In 2017, 40% of secondhand purchases happened on the web. According to the 2020 annual report for the popular secondhand fashion app ThredUp, the secondhand market is poised to hit $64 billion globally by 2025.
The proliferation of new websites for selling used items has taken secondhand retail out of the margins and ushered it firmly into the mainstream.
But getting started in the world of selling used items online is a deep rabbit hole. There are questions of how to scale while maintaining profitability, keeping track of your inventory, and most importantly, how to pick the right marketplace to sell on.
In this comprehensive post, we’ll cover the motivators behind why people buy used items and how you can resell them. Of course, we’ll also do a deep-dive into the best platforms for selling used items.
Finally, we’ll conclude with some pro tips on the best ways to sell used stuff. But first, let’s establish an understanding of the pros and cons of selling things online.
Pros of selling used items online
- A huge audience. Selling used items on sites like eBay grants you an audience of millions of consumers who are already motivated to make a purchase. Most marketplaces have tremendous authority with search engines. More authority means more visibility to searchers.
- Built-in trust. If you sell your personal items on a reputable site, your virtual storefront will share in that website’s name recognition and perceived legitimacy. Once you start racking up five-star reviews and a solid selling history, buyers will perceive you as more “legit” than an unknown individual behind a table at a flea market.
- 24/7 selling opportunities. Flea markets and garage sales may only occur weekly or monthly and are often seasonal (meaning no sales opportunities in the winter). On the other hand, online marketplaces are infinitely scalable and never sleep. You can make sales at any hour, on any day of the week, in any month of the year.
Cons of selling used items online
- Limited story-telling opportunities. You only have so much space to tell the story of your used item online. This means you have to hone your copywriting skills to maximize your listings’ impact (more on how to do that below).
- More price-conscious consumers. Shoppers at a flea market are often just out and about for recreation and thus are more prone to make impulse purchases. Consumers shopping via online platforms, on the other hand, are going to be more systematic in their purchase process and likely to compare prices with competitors.
- Increased consumer skepticism. It’s harder to evaluate the quality of a used item online. After all, your customer only has a few photos and a written description to go on. It takes some skill to put your best, most convincing foot forward in the virtual marketplace.
Places to source used items to sell
There are a few tried-and-true places to find hidden gems for your secondhand venture. However, it’s important to keep the “opportunity cost” principle in mind. Every hour spent digging through thrift store bins is an hour taken away from actually selling.
This may be a net positive if you find a rare item that makes it all worth it. But just make sure you’re not losing money in your efforts to source items for your storefront.
That said, here are the most commonly-utilized places to source used items:
Garage sales are some of the best places to find used items because, frankly, most garage sellers are ignorant to the true value of their items. Coupled with the fact that garage sales are all about convenience (getting rid of the item), this makes them a prime setting to negotiate lower prices.
Rare used items often find their way into thrift stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. The benefit of these stores is their open hours (unlike garage sales), making them easy targets for a daily quick scan.
The truly great items tend to get snatched up pretty quickly, so rather than going for an hour-long trip, favor periodic, quick scans of the store. This also keeps your opportunity cost low so you’re not wasting precious time.
Flea markets, like garage sales, are usually time-bound to weekends. This means you need to be more intentional about your flea market runs if you want to get the best items. Also, get there at least 20 minutes before they open to ensure you get the first picks of the available goods.
Craigslist, similarly to garage sales, is often full of sellers ignorant on the true value of their items. Also like garage sales, it’s full of people looking to purge and primed for negotiation. The advantage over the traditional garage sale experience, of course, is that you can do it from anywhere and it’s open at all hours.
The best websites to sell used stuff online
So, now that you have your ideal buyer and a strategy in mind, you’re ready to choose a platform to start selling your used items.
The best way to sell stuff online is to connect with your target demographic and their particular search query. In other words, meet them where they already go.
There are lots of places to sell things online, but not all of them are created equally. In the following sections, we’ll examine sites with varying levels of regulation, local marketplaces, marketplaces that lend themselves well to bulk sales or storefronts, and more.
General marketplaces for selling used stuff online
With such a ripe harvest of secondhand profit to be made, there’s no way that the largest marketplace on the planet would miss out on tilling those fields.
However, Amazon’s individual seller program is not built to be a garage sale substitute, and the standards of quality are high. This means you can’t just list your used stuff with some haphazard smartphone pictures like you would on eBay, craigslist, or Facebook marketplace.
Instead, consider the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program as a viable vehicle for selling your used stuff.
The program is designed for individual sellers who need 3rd-party support from Amazon, but you can use it as a means to sell your used items online.
On most Amazon product pages, underneath the description, you’ll see a small link that reads something like: “New & Used from $90 + FREE shipping.”
Clicking that link will reveal all the used listings submitted by sellers and fulfilled by Amazon.
Here’s how you can get listed in those spots: create an Amazon FBA account, gather your used items, box them, and document each item in the box with its UPC, ISBN, or ASIN. Then, follow Amazon’s prompts for shipping. It’s that simple. You will pay a fee to compensate Amazon for fulfilling, listing, and providing customer support on your items.
Processing your items takes time, and perhaps a few dollars in packaging materials. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure whatever you’re selling is worth at least $10-20. Otherwise, you may find yourself losing money in the process.
Interested in learning more about selling on Amazon? Check out our series on how to set up an Amazon seller account.
For items of a lesser value, local platforms like Facebook Marketplace or eBay (discussed below) are better choices.
Etsy is the undisputed premium marketplace for handmade and crafted goods. However, it also has a thriving storefront for vintage items. The bar for quality is high, though. You can’t just ship them a bunch of used stuff and hope for the best. Etsy considers vintage items to be 20 years or older.
This means Etsy is a lucrative marketplace for vintage:
- Collectibles (like cards or figurines)
- Musical instruments
- Art (sculptures, paintings, decor)
- Books or magazines
Selling on Etsy affords significant benefits: you won’t be competing against waves of low-value junk, Etsy’s selling infrastructure is top-notch, and it attracts a clientele that’s often willing to spend more money.
Etsy charges $0.20 per item listed and a fixed 3.5% commission on all items sold.
I’d venture a guess that the words “selling used stuff online” conjures up an immediate picture of the iconic multi-colored eBay logo. Since its inception, eBay has positioned itself firmly as the online auction house for used items.
Listing items on eBay is a breeze. Snap a few smartphone pictures, answer some prompts, and your item is online in less than five minutes. However, selling items here and there is one thing, but understanding eBay’s fee structure is essential if you plan on selling items en masse.
As a general rule, expect to fork over around 10% of the final sale price to eBay (not including taxes). When you start scaling up your selling, eBay starts scaling up their fees. List more than 50 items per month, and they’ll start charging you 30 cents per listing.
eBay also offers various upsells for more prominent listing locations and reserve prices. Read more about how to set up your eBay shop here.
Bonanza is a scrappy, self-proclaimed eBay, Amazon, and Etsy alternative. It’s positioned itself so competitively as the better marketplace that right on the homepage are comparisons to those specific companies.
It’s got an Etsy vibe, especially when it comes to collectibles, clothing, and jewelry. But it also features musical instruments, video games, and home & garden supplies.
Bonanza offers more control over storefronts than Amazon or eBay and even allows for generating customer lists for re-marketing purposes.
It’s got a certain “startup” charm that makes it appealing and worth a look for selling your used stuff online.
Note that Bonanza charges 3.5% of your final sale price (including shipping). For items over $500, they reduce that fee to 1.5%. And, for an up-charge, they’ll platform your listing on the web using ads.
Local online marketplaces for selling used stuff
Local online marketplaces are ideal for sellers who don’t want to deal with processing, shipping, and tracking their wares.
While local marketplaces’ convenience is unmatched, always remember to meet buyers in a safe place and be extra wary of scammers. As a general rule, local marketplaces aren’t sustainable for large-scale storefronts or bulk sales.
Craigslist hasn’t evolved much since its creation. It’s still got the same plain, Web 1.0, Times New Roman aesthetic (perhaps that’s part of its charm?). It’s still the Wild West and probably the most deregulated marketplace on the internet.
Craigslist is a bit like the Goodwill of the web. Sellers know that they may have to wade through piles of junk to find a treasure. That’s sort of become part of the appeal, though (note the treasure hunt emotional motivator mentioned above).
Craigslist isn’t set up to manage a full-on used item storefront. However, if you’re looking to make a quick buck on a few items here and there, it’s a viable choice. It’s also unique in its ability to host not only items for sale but also jobs, cars, and even houses.
Facebook Marketplace is the slightly more organized and regulated version of Craigslist. Again, it’s not meant to host large-scale used item enterprises like the marketplaces mentioned above, but it’s excellent for piecemeal sales of used items.
What Facebook Marketplace lacks in scale, it makes up for in convenience and peace of mind. The storefront is integrated right into the Facebook app. The platform’s social aspect means sellers can vet out a buyer by stalking their profile (assuming it’s not private).
This does a lot to weed out scammers, con artists, or generally unsafe people. It’s much easier to fabricate a fake persona on Craigslist than Facebook. Or, at least, it’s easier to get away with it on Craigslist.
In terms of convenience, it’s not uncommon for items listed on Facebook Marketplace to be sold, cash-in-hand, in under an hour. If you’re not in the mood to hassle with marketplace regulations and want to keep your sales local, Facebook Marketplace is an excellent choice. LEarn more about selling on Facebook here.
OfferUp started as a sort of “anti-Craigslist.” The founders wanted to build upon the open marketplace concept while offering differentiators that solved common frustrations.
Their infrastructure and item variety is very similar to Craigslist. But instead of a web layout that looks like somebody made it in Microsoft Publisher (Windows 98 version), OfferUp features a clean, modern user interface.
It also solves the problem of scammers and shady characters by implementing user profiles and a rating system. It even offers a mobile app and a Safe Trade Spot feature to give you peace of mind when transacting a deal.
Like Craigslist, it’s all local and all free. Meaning, it’s up to you to coordinate the sale and delivery of your item and field any questions from the buyer.
Speciality online marketplaces for selling used stuff
In 2013, David Kalt was frustrated with the lack of quality online marketplaces to buy and sell used guitars. His solution? Create his own.
Six years later, Reverb.com was acquired by Etsy for $275 million and is now the de facto marketplace for all musical gear and equipment.
Musical instruments are one of the many items that lend themselves well to secondhand sales. Most musicians don’t care if five other people have used their guitar effects pedal or it’s got a few scuffs on it, as long as it works when they activate it during a performance.
Reverb.com features new, used, and vintage music gear of all kinds in every imaginable category. Its buying and selling infrastructure makes swapping gear easy and convenient. Reverb’s mobile app makes it easy to list items, and their real-time price evaluations help sellers get the most for their listing.
Other marketplaces may feature musical instruments, but they don’t hold a candle to the variety of products and thriving gear-trading community of Reverb.com.
Decluttr’s core value is being a marketplace to buy and sell quality used technology. This includes cell phones, computers, and cameras, but also DVDs and Blu-rays as well. Decluttr is ideal for both the technophile and collector.
But Decluttr includes another seemingly random differentiator that makes it all the more valuable for collectors: a robust second-hand LEGO buying program. Even if you don’t remember what LEGO sets you bought or can’t find all the pieces, Decluttr purchases LEGO based on weight.
Just pack up your old LEGO bricks, weigh them, ship them for free, and enjoy Decluttr’s fast next-day payment.
If you’ve got quality used technology, media, or a giant bin full of LEGOs sitting around, Decluttr may be your best option.
Insider tips: best practices for selling things online
Step 1: Prepare your items
You’re likely reading this post for two reasons:
- You’ve just completed a household or workplace purge, and you’re ready to make some cash by selling your stuff online.
- You’re starting a used item storefront or bulk selling operation.
Either way, the first step is always to prepare your items for sale. Follow this step-by-step process, and it’ll save you many headaches down the line:
- Inspect all items for defects and test them if they’re electronic
- Organize your items into categories
- Store the items in an open/easy-to-access location
- Search for each item on the marketplaces above to get an average valuation
- Prepare packaging and shipping materials to avoid multiple trips to the store
Step 2: Get (and stay) organized
The second step is to implement an inventory management system to corral and organize all of your used items before you put them up for sale. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed once all the sales start coming in.
To start, create a simple Excel sheet enumerating:
- Your items
- Their location
- Your ideal selling price
- The actual selling price
- The date sold
A spreadsheet is better than nothing, but as your secondhand retail venture grows and becomes more complex, ecommerce inventory management software is going to be your best bet for staying on top of everything.
SkuVault Core’s inventory management platform (which integrates with most major online retailers) offers features like:
- Barcode scanning to eliminate manual errors and increase speed
- Cycle counting to maintain accurate inventory levels
- Automatic quantity syncs to make sure your listings reflect your on-hand inventory, thus preventing oversells and out-of-stocks
- Quantity buffers to create a sense of urgency in potential customers when they view your listings
Step 3: Take the perfect photos
When you’re photographing your used items for your ecommerce listings, there are some obvious considerations: good lighting, showing the product at an advantageous angle, and so forth.
But did you know that it’s also crucial not to have anything personal in the photo? Don’t snap a pic of that cell phone resting in your hand.
Make sure that framed photo of your children isn’t propped up behind that pair of high-heel shoes. Remove any detail that reminds the viewer that the item had a previous owner.
If you’re serious about scaling your secondhand operation, consider investing in a product photography box or simple shooting tent like this one.
Step 4: Write accurate but strategic descriptions
Be as accurate as possible when drafting your item listings. Don’t gloss over any defects, for instance. That’s a sure way to dissolve the buyer’s trust and is also sure to result in negative reviews.
At the same time, be strategic with your words. Keep the following points in mind:
- Do you know your item’s provenance? If you’ve got a good story about how you got the product or who owned it before, then find a compelling way to tell it!
- Is there something unique or unusual about your used item that might attract the attention of those unicorn-hunting buyers?
- Is your used item rare and hard to find via traditional retail channels?
- Final pro-tip: Never use the words “as good as new” (or similar phrasing) in your listing. Those kinds of phrases immediately remind the buyer that the item has had a previous owner, resulting in a negative perception. Favor phrasing like “in mint condition.”
Step 5: Get your shipping process squared away
So you’ve got all your used stuff organized, and you’ve crafted some tip-top strategic listings. What’s the final piece of the puzzle? Getting those items in the hands of your customer.
Some websites might assist you with order fulfillment, but usually, sellers are on their own when it comes to figuring out how to pack and ship their products, facilitate returns, and so on.
Like in the first insider tip we looked at, this is another arena where inventory and shipping management software like SkuVault can prevent unnecessary stumbling blocks to success.
The world of selling used items online isn’t going away anytime soon — quite the contrary. While those in online ecommerce may have previously turned their noses up at the idea of a used item marketplace, it’s a viable way to make money.
Thanks to the platforms mentioned above and inventory management solutions like SkuVault Core, it’s also infinitely scalable. If you’re interested in starting your inventory management off on the right foot and setting your secondhand ecommerce operation up for success, contact our team for a live demo of SkuVault Core today.