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How to Sell Your Stuff on eBay

Written by Nickel - 16 Comments

If you ask around for quick ways to raise cash, one of the most common answers that you’ll get is to sell your stuff. When it comes to selling second-hand stuff, eBay is King. But how do you get started? What follows is a list of fifteen tips for selling your stuff on eBay.

  1. Save your boxes and instruction manuals. This is especially useful for consumer electronics. While you can’t stockpile this stuff forever, having the original box and user manual can substantially improve your final sale price.
  2. Focus on the right sort of stuff. eBay is far more effective for smaller, easily shippable items. Got an appliance to sell? Try selling it locally (for free!) on craigslist instead.
  3. Schedule your auctions to end on a Sunday. I’ve always run seven day auctions starting on Sunday evening Eastern time. This allows your auction to run for a full week, and my experience has been that Sunday evenings are a particularly good end time. An argument could also be made for running ten day auctions starting on Thursday evening.
  4. Do some research to figure out a fair price. You can easily search completed auctions to get a sense for how much similar items have been selling for.
  5. Use a low starting bid. Low starting bids not only reduce your costs, but they also encourage bidding activity. This is especially true for popular items. If you’re selling a niche item that you don’t think will attract much interest, you might want to start closer to fair market value.
  6. Don’t try to make a killing with inflated shipping. People aren’t stupid, so just play it straight. While it’s okay to pad your shipping a bit to cover your time and the cost of packaging materials, don’t be ridiculous. In fact, it’s possible to get in trouble with eBay if they think you’re trying to cheat them out of their final value fee.
  7. Take good pictures. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I always try to include large, clear pictures in my listings. Depending on what you’re selling, it might also help to take pictures from multiple angles. If you still have the original packaging and paperwork, spread it out and include a picture.
  8. Write an honest description. Be thorough, but keep it short. List the key features of your item and specify its condition. Does it work? How well? What about the cosmetic condition? Refer to the picture(s) if appropriate. And don’t hesitate to tell people why you’re selling it. If it’s so great, why aren’t you keeping it? Maybe you just upgraded and no longer need it.
  9. When formatting your ad, keep it simple. Feel free to use bold or colored text to highglight key aspects of your listing, but don’t go overboard. Keep it simple, readable, and clean.
  10. Clearly state the terms of your auction. Specify who can/cannot bid (low or negative feedback? no thanks), list the shipping details, let people know how quickly you expect contact/payment, specify the types of payment that you will accept, etc.
  11. Clearly state your return policy. Selling an item as-is? Fine, but be sure that potential buyers know this. Whatever you do, don’t leave any grey areas or you’re setting yourself up for trouble.
  12. Answer questions. If potential bidders ask a question about your auction, be sure to give them a timely answer. Unless you’re selling something rare, they have a ton of options and are likely to move on if you’re not quick.
  13. Communicate with your buyer. Once the auction is done, get in touch with your buyer right away and stay in touch with them until the transaction is complete. Let them what they owe, when you received payment, and when you shipped their item.
  14. Ship in a timely manner. Once the winning bidder has made payment, get the item shipped ASAP. I typically shoot for next business day. The sooner you send it, the sooner you can stop thinking about it and the happier the buyer will be.
  15. Save your listing for future reference. When all is said and done, save a copy of the text used in your auction for future use. I have a boilerplate listing that I can customize as necessary. This saves me from have to re-create the Terms & Conditions, etc.

I think that just about covers it. If you have tips of your own, please be sure to share them in the comments, below.

Published on September 2nd, 2008 - 16 Comments
Filed under: Online

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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16 Responses to “How to Sell Your Stuff on eBay”

  1. 1
    Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    Saving those instruction manuals is a valuable tip! I’ve sold various items BECAUSE I still had the manuals. People will pay more if they know what you have.

  2. 2
    jim of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity Says:

    Keep a nice professional looking template too, people like to know they’re dealing with someone who is meticulous because it means they probably take care of their stuff. Keeping manuals is another sign you’re meticulous.

  3. 3
    "Mo" Money Says:

    The manual may be available on the internet if you don’t have the manual. I recently found information on a HP95LX (about 20 years old) very helpful. Do a search if you don’t have a manual.

  4. 4
    Ocean Says:

    I’ve used eBay a couple times, but frankly I’ve found amazon.com much easier. If I’m not desperate to get rid of stuff in 7 (or 10) days, it’s easy to list everything on amazon. There is no time limit, so it sits there until I sell it, and only then do I have to pay any commission.

    I realize you lose the option of auctioning off your goods for higher and higher prices (as you do with craigslist), but I’ve definitely earned more through Amazon than eBay. It seems strange that I don’t hear more people suggest Amazon as an alternative. Am I missing something or is this a valid alternative? And all your points would remain true, except 3 and 5 I guess.

  5. 5
    Master Allan Says:

    Before ebay became a burden with their fees (a different subject) I did very well selling my old Nintendo games.

    Each game had the original box, sleeve, and instruction manual in like new condition. Some of the games sold for more than I paid for them! It is hard to find an original Legend of Zelda that looks brand new. Yes the manuals, box art, and even games may be available online but having that new item look really helped me cash in.

  6. 6
    JackandJillsMoneyBlog Says:

    Great article. One additional tip for selling items on eBay – watch your spelling! I have come across many eBay classifieds with critical errors in the title, description, and keywords that make it difficult for buyers to find these items.

  7. 7
    Ocean Says:

    Good point jackandjill. On the flipside that might be a good way to find stuff for a cheap price; search for luis Vitton and morotola or something. But I guess that’s a different subject.

  8. 8
    Dana Says:

    I don’t know why people complain about eBay fees. Try running a classified ad sometime (the paid ones that show up in your local paper). Or advertising on Google. With eBay you’re essentially renting a tiny bit of storefront and shopping cart as well as getting advertising, for way more than you would pay for each of those things separately. If you were a retailer selling high-volume stuff it would be one thing, but most of us don’t do that.

    Besides, they just changed their fee structure again. You can now do a thirty-day Buy It Now for 35 cents on most items (i.e., not real estate, automobiles, or audio/visual/print media–and the latter’s even cheaper!) regardless of selling price or item quantity. I think they still get you pretty good on the back end, but eight percent of a dollar is eight cents, and you will never be able to find a classifieds section of a newspaper that lets you do an eBay-style listing for 43 cents. Nevereverever. They’ll either be free like Craigslist or they’ll cost you an arm and a leg.

  9. 9
    elise Says:

    excellent tips. more free valuable tips to save time and money – and increase the bottom line as a seller at the great ebay solution

  10. 10
    Bradley Jones Says:

    This is an awesome list of tips for eBay. I’ve been looking for a little help in figuring out how to produce some extra income selling on eBay and I think these tips will help me out quite a bit. Thanks!

  11. 11
    HelenaV Says:

    I’m going to try out your tips and let you know how it turns out. I’ve never used eBay and find the whole process intimidating — auction, fees for listing and selling stuff, shipping, feedback, etc. While I’m auctioning stuff how often do I need to look in on the activities?

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