Over the years, I have sold a number of my electronics on eBay such as my beloved Gameboy SP, a Gamecube, and an iPod Touch. Most recently, I helped my sister sell her “old” 2011 Macbook Air, which was by far the most expensive and nerve-racking sale I have ever made. I prayed that whoever ended up with the laptop wasn’t some scam artist looking to pilfer credit card information, passwords, and other personal information that I inadvertently failed to make unretrievable. There are only so many horror stories an amateur online seller can handle before the paranoia kicks in.
When it comes to selling your junk on the Internet, there are several go-to places that people turn to:
With Amazon, you get access to the world’s largest online store and a place that millions of people trust to buy practically anything. eBay is popular for letting you auction your items. Craigslist is great if you want to avoid paying the steep fees associated with selling on Amazon or eBay. Just be prepared to wade through a swath of scams and sketchy buyers.
The reason why I sell electronics on eBay over Amazon is because it is so difficult to receive feedback from buyers. As any individual seller knows, your rating is a huge factor in your ability to sell. I’ve sold dozens of books on Amazon over the course of 3-4 years. The total number of ratings I have received?
On eBay it’s the complete opposite. Not only are buyers more likely to leave you feedback, but also the sellers themselves! After the sale of my sister’s MBA, I was reminded of this phenomenon when the buyer reminded in two different correspondences to leave him positive feedback. Of course, I was happy to oblige.
In recent years, I have heard a lot of positive feedback regarding a website called Gazelle. It resembles Amazon’s Electronics Trade-In program but accepts a much scarcer quantity of items. I think it’s a great way to quickly sell your electronics if you don’t want to deal with the logistics of selling them on your own. Also, the prices they pay for your stuff is transparent and practically guaranteed depending on their condition.
The Hidden Fees
Just like banking, selling on eBay is riddled with fees. They can include:
- Paypal fee – The predominant, if not only form of conducting payments on eBay will be Paypal. Currently, they assess a 2.9% fee of the final sale amount plus $0.30 per transaction.
- Insertion/Listing fee – You probably won’t have to pay this fee unless you sell more than 50 items per month.
- Final value fee – Here’s the big one: 10% of the final sale amount. Ouch. For high-ticket items like my sister’s $600+ laptop, you will end up paying eBay $60+.
If you want to estimate your potential fees, check out eBay’s Fee Calculator tool.
Before You Start Selling
- Back up your data – For computers, transfer your data to an external hard drive or move them to a cloud service like Dropbox or Box.
- Clean it up – Appearance is everything when it comes to selling online.
- Wipe out your data – If you have a Mac, Disk Utility is a great option for formatting your hard drive.
- Assess the market value of your item – Do you know what the fair market value of the thing you are trying to sell? No? Shame on you! An easy way to get a ballpark figure for your item is to search for it on eBay and add a couple to your watch list. When the auctions end, calculate the average final bid.
Five Tips to a Successful Auction
I’m going to assume that you will sell your stuff via an auction.
Experience cures past mistakes. Lucky for you, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years:
- Best time to start an auction – The best way to approach this is to pay attention to when the auction will end. It’s not uncommon to see a flurry of last-minute bids after a relative lack of activity from the beginning. I tend to aim for my auctions to end during a weekday (minus Friday) during the hours between 6pm-10pm (when people are home from work). Keep in mind that some of the buyers may be in different time zones so adjust accordingly. eBay lets you schedule the day and time of your auction up to three weeks in advance. Furthermore, when you list your item, you can choose from a duration of 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days.
- Start the bid at $0.99 – But, what if someone ends up buying my $1000 Macbook Pro for a dollar?? Don’t fret. Unless you somehow messed up your listing spectacularly, you have nothing to worry about. Of course, if the final bid is much lower than you anticipated you will have to sell the item. That’s why they call it an auction. I like to set auctions at $0.99 so that more people will add the item to their watch lists. That way, they will be notified via email or eBay’s mobile app as the auction approaches its end.
- Set a reserve price – If the prospects of selling your electronics for less than what you had hoped makes you ill, you can set a reserve price which is the minimum price you are willing to accept. Thus, if no one ends up meeting that price, you aren’t required to sell it.
- Take great photos – eBay lets you upload around 10-15 photos for your listing without any additional fee. Use them all! With good-looking photos, you give the buyer more confidence in purchasing your item. Don’t use the generic photo eBay provides you! I also recommend taking shots of your electronics working properly. No one wants to find out later that you sold them a very expensive paper weight. Lastly, the photo that ends up in the search results will have to be eye-catching enough to make someone want to click through. Remember, once you receive your first bid, you cannot make any subsequent changes to your listing whatsoever.
- Keep the original packaging – I try to save all the packaging from any expensive gadget I might want to sell later. It’s a good habit to form and also makes for another great photo opportunity! Best of all, it’s the closest thing to recreating the experience of buying something new for the buyer. Double win!
After the Sale
Be prepared for the possibility of buyers contacting you with any issues with your item. In most cases, it could be something you have no control over such as the shipment being delayed by your carrier service. The best you can do is provide the tracking information to the buyer. Most importantly, stay in contact. There is nothing more annoying than a unresponsive buyer.