When the device has high resale or regifting potential. Imagine searching eBay and finding two identical iPhones listed at the same price, but only one comes with the original box. Which would you choose? For premium items like a smartphone or a laptop, or for potential collectibles like, say, a limited-edition video game controller, the packaging is almost part of the product and therefore increases its market value. When you include the box in your listing, it suggests that the item has been preserved in good condition.
“It’s always good to have the original box,” says Sara Beane, a media relationships specialist at the online marketplace Swappa. “It creates a better unboxing experience.” This is particularly important, she adds, if the buyer intends to give the item as a gift.
When the warranty is still in effect, especially for large or delicate items. Maybe hang on to it even longer if you anticipate moving. Most manufacturers will let you send a TV, monitor, or other device under warranty back for repairs in any box. (Companies such as Apple will even send you a box for your return.) But it’s certainly easier to pack the device in the box it came in than bubble wrapping it and squeezing it into another box—especially if we’re talking about large, unusually shaped items like televisions. “I still have the box from the still-working, 18-year-old flat-screen monitor,” Twitter member @TheSkepticalSc2told me in a tweet. “It’s been with me for six moves.”
When keeping the box is also cost-efficient. A laptop shipping box with foam padding costs around $25, and TV moving boxes can cost more than $40, depending on the size of the set.
When the gadget is a specialty item, or you’re storing extra parts. “Outdoor projectors and screen boxes, which were so popular during the pandemic, can be saved because you will be storing your equipment in them most of the time,” Thalia Poulos, president of the American Society of Professional Organizers and a professional organizer in California, told me in an email. Also, sometimes people have extra pieces for their electronics, such as additional mounting hardware for a Ring home security system. In this case, Poulos says, it’s a good idea to keep the box so you can protect the items and easily remember what they are and where they are.
If none of the above apply to you, free yourself from the tyranny of packaging.
That box that came with a cheap $20 pair of headphones? Let it go. That box that housed a once state-of-the-art laptop that’s now 3-years-old? Give thanks to it for its service and send it on its way to the recycling bin.