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 explains how to cut fees, bulk-upload listings with special tools, profit from bizarre items you never thought you'd sell and more.
Know 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.
Selling on eBay isn't just for those in the first flushes of a major declutter either – continuing to get rid of things you no longer use can provide regular ready money.
For those who've got the eBay bug, it's addictive watching the bids flow in. The pounds can quickly add up, especially as you're profiting from stuff that was just picking up dust.
Committed MoneySavers on this site's eBay board can make £100s a year – although of course it depends on whether you're just flogging a few cast-offs or trading full-time. For more ways to bring in extra loot, read the Boost Your Income guide.
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.
Use the easy 12-month rule of thumb to help you decide what to offload - if you haven't used it for a year, flog it.
Here's a list of what sells best. Of course, if it doesn't fit into these categories, the pounds will still add up, and you'll benefit from a more ordered home.
- New items. Cellophane-wrapped DVDs and frocks with tags fetch a higher price.
- Branded goods. People are more likely to trust a "Black & Decker drill" than just a "drill".
- Items with keywords. One question to ask is “will someone search for this?” People are more likely to search for a 'Ted Baker shirt' than a plain ol' 'shirt'.
- Rare commodities. Rare or difficult-to-get-hold-of items sell well.
- Job lots. If you've little time and heaps of similar small items, consider selling them as a bundle. This works especially well with baby clothes. But sell expensive branded goods individually – don't bung Prada in with Primark.
Use a free bulk-upload tool to create multiple listings in advance
Usually there's no way to save draft listings without actually starting the auction, but with free bulk-upload tool Turbo Lister you can create auctions in advance.
It allows you to save and edit at leisure, so you can write the description now, then upload pictures next week.
The tool is eBay's own software, which you download to your computer. It creates auctions offline, and offers templates for slicker-looking auctions.
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.
Faulty electrical items, for example, shift well, as clever bods fix or use them for spares. Of course, always be upfront about an item's condition.
MoneySavers have made a quick buck selling used carrier bags, magazine cosmetic samples and even a broken Game Boy that had fallen down the toilet. For more bonkers sales, read the forum's classic Things you never thought you could sell thread.
Buy first to build your profile and ensure you can sell at full price
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).
This gives you an insight into how the site works and builds up your feedback rating. Few buyers will do business with zero feedback sellers, and even if they do, your item is unlikely to fetch true market value.
The worst mistake you can make is logging on for the first time to sell a pricey item, such as an iPhone, when you've no feedback.
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.
Yet you can't search for "pick up only" on eBay, so we built tools to speedily track and map gems near you.
The results can be powerful, such as this from MoneySaver Jen_Jen1985: "Had been looking for a double buggy - most ended up selling for around £40. I found one via the Local Deals Finder and ended up winning it for £1.24."
- On the web. Do it at your desk with the free Local eBay Deals Mapper tool.
- iPhone app. You wanted it, so we built it: the iPhone Local eBay Deals app. Let it pinpoint your location, tell it how far you'll travel and it'll show nearby gems.
- Android app. If you haven't already, grab our Android Local eBay Deals app.
Mobile website: For other phones, we've a special Local eBay Deals mobile site.
Spy on what others have done to get tips on how to sell your stuff
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.
Spotted a product identical to yours? Click "Have one to sell? Sell it yourself" to automatically fill in most of the details.
Never copy descriptions or pictures wholesale, as this infringes other sellers' copyright.
You can list 20 things free each month - but you'll still pay 10% of the price of every sold item
If your home's an Aladdin's cave of goods you've meaning to flog, don't forget that eBay* offers 20 free listings a month. You'll still have to give eBay a cut of every item you actually sell though.
eBay charges sellers two fees for basic listings.
- 'Insertion' fee. This is the basic fee to list an item - normally a flat 35p per item. However you can list up to 20 items a month (at any start price) without paying any charge.
Final value fee. If and when an item sells, you also have to pay eBay a flat 10% of the final sale price, including postage. This applies to every item, including those listed for free. The final value fee is capped at £250 (ie, you pay 10% on items up to the value of £2,500).
Take advantage of free listing weekends
Regular sellers will find they use up their 20 free listings fairly quickly. To avoid paying a 35p insertion fee for each item, keep an eye out for 'free listing weekends', when you can list as many items as you want without any insertion fee.
You'll still have to pay for any listing enhancements, such as bigger pictures or adding a buy-it-now option. But crucially any items listed on free listing weekends do NOT count towards your monthly allowance of 20 free listings.
Sign up to the Free Listings alert on the forum to keep track of free listing weekends.
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Research what products are hot with a nifty tool
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.
Learn the lingo with our 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.
Here is the most commonly used eBay jargon:
- BN: Brand new.
- BNWT: Brand new with tags.
- BNIB: Brand new in box.
- BIN: Buy it now.
- VGC: Very good condition.
- NR: No reserve.
- NWOT: New without tags.
- NWOB: New without box.
- HTF: Hard to find.
- FSH: Free shipping and handling.
- VTG: Vintage.
Describe your item in detail - 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.
While you want to big up the product, ensure the description's accurate. It might be tempting to describe a shirt as "like new". But if it turns up with kebab stains down the front, the buyer will leave bad feedback. And if it's not as described, they may be able to demand their money back.
Always run your description through a spellchecker, especially the title. To show how important spelling is, tools such as Fatfingers, BayCrazy, Goofbid and BargainChecker are dedicated to profiting from people's slip-ups. Listings with spelling errors, especially in the title, go for lower amounts.
Get to the top of search results
As everyone who works for a web business knows, there is no point in creating 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 - especially brand and product names.
When buyers search, eBay automatically looks for words in the listing's title only, so every word counts (although buyers can opt to search the title and description if they want).
Imagine what you would search for. Take "stylish plunging neckline plum dress". No one's going to search for "stylish", "plunging" or "plum". Instead, try “new size 10 purple silk Whistles dress”, and you'll cram in tons more search terms.
Even better, Goofbid's nifty free eBay Pulse tool shows the most popular search terms buyers use, by category. As an example, perfume is the second most popular search term in Health and Beauty, after Dior. An auction titled Dior Perfume is more likely to get noticed than Dior Fragrance.
eBay often gets you the best price for old mobiles
Whether you've recently upgraded or fancy a rummage through your drawers, old handsets can be worth serious cash - and eBay can often get you the best price. It all depends of course, but it can typically pay 20-30% more than the best 'phone-buyer' sites.
If you need to sell your phone quickly though, and can't be bothered with the hassle of listing it on eBay, several websites get you to enter your details, then offer you a price and send you a jiffy bag to mail your phone in. To find the best payer for each handset, use our MobileValuer comparison tool.
For more tips 'n' tricks on flogging your mobile, see the Sell Old Mobiles guide.
Upload quality snaps to show buyers exactly what they're getting
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.
eBay used to charge for pictures, but now it lets you upload 12 for free. Uploading is easy - just click 'add photos' on the selling page.
Most digital cameras these days will take a snap good enough to upload. Ensure there's enough light, and if you're taking outdoor pics - for a car, perhaps - then plan for a sunny day. If it's an expensive item, take shots from different angles, as well as close-ups and distance shots.
Use a plain background. Buyers won't be enticed by a mirror reflecting you in your Y-fronts. And take close-up photos of slight imperfections – ideally next to a ruler to show size – so buyers can inspect. They might be more likely to buy if the flaw's not as bad as they thought, and may leave you good feedback for honesty.
Lower your starting price to draw in bids (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.
As described above, searching completed items gives a list of prices similar auctions have already fetched - a useful guide to how much you're likely to make.
Consider lowering your start price. Not only will it slash the initial listing fee, but your listing may attract more attention. Boffins at London University did some research on this topic, and found auctions with modest start prices sparked more bidding and fetched higher final prices.
The exception is products you expect little interest in. The petrol cap on a 1974 special version Beetle may be niche, but someone who wants it could be willing to pay. Set start prices higher for items only a few specialist buyers may be after.
Close auctions on Sundays, when eBay's busiest
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.
According to eBay, its busiest time is Sunday evenings, so aim to end your auction then.
If listing an expensive item, check TV listings to ensure you don't clash with the Downton Abbey series finale.
Remember though if you're aiming to sell to another country, such as the US, you'll want to tweak your end time accordingly.
Prior engagement? You can schedule 20 of your listings for free, so you can choose when your auction begins and ends. There are more tips on the Best time to close eBay auctions forum thread.
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.
Go global to attract more potential bidders
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.
If you think an item will be more popular in a specific country, such as the US, it may be worth listing on that country's eBay site. This way locals take it more seriously, as the item appears in their currency and come higher up in searches.
Whichever you choose, always add a higher postage charge, or the extra cost eats your profits. This isn't worth it for big bulky items, as high postage costs outweigh buyers' gains.
Want to know more? Here's our full how-to...
Sell to overseas buyers via eBay UK
The easiest way to start exporting is by allowing overseas buyers to bid on your eBay UK auctions. To do this, when creating a listing, simply say you'll send worldwide in the postage section.
This will make your listings appear when people outside the UK search and tick to view international sellers. There may be different charges if you're selling overseas though, so check first.
Sell via international eBay sites
To do some hard cost comparisons, search for completed items on eBay UK, to reveal exactly how much similar items are selling for. Then repeat the process on the local eBay site, comparing closing prices.
If it's fetching more dosh there, just go to the local eBay site, sign in, and start your listing as usual. To get you started, the other main eBay sites are in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the USA. There's more on eBay's international selling page.
Bear in mind that this way your item will be sold in the local currency. PayPal will do the conversion for you, but use our free Travel Money Maximiser tool to get a rough estimate first.
Always get proof of delivery
Some scammers claim an item hasn't arrived when it has. They then claim the money back through PayPal, meaning you lose your cash, particularly with high value items such as iPods. Some MoneySavers will not sell to foreign buyers for this reason.
The only way to protect yourself against 'item not received' claims is to get proof of delivery. To qualify for eBay's seller protection, you must use a service that comes with 'online trackable proof of delivery'. For items valued over £750, eBay also requ ires signature confirmation.
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.
Imagine you're intending to keep something for a limited time. Your flat needs a small TV for a few months or you want a computer game for three weeks. In the past, renting was cheaper than buying. With eBay, buying it, using it, ensuring it stays in good nick, then flogging it can actually undercut renting.
In fact, more powerfully, buy something for the cheapest possible amount (see the Cheap Online Shopping and eBay Buying Secrets guides), then re-flog when you're done. It's perfectly possible to get as much as you paid for it, so the period you're using it doesn't actually cost anything.
PayPal charges sellers, so avoid it - if you can
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.
When selling, the argument's reversed. PayPal wallops sellers with a fee of 3.4% of the amount paid, plus 20p for each transaction. Add this to eBay's fees, and it's a fair whack.
Unfortunately, eBay requires all sellers to offer PayPal as an option, but if anyone does pay you by cheque, you save. If you're selling a bulky item that must be picked up in person, say you'd prefer cash on collection.
Use free software to perfect your pics
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 to ensure the max number of bids
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.
For buy-it-now listings, you can choose three, five, seven, 10 or 30 days. They cost the same, so plump for 30.
There's also the very American-sounding "Good 'Til Cancelled" option, which renews automatically until you score a sale. You're charged an insertion fee every 30 days.
Know the rules around paying tax on eBay sales
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.
Stick to the law for listing and selling products
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.
If you're a trader and sell using the buy-it-now button, rather than just a standard auction format, then consumer contracts regulations apply.
Under the regulations, buyers have 14 days after the date of receipt to get their money back, including the original postage and packing charges.
It's worth reading eBay's returns and the law guide for more help.
Be careful with descriptions
With private sellers it's caveat emptor, or "let the buyer beware". Buyers' only rights under law are that the product is fairly described and the owner has the right to sell it. Under eBay's own rules buyers are also eligible for a refund if the item's "not as described", ie, it doesn't match the seller's description.
Business traders' sales are covered by the Sale of Goods Act – whether or not they use buy-it-now. This means your goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described. Therefore you need to be more careful with your descriptions than private sellers. See the Guide to the Sale of Goods Act for more details.
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Build your reputation by selling as you'd like to be sold to
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.
So how can you get top-notch marks? The key is to put yourself in the buyers' shoes – how would you like to be treated?
Describe the item accurately, reply to questions promptly and try to dispatch within 48 hours. Let the buyer know when you've dispatched, email them the postal tracking number and include an invoice in the package.
Never bid on your own auctions
Don't 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.
Popping something in the post? Show off your package
Hoard all brown envelopes and packaging materials. Big brown carrier bags are a good substitute for brown paper.
Make sure the items are secure and nicely packaged. Often traders like to add a personal touch by including a business card, or wrapping designer clothes in tissue paper.
Some eBayers even use popcorn instead of polystyrene to pack around fragile goods (buy kernels in bulk, cook the popcorn without oil and let it cool). If you're sending internationally, watch out as some countries have tight controls on importing food, so always check this before you package this way.
Make sure you 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.
Don't forget to factor in packaging costs when calculating postage charges. Buyers often don't expect to pay much more than the stamp price, so you may wish to factor postage into your sale price.
To get an idea of prices, weigh the item and use Royal Mail's price finder. If you're posting anything weighing more than 2kg, it may be cheaper to use a courier. Read the Cheap Parcel Delivery guide for full details.
In September 2013, eBay changed its charges to include the postage costs in its final value fee (see MSE news story, eBay sellers beware: Its fees now eat into postage costs). The final value fee is 10% of the final sale price and as this now covers postage, sellers should factor this into their postage charge to avoid being left out of pocket.
Get proof of delivery to beat the cheats
It's not just buyers who get caught out by the unscrupulous – 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.
To qualify for eBay's seller protection, you must use a service that comes with "online trackable proof of delivery". For items valued over £750, it also requires signature confirmation.
You must also have sent the item within the number of days you promised in your listing, which eBay calls your "handling time". Read eBay's full postage rules for sellers.
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 listed by PayPal.
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.
You can also block specific buyers. If you get enquiries from a buyer before your auction ends and don't like the cut of their jib, just add 'em to the blocked list.
Of course, much negative feedback is justified. But one issue is buyers who casually leave negative and neutral feedback for sellers most people would consider decent.
To check if you're dealing with a cranky curmudgeon, go to their feedback profile and click "feedback left for others".
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 a bank account just for eBay
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.
It's not just eBay - don't forget you can sell on other auction sites too
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.
Comparing charges is tricky, because all auction sites have different fee structures. With eBid and CQout, there's no initial listing fee. They only charge you once your item sells. So it's well worth putting a few items up, with a high start price – you never know.
If the item does sell, eBid charges 3% of its final sale price. CQout is more expensive: it charges up to 6.96% of your closing price.
Sell for free on classified sites
With local classified sites, the buyer usually collects in person and pay cash on collection. This means no eBay, PayPal or delivery fees - hurrah.
The king of local classified sites is Gumtree, which covers 50 big UK cities and lets sellers list for free. Interestingly, Gumtree is owned by eBay, but thankfully this hasn't affected its free community-based operations.
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.
Amazon provides full reviews of most books from its database - if you're listing a few in one go, this saves time. It automatically adds £2.80 for delivery, so ensure your sale price covers postage if it's a heavy tome. Amazon charges 86p when your book sells, plus an extra 17.25% on top (see a full list of Amazon fees).
Also popular with MoneySavers is online second-hand bookshop Green Metropolis, which is especially good for old paperbacks. All books cost £3.75, of which the site pays sellers £3. The £3 must cover your postage costs too, although you're allowed to add an extra fee for heavy books.
Use trade-in sites for less hassle
If you need speed and ease, trade-in websites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post goods free. For books, two of the best are WeBuyBooks.co.uk and Amazon Trade-In*.
However prices are usually lower than selling them yourself. For more on how Amazon Trade-In prices compare to other methods, see the Amazon Trade-In launches MSE News story. See the Quicker cash for old CDs, books, etc section for a full list of trade-in sites.
Quicker cash for old CDs, DVDs & games
Easy-to-use site musicMagpie* 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.
Where musicMagpie wins is on convenience. Though hoarders of '90s CD relics and games could make £100s on the side, for more recent items you may be better off selling 'em individually on eBay*.
You may do better trading in computer games at high street game shops – check these too.
Got old gold? You can flog it for serious cash
“Sell unwanted gold for CASH!” TV, mags and billboard ads pulse with promises, yet rarely seem to live up to them.
However, amid the scrap are shining examples – meaning £100s for old jewellery is possible. Like forumite Happypig, you could strike, er, gold: "I sent some old chains, earrings & rings - mostly 9ct, mostly broken. Your top site offered £970, almost double my £520 high street quote."
For tips on how to safely get max ker-ching for your bling, see Gold Selling.
It's not all about selling - consider giving stuff away as well
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.
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