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Garage Sale vs eBay

You're considering having a garage sale but you've heard about people selling stuff on the Internet by using an online auction site like . Should you do this instead of having a garage sale?

What items should be sold on an online auction site

  • When the item is unlikely to appeal to many local buyers but have a better chance of finding a buyer nationally who is willing to pay a top-dollar price. It may be a specialized collectible or "one of a set" or an "orphaned" item to complete the set. Some examples of "one of a set" or an "orphaned" item are:
    • a piece of uniquely designed or patterned chinaware by a specific manufacturer
    • a piece from a board game
    • a book end
    • one part of a multi-part tool
    • a tabletop lamp base missing its lampshade
  • When the item is small and easy to pack and ship.
  • When the item doesn't have any flaws or imperfections that buyers would need to see before purchasing.
  • When the item can be satisfactorily shown off via sharp, multiple-view photos without the need to physically feel, touch, hold and inspect it.
  • When you want top-dollar for it and can't consider giving it away at garage sale prices.
  • When it can generate and benefit from bidding wars.
  • When you have time to wait for a buyer to find it.

What items should be sold at a garage sale

  • When the item is a common household item.
  • When the item is large and/or heavy and would be difficult or expensive to ship. Like furniture or a lawn mower.
  • When you don't need to get a top-dollar price for the item.
  • When the item would need to be physically inspected for imperfections or held before a buying decision can be made.
  • When you need to sell the item quickly.
  • When you have lots of separate items to sell at once.
  • Are similar items already being sold - is there a demand?
    • Searching for the item or equivalent on eBay and note how many are listed, what price is being asked and if the items have bids on them.
    • Also check recently ended auctions (n the left hand panel, select Preferences > Show only > Completed listings) and note how many bids were on the items.
    • Check Craigslist and note how many similar items are listed and what price is being asked.
    • Also, check how much it will cost to post yourself. While usually the customer pays for shipping, you may want to offer free shipping (where you pay the shipping costs) to encourage more bids. If you do this you want to know how much you'll have to pay when deciding on what sale price you will accept. Check shipping costs at Postage Price Calculator or at UPS. It may be too expensive to sell online when considering the shipping costs too.

    If there aren't many items listed or there aren't or weren't many bids then this indicates you may have difficulty selling it online. This is not to say it won't sell. If the average asking price is over $10 then it may be worth your time trying to sell it online first. Garage sale prices are always less (perhaps 1/3) than online prices. You only need that right person to come along at the right time to make a sale. You may need some patience though.

eBay Reality

What's it really like selling on eBay?

  • You may have 50 items to list. This will require a lot of your time:
    • Photographing each item trying to get each in the best light and angle.
    • Deciding on a price that isn't too high or too low.
    • Uploading the photos and listing each item.
    • Describing each item in detail including the scratches, dents, cracks, etc.
    • Describing each item to capture the interest of potential buyers.
    • Answering emails enquiries (often because the enquirer didn't read your detailed description).
    • Checking on the auction progress on all 50 items waiting at the mercy of the buyers - if any.
  • Of those 50 items, only 20 will sell.
  • Of those 20 items, only 1 will fetch a price that makes it worth it, while the other 19 will barely cover your costs.
  • You then need to spend time (and your own money?) carefully wrapping and packaging the sold items, queuing at the post office with your packages, hoping the postage you charged covers the actual cost and hoping the items get there in one piece.
  • And then there are the fees charged by the online auction site, PayPal, etc.
  • And you then worry about the buyer returning the item and wanting their money back!

Craigslist Reality

If you decide to sell items on Craigslist, make sure you read these pages first:


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