So you’ve unpacked a shiny new iPad (or laptop, or camera, or other gadget) and it’s time to get rid of the old one. Why not make a few bucks in the process?
Here’s the problem: there are so many places to sell your stuff online! Most people know that each outlet has their own advantages and disadvantages, but did you know certain sites might be better for some items than others? Or that some take larger cuts of your profit? Here’s everything you need to know about selling your stuff on eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon.
Note: Unlike many guides on the web, this guide is intended for the average person trying to offload a couple random items—not people making a living off eBay or Amazon shops. Keep that in mind as you read.
eBay: Good for Rare Items, Broken Electronics, and Spare Parts
eBay may almost be synonymous with “selling stuff online”, but its reputation—particularly with sellers—isn’t actually that great. Let’s start with eBay’s downsides, because they are many and oft-complained about.
First, eBay takes a 10% cut of your sale, which—for big-ticket items like laptops and tablets—means you could lose $50 to $100 (or more!) when someone buys it. That’s not great, especially when some sites take no fees at all. If you’re ever in doubt, compare the average selling price for an item on eBay to the average selling price elsewhere—even if eBay’s sale price is higher, be sure to factor in the 10% fee before you determine which site will net you the most money.
Here’s another downside: eBay is notoriously bad at protecting their sellers. This is good if you’re a buyer and want to avoid getting scammed, but sellers can get scammed too—and eBay will often take the scammer’s side.
eBay can be useful, though, even if you end up selling elsewhere. eBay is the only site that lets you filter your search by “Sold Items”, so you can see what certain items sold for, not just what someone is asking for.) Even if you end up selling on another site, eBay can help you determine what people consider a fair price for your item.
Furthermore, eBay is very popular with geeks and DIYers, so if you’re selling spare parts from a tech project—or have a broken item you want to sell “for parts”—eBay is actually a great place to do it. I’ve sold a broken pair of speakers, a broken video card, and a broken iPad on eBay with great success. You won’t get a ton of money for them, but hey, money is money—and $50 for a dead video card is better than $0 for throwing it in the trash.
Lastly, eBay is pretty decent for rare collectibles, since it has the biggest audience of sellers and buyers of such things. If you want the most eyeballs on your stuff, eBay is the place to go.
Craigslist: Ideal for Very Popular Items and Hard-to-Ship Items
Selling on Craigslist may seem like a shady back-alley drug deal if you’ve never used it, but it has some distinct advantages. First and foremost, it’s the only place to easily sell things like furniture that are hard to ship. But it’s also good for some smaller stuff too—particularly items with big brand names that are in regular high demand (Apple computers, Beats headphones, Xboxes and PlayStations, etc.). You won’t have as much luck selling slightly more obscure items (like a pair of high quality, audiophile brand headphones) because you’re limited to a much smaller local market, but if you have a big-ticket item to sell, Craigslist takes no fees and requires no shipping. Just a quick swap and you’ve got cash in your pocket.
Of course, Craigslist still has its share of hassles. As soon as you list an item, you’re almost guaranteed to get the attention of a scammer or two, but they’re easy to ignore if you know what they look like. Second, be prepared for a couple lowball offers before you get a decent one—and even then, they’ll likely try to talk you down on price, so list it for slightly higher than you want to sell it for. Almost everyone I’ve dealt with on Craigslist has been nice and normal, although their text messages often read like a hostage negotiation with someone who can’t spell. So be prepared to put up with some quirks.
Keep in mind that Craigslist, being local, may not be as popular where you are—for example, Canadians may have more luck with Kijiji. Check to see which classified sites are more popular in your location.
Amazon: Decent for Everything Else, or People with Lots to Sell
Not everything on Amazon is sold by Amazon. In fact, most stuff on Amazon is sold by third-party stores and people like you. That includes used items too—hence that “Used & New” link on most Amazon listings.
So how does it stack up? Well, it’s actually kind of similar to eBay. Amazon takes a fee when you sell with them, though the fees differ from category to category—all told, though, they’re comparable to eBay’s, and in some cases are even higher.
Similarly, they also offer more buyer protection than seller protection, though informal polls have found many sellers preferring Amazon, since Amazon will sometimes settle disputes themselves instead of making the seller pay. Your mileage may vary.
Here’s the real benefit to Amazon: It’s a lot less work than eBay, particularly if you’re selling a lot of stuff. You don’t have to write out a long listing, for example, since Amazon has a database of products and a well-built tool for selling them. Amazon is probably best for those that are selling a lot of inventory (like a third-party shop), but it’s okay if you want to sell the occasional used item too—especially something that isn’t as big ticket (say, the aforementioned pair of headphones), since most of those buyers are probably on Amazon already.
Other Sites: Swappa for Phones, Hardwareswap for PC Parts, and More
Here’s the real secret: some of the best sites are not the most popular ones. In fact, usually the best sites are a little off the beaten path—and are bulit around one specific category of item.
For example, you can sell an iPhone just about anywhere, but Android phones are a little tougher. Swappa is, in my experience, the best place to sell phones—their database makes it easy to sell the exact model you have, it’s easy to find out what your phone is worth, and there are no fees. Instead of taking a percentage of your sale, they charge a flat $10 fee to buyers—which means you don’t lose a ton of money like you do with eBay or Amazon.
Similarly, while I’ve had decent luck selling computer parts on eBay, you can probably do better selling them on PC building forums like /r/hardwareswap or Hard Forum. You have a pretty large audience of people who know what they’re looking for, and since you’re selling directly to the buyer, there are no fees. Just make sure, like Craigslist, that you know how to spot and avoid scams.
You may also find luck with other Craigslist-like classified communities. Facebook, for example, has become a popular place in many cities for buying and selling—see if there are any community swap groups in your area. OfferUp is also starting to become popular, and apart from being a bit more mobile-focused, is very similar to Craigslist in practice (though there aren’t as many users, i can be good to cast a wide net and list your items on both).
Don’t be afraid to try a few different places, either. Craigslist doesn’t charge you any fees to list, so if you find you aren’t having any luck, you have nothing to lose by taking down your listing and trying it on eBay or Amazon instead. Just make sure to factor in fees whenever you list online—and adjust your asking price accordingly.