Many old items can be worth serious dosh. But to really get the eBay cash rolling in, you need to know the etiquette and shortcuts.
This is a crash course on how to sell, including how to cut fees and to profit from bizarre items you never thought you'd sell.
Many old items can be worth serious cash. But to really get the eBay cash rolling in, you need to know the etiquette and shortcuts.
This is a crash course on how to sell. It includes how to cut fees, bulk-upload listings with special tools, profit from bizarre items you never thought you'd sell and more.
In this guide
Where to start
As well as bringing in extra cash, eBay* can help declutter your home and is environmentally-friendly too. After all, people are reusing your goods rather than flinging them into the tip, so everyone gains.
Not used it for a year? Flog it
Companies stock-check to value their assets – you can do the same. Walk through your home to find items of value you no longer need, then flog 'em.
Free bulk listing tool
Usually there's no way to save draft listings without actually starting the auction, but free bulk listing tool Turbo Lister lets you create auctions in advance.
Don't bin it, 'bay it
Don't be quick to cry "that's rubbish". Sell everything. When it comes to eBay, one man's junk is another's dream, and it's astounding what people will fight for.
Buy to build your profile
Before flogging cast-offs on eBay, buy a few small items you need. You can buy everything from tights to toothpaste on eBay, and may well save cash to boot (see the eBay Buying guide).
For buyers... find super-cheap local bargains
Whether they're offering designer sofas, dishwashers, Wiis or children's books, sellers on eBay often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.
Spy on what others have done
The joy of eBay is you can see exactly how much other items have sold for, and how other sellers have described their wares. Just fill in the search box and tick "completed items" on the left-hand grey bar. If the price is listed in red, it means it did not sell.
You can list 20 things for 'free' each month
If your home's an Aladdin's cave of goods you've meaning to flog, don't forget that eBay* only offers 20 'free' listings a month.
Tool to find what products are hot
Want inspiration on what to sell? You can quickly research potential markets with a handy Most Popular Items tool. Type in a search term and it generates a list of the relevant auctions with the most watchers and bids. As an example, type in games console and you'll get a list of the most popular gaming items on eBay.
Got a top eBay buying tip that we haven't listed? Feed back in the eBay Selling Tips discussion.
eBay jargon buster
eBay pros use certain initials to get their message across. These are useful for cramming extra info into titles without exceeding the character limit. Don't go overboard though, or newbies won't have the foggiest what you're on about.
Describe your item - warts & all
Now it's time to sell and market your product. To write a good description, think about what you‘d like to know if you were buying the product yourself. Include information such as brand name, condition (new or used), item specifics, model numbers, size, precise dimensions, style and colour.
Get to the top of search results
As every web business knows, there is no point in creating a fantastic content if nobody can find it. It's crucial to write your listing in your customers' language, and use the keywords they search for.
Upload quality snaps
A decent picture's paramount. You might get away with not including a Harry Potter DVD's image, but no one pays good cash for a painting they've never laid eyes on.
Lower your start price (unless it's a niche product)
It's a delicate balance. Set the start price too high and no one will bid; set it low and there's a risk it will sell for the knock-down price.
Aim to close auctions on Sundays
Avoid ending auctions at 4am, when nobody's about. Often bidders prefer to swoop in in the last few minutes, hoping others won't fight back.
Sell in high season
Think about seasonality. Sell stuff at the right time of year. Few will search for Christmas crackers in July or barbecues in December.
The more precise, the better. If you're flogging an air-conditioning unit, wait for a hot spell to pump up the price.
Use eBay as a free removal service
Don't pay the council to collect old sofas or broken washing machines. Just put them on eBay for 1p (or see Freecycle later) and people may collect them. People with fixing skills often buy broken washing machines and TVs.
Selling to overseas bidders boosts the number of potential bidders. When expanding your empire abroad, you have two options: sell to overseas bidders via eBay UK, or listing your auction on that country's eBay site.
Use eBay selling instead of renting
The economics of trading are fascinating. The fluidity of eBay as a marketplace means stuff often moves quickly and at a reasonable price. This has a bizarre effect on some purchases.
Paypal doesn't pay
The standard way to pay on eBay is using its online payment system PayPal. This works well for buyers, as it's free and affords extra protection.
Get Martin's Free Money Tips Email!
For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 9m who get it. Don't miss out
Free photo manipulation software
If you want to smarten your photos, top-end graphics software can easily cost £1,000s. Instead, download a free photo editing suite, where you can crop, resize, touch up and polish your pictures before sharing them. Be careful not to mask any flaws and scratches.
Go for 10-day auctions
When listing an auction, you can choose whether it lasts one, three, five, seven or 10 days. The longer your item is advertised, the more chance of people seeing it, so unless it's time sensitive, pick 10 days.
eBay tax warning
If you’re flogging old unwanted stuff such as cast-off clothing or second-hand stereos, there’s NO tax to pay. But become a trader, making or selling goods bought with the intention of resale, and it IS taxable.
There are some grey areas, so read this HMRC guide to work out if you need to tell it about income made from online sales.
Trading and the law
If you're a trader – a person who makes or sells goods bought with the intention of resale – the buyer has the same statutory rights as when buying from a shop. This applies to both new and second-hand items. See the Consumer Rights guide for more info. Traders are also required to register as business sellers with eBay.
Build your rep
To build a sparkling feedback profile, you need to deliver goods speedily and in the condition advertised. While not a legal obligation, offering good customer service will boost feedback and protect you from problems.
Don't bid on your own auctions
Never bid on your own auctions with another account to boost prices – this is known as shill bidding. It's illegal to push up a price artificially by bidding against yourself or by getting family or friends to do so.
Show off your package
Hoard all brown envelopes and packaging materials. Big brown carrier bags are a good substitute for brown paper.
Price the postage right
The buyer pays for postage, and when listing goods, you must specify a postage cost. Try to be as accurate as possible, as if the price specified is too low, you'll have to make up the difference. If it's too high, the buyer may leave bad feedback.
You need proof of delivery
It's not just buyers who get caught out by unscrupulous sellers – buyers get up to skullduggery too. One problem is buyers winning a mega-pricey item such as an iPhone and claiming it never arrived, then claiming the cash back - even though they have the item.
Always send to the address paypal gives you
Always post to the buyer's address provided in the 'Details' link in your account history. Otherwise, you won't be covered by eBay's seller protection.
A common scam is a buyer who claims to be in the UK, but wants the item to shipped to a friend or relative in another country. Only send to the address eBay gives you.
Block dodgy buyers
Discourage dodgy buyers by adding a requirement that you'll only accept bids from buyers with a certain feedback score. To do this, in My eBay, under Account, click the Site Preferences link. In the Selling Preferences section, scroll to Buyer Requirements.
Be prepared to refund
Sometimes an item will arrive broken because you packaged it poorly or the buyer'll be disgruntled by an inaccurate description. If you're in the wrong, it's fair to give a refund, whether or not you're legally obliged to. If payment was made by PayPal in the first place, be sure to refund that way too.
Set up an eBay bank account
Consider setting up a specific bank account to pay your eBay earnings into. That way you'll see the cash pile up, rather than just disappearing into your current account. Some MoneySavers then spend the fund on Christmas or a holiday. See the Top Savings Accounts guide for best buys.
Alternative auction sites
While eBay is massively dominant, eBid and CQout* are decent-sized auction sites. Their advantage is they charge sellers less than eBay, which means some prefer them. On the downside, your auctions are likely to get less exposure than they would on eBay, so could get fewer bids.
Sell for free on classified sites
With local classified sites, the buyer usually collects in person and pay cash on collection. The means no eBay, PayPal or delivery fees - hurrah.
Profit from old books
Listing books one by one on eBay* may get the most cash, but it'll take some time. One of the best options for selling old books is Amazon* Marketplace, as you only need to search for the book and write a short description. Your listing will stay up until it sells.
Quicker cash for old CDs, DVDs & games
Easy-to-use site Music Magpie* pays cash for your old CDs, DVDs, computer games and Blu-rays (plus some tech and clothing items). The site gives instant quotes. Someone with loads to get rid of could speedily make extra money this way.
Flog old gold
“Sell unwanted gold for CASH!” TV, mags and billboard ads pulse with promises, yet rarely seem to live up to them.
Get £100s for old mobiles
Whether you've recently upgraded or fancy a rummage through your drawers, old handsets can be worth serious cash.
Give it away
Top-quality goodies are available daily across the country for FREE. It's all about web communities, and the big names are Freecycle and Freegle. Instead of binning goods or trying to eBay them, people offer them to their local community. In return, they often hope they can grab back something when they want. For a full guide, see the Freecycle & Giveaway guide.