Fixed Price: You Name Your Number
To set your own price when selling an item on eBay, fill out the "Fixed Price" tab on the eBay selling form rather than the "Online Auction" tab as you post your item for sale.
By setting a fixed price this way, you know exactly how much you will get, since that is exactly what any buyer must pay. Of course if your price isn't competitive, you may find that nobody buys your item and you don't make a sale. Perhaps more importantly, this doesn't tell you what you can get for your item.
If your goal is to sell only if you can get a certain minimum amount, fixed price might be the way to go, but if your goal is to sell for as much as you can get and not a penny less, then you probably want to use an auction format sale instead.
Auction Format: Figuring Out How Much to ExpectIn an auction format sale, you get to set a minimum starting bid, then you accept bids from buyers for a specific amount of time chosen by you. Whoever has the highest bid when time runs out "wins" the item in exchange for paying you that amount, and you are legally obligated to sell the item to them at that price. This can seem worrying for several reasons:
- Lack of bids.If you set your starting bid too high, you might get no bidders at all. That gets you nowhere.
- Low sale if you start too low.If you set your starting bid very low, you run the risk of not getting the bids you thought you would and being forced to sell your item for less than you wanted.
- Create an eBay account. If you don't have one, follow these directions to create an eBay account.
- Start an advanced search. On any eBay page with a search box, click on the advanced search link just to the right of the box.
- Enter search terms for an item like yours. Use the same kinds of keywords you'd type if you were planning to search for and buy the item. Phrases like "used motorola droid" or "large yankees hoodie" are examples of the kinds of keywords needed.
- Click the "Completed listings" checkbox down the page. This tells eBay to show you items that have already been listed for sale on eBay, and the prices at which they sold (or didn't sell).
- Scroll all the way down and click "Search." You'll be rewarded with a list of all items like yours that have recently come up on eBay, and their closing prices.
Variation and GuaranteesAs you comb through previous sale results you'll find that there is variability in the prices people have paid for similar items. This variation comes from a number of different factors:
- Item condition. Some items are sold used and some new, some including lots of original accessories and packaging and others not so much. Prices generally vary accordingly.
- The quality of the listing. Listings with more photos and better information earn more than those without. Keep this in mind if you choose to sell on eBay so that you don't find yourself needing to troubleshoot your listing.
- The quality of the seller. Because of the way that eBay feedback works, new sellers find fewer buyers and earn lower bids. Buyers are only willing to pay a premium to sellers with an existing track record on eBay.
- The timing of the listing. When it comes to auction format selling (as opposed to fixed price selling), the sale price of the item can be affected by the duration and ending time of the auction. Longer auctions give more people a chance to bid, and auctions that end during prime time are likely to see bidding wars driving up the price right before they end.
When all is said and done, there are no guarantees about "what you'll get" when you sell an item on eBay. If you set a fixed price you may get exactly what you want or you may find that nobody buys. If you sell to the highest bidder, you can see how other bidders have recently behaved, but that's no guarantee of what you'll get for your item. Even more confusing is the fact that it's possible for an auction's highest bid to increase by tens or hundreds of dollars in the final minutes or even seconds of bidding after spending many days at a very low price.
If you're wondering what you'll get for an eBay sale, therefore, the best advice is to experiment first with a few "test" items of low value before moving on to "important" sales and to be sure to search for past sales to develop general ideas about value. With a little experience, you'll quickly develop a sense for "what you can get" for a wide variety of items on eBay.