Selling on eBay

01 January 2014

Thinking of decluttering your home and hoping to earn some cash in the process?

Well, even if you're yet to dabble, that ultimate internet auction place eBay is still the must-use website for millions of people selling unwanted possessions.

As popular as it is, it's fair to say that the whole eBay process can look daunting to the uninitiated. But a little research can help you avoid the pitfalls.


To use eBay, go to to register. 

Your next move should be to sign up with PayPal. PayPal was set up by eBay and allows you to transfer and receive funds online. It offers a greater level of security than cash or cheque.

How to sell an item

Before you start the listing process, it is advisable to take digital photos of the item and upload them to a computer. Another option is to scan a print. eBay offers photo tips here.

It is also a good idea to get an up-to-date list of postage prices from the Post Office, so you can work out how much to charge for postage. 

Now go to the eBay home page and click on the 'Sell' button in the top right corner of the screen.

Enter a few words in the box to describe your item. There are two options, 'Quick Sell' or 'Advanced Sell'. You will probably want to use 'Quick Sell' - you can progress to 'Advanced' as you become more confident.

eBay will give you simple step-by-step instructions as you move through the process. 

Worried about scams on eBay? Read our guide.

Some points to consider

Quick or Advanced Listing? 

Some options are only available under 'Advanced', eg Reserve Price (the option to set a minimum selling price) and Postal Insurance.


You have nothing to lose by uploading a photo, as the first one is free. Items with a picture stand more chance of selling, and on average sell for more.

Checking the 'Gallery Photo' box means your snap will be displayed automatically - without potential buyers having to click again.

Accuracy of description 

Take careful note of the guidelines provided on screen. They will offer protection against issues, such as possible comeback from the buyer. Take care to describe any flaws honestly.

Payment and Postage 

The 'Buy it Now' option allows purchasers to bypass the auction and buy there and then for the price you state.

eBay now insists sellers offer the option of PayPal - except in a handful of categories. For some items it is the only payment method permitted. It usually also possible to pay by personal cheque, postal order - or cash (if the buyer collects in person).

Got an old mobile phone or unwanted electrical gadgets? Read our tips for selling them.

Check your listing

When you have worked your way through these six stages, click 'Save and Review'. 

You will now see your advert as it will appear to the world. Check it carefully and click 'Edit Listing' at the bottom if you need be. When you are happy with it, click 'Place Listing' and your item will go on sale.

eBay will debit a small fee from your bank account – remember each additional option costs a few pence extra.

That's it! For now. 

What happens next?

Sit back and (hopefully) watch the bids roll in. eBay will confirm the listing by email and notify you whenever a bid is made. 

At the end of the auction it will email to let you know whether it has sold - and if so, for how much.

The system will generate an invoice for the buyer who now has to arrange payment by one of the methods you specified. Most commonly, PayPal.

Convention has it that the seller waits for the funds to arrive in his account before despatching the goods. 

Problems can occasionally arise with the buyer pulling out. In that case the second highest bidder will be offered the item. If you feel you have been given a rough deal, see the 'Help' section for advice.

Despatching the goods

Once you have received the funds, despatch the goods as quickly as you can. 

Take great care to pack the item properly. If it is even vaguely fragile, be sure the package is labelled as such and use plenty of padding such as polystyrene balls. The last thing you want is for the goods to arrive smashed to pieces.

A thorough online guide to packing items can be found here.


The final stage is to leave feedback on the buyer – who will likewise leave feedback on you. Feedback is eBay's system for monitoring users' integrity. 

Anyone who buys or sells from you (and vice-versa) is invited to leave Positive, Negative or Neutral Feedback – plus comments if they wish. 

Negative feedback is very damaging and a powerful deterrent against shoddy behaviour.

Feedback is public and permanent – it is important to try to resolve any disputes privately if you can, unless it transgresses eBay's feedback removal policy. 

If you feel you have received undeserved negative feedback – provided you and your trading partner agree – you can both withdraw your feedback ratings via a Mutual Feedback Withdrawal Form. You can also leave a polite reply to the feedback you received, or a follow-up comment to the feedback you left for another member.

It is possible to make your feedback profile private – but potential buyers will see this as a sign you have something to hide.

Read our guide to eBay alternatives. 

eBay Shops

Most items listed on eBay will be sold by private individuals, but tens of thousands of people in the UK make a living from it - and many more abroad.

An eBay shop is a seller who has registered as such with eBay and pays a monthly fee. Unless you are certain you want to reach small business levels of selling, start out as a standard private seller.

eBay claims its shops help boost sales and build your brand. It allows you to display all your listings in one place, customise the look and feel of your shop, manage your sales and receive free reports on sales and visitor traffic.

Each item listed in an eBay shop incurs an insertion fee and, if it sells, a Final Value Fee.

When does the taxman need to know if you are selling on eBay?

Are there any reliable or better alternatives to eBay?

Certainly. Other top sites include the following:


Yahoo auctions auctions

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.