no, at least not with Apple. While Apple accepts trade-ins for iPhones as far back as the iPhone 6S, and even gives credit for several eligible Android devices, the trade-in offer doesn’t extend to AirPods of any sort. In fact, your only option through Apple is to recycle your old earbuds.

Why won’t Apple take back old AirPods?

airpods 3 are here, but can you trade in your old airpods to save some money?
© Sarah Tew/CNET

One reason you may not be able to trade in old AirPods could come down to sanitation. Earbuds by definition enter the human body — in this case, the ear canal, where ear wax (also known as cerumen) accumulates and drains. It’s a natural process, but it has a tremendous ick factor, and Apple may not want to take on a cleaning process or liability for decrusting and refurbishing other people’s ear gunk. (We asked Apple for comment and will update this story if we hear back.)

Another reason Apple may not accept your used AirPods could come down to economics. With the new AirPods 3 starting at $179 (£169, AU$279), the financial overhead to clean and repair old AirPods and then resell them for a fraction of the price may not make sense for Apple’s bottom line. Demand may just be too low, or the process too impractical. Again, we asked Apple for clarification and will update with any comments.

Can you sell used AirPods online anywhere else?

We did find other places where you can sell your AirPods online to save up money for the newest third-generation AirPods, such as Decluttr and BuyBackWorld. Or you can trade your earbuds in to Best Buy or Amazon and receive your money on a gift card — just don’t expect a huge payout, even for items in good condition. 

For instance, second-generation AirPods in good working condition with all charging components will get you $40 with a trade-in at Best Buy. That’s better than nothing, but it won’t cover even half the cost of a new set.

If you’re looking to offset the cost to buy the AirPods 3, another option is to pay in monthly installments using an Apple Card, so you’d only pay $11 upfront today and the rest of the balance down the road.

For more information, here’s everything Apple announced at its event. Plus, here’s how to buy the newest MacBook Pros today and what to know about the Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

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