Secondhand Sales 101: How to Sell on eBay

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Need a low-cost way to sell items you no longer need — or are you looking to get your valuable collectibles in front of some potential buyers? Well, no matter your intent, eBay is an accessible platform that makes online sales a breeze. 

While selling items you no longer use regularly to earn a little extra income sounds way better than tossing them, you might be hesitant to jump into the selling game. Whether you’re a longtime eBay customer or completely new to all aspects of the platform, we’ll give you a rundown of everything you need to know when it comes to selling your secondhand wares. 

How to Start Selling on eBay

To start selling (or buying) on eBay, you’ll have to create an account. The free signup process is simple; you’ll just need a valid email address and a mailing address. Once you’re set up, you can start listing items for sale — the “Buy Now” option — or auctioning them off. Of course, creating a listing is more involved than just rounding up some packing supplies and hitting “post.” Who will pay for shipping — you or the seller? How much will you list the item for, and will it be for instant sale, auction, or both? 

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Additionally, there are fees associated with selling on eBay. The platform charges sellers to post listings and takes a commission from anything that sells. However, eBay allows you to post up to 200 listings per month for free; if you sell hundreds upon hundreds of items every month, you’ll need to pay for additional listings. That said, it may be worthwhile to enroll in an eBay store subscription. Although the price ranges rather drastically per month depending upon your needs, you can post thousands of listings per month without worrying about additional fees. 

As for those commissions, they’re always a percentage of the sales price. Since this hinges upon the price and, often, the type of item you’re selling, these percentages can range from 2% to 12.85% — though there is a maximum upper-limit of $750 per item.

Tips for Posting eBay Listings

In a brick-and-mortar store, customers often select the highest quality option at the lowest cost. But, given the size of a shop, there might be just a few options on hand — and only a few nearby competitors. On eBay, however, a buyer can have thousands of choices for a single product in many cases, and they can filter their search so that they only see items that meet their specific criteria, be it price or the item’s condition. If you hope to be a successful eBay seller, you’ll want to craft listings that customers can find easily. 

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Include plenty of well-lit pictures that show all sides of the item as well as any pertinent details or noticeable defects. When it comes to the item’s condition, it’s always best to be thorough and honest; don’t gloss over problems, and be sure to make the title of the listing and the item description as forthcoming as possible. 

Here, Listing A is a not-so-great example, while Listing B is more likely to attract a buyer:

Listing A

  • Title: Computer
  • Description: Selling it because I got a new one.

Listing B

  • Title: MacBook Air Laptop
  • Description: Laptop has been used for personal use for one year. There is a chip in the top left corner. It has an Apple M1 chip and an 8-core GPU processor. It runs on macOS Big Sur.

Both of these listings could be for the same product in the same condition, but Listing B is more likely to sell because it provides more detail. After all, buying products from strangers on the internet isn’t always a secure option, and you’ll want to foster as much trust and assurance as possible. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also an important consideration. Without being stuffy or inauthentic, mention key search terms in both the title and description of the listing that customers will use when scouring eBay. In some cases, it may be helpful to look at the manufacturer’s product listings for the same or similar products as inspiration. Do not lie or make claims you can’t keep; eBay has strict rules against sellers who mislead buyers.

How to Price Items on eBay

It is crucial to make sure your item is priced competitively. If the same item is significantly less expensive than other listings, a potential buyer may question the item’s quality or your reliability. On the other hand, if your item is listed for way more than your competitors’ items, customers will likely go with the less expensive option. 

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To come up with the “correct” price point, compare the item you’re selling to similar listings, or even items that have already sold on eBay. Be sure to keep an eye out for the quality and make of these comparable listings; a brand-new version of the same item will always sell for more than a used version. And, since eBay is such a unique marketplace, we recommend limiting your competitive research to the platform. 

Helpful Hints for Selling on eBay

Like other websites, eBay uses a particular algorithm, so there are plenty of tips and tricks when it comes to ranking well in the platform’s search results. Depending on how many other sellers are offering the same products, it may take some time to establish yourself; some professional eBay sellers believe that the algorithm is more friendly to sellers who post more often. For example, if you have 20 items to sell, you should post one item per day for 20 days as opposed to posting all 20 in a single day or session. 

The algorithm isn’t the only thing you should concern yourself with. More often than not, buyers look into a seller’s reviews and rating before making a purchase. Buyers can see feedback about you as a seller as well as how many sales you’ve completed. As a new seller, you may want to start out selling less expensive items to build your reliability and rating; after all, spending a few dollars on someone without much seller history is more comfortable than purchasing a big-ticket item from someone without an eBay track record. 

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Whether they’re visiting eBay or Amazon, customers who shop online have come to expect not just convenience, but perks as well. From free shipping to no-questions-asked returns, certain policies have become the norm on most major ecommerce sites. On eBay, even individuals who aren’t running a full-fledged business are often expected to offer such perks, too. Depending on the size of the item you’re selling, covering the shipping can cost next to nothing or a whole lot, but, either way, the shipping rate (or lack thereof) often makes or breaks a sale. The bottom line? As an eBay seller, be sure to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.