18 Tips for Selling Your Old Tech Gear on eBay

Selling unwanted tech can be tricky, but here's how to earn money and avoid scams.

By Jacqueline Emigh

If your family is at all typical, you have old laptops, tablets, cell phones, printers, and more, collecting dust in a closet or the garage. And you probably know that eBay is a popualr online marketplace where your stuff could fetch a good price because of the website's huge audience.

Tech, though, is a bit tricker to sell on eBay than some other types of items.

One reason technology is tricky is that there are buyers who target tech gear for certain kinds of scams. That's because tech products can easily break--before shipment, during transit, or after reaching their destination.

Another reason is that you're competing against hordes of pros specializing in tech products. While there are also eBay pros specializing in lots of other types of goods, such as clothing and collectibles, tech products are mass produced in such large quantities that if you're selling a certain model of cell phone, for example, chances are that a professional is selling the exact same model, or something almost indistinguishably similar.

With all that in mind, we've rounded up everything you need to know to keep you safe on eBay and to make the most money possible from your virtual garage sale.

1. If you're a first-time eBay-er, buy before you sell

These should be items you want, of course, though they can be inexpensive. You might pick up some socks for you and your spouse, a warm winter hat, or toys for the pet. The point is to gather positive feedback associated with your user name, because feedback (both positive and negative) is tracked and displayed on eBay.

If you pay on time--within two days of the sale--and you are generally easy to work with, you should get positive feedback from sellers. Then, return the compliment by giving sellers positive feedback if you're happy with the purchases you've made. That's simple eBay etiquette.

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Even better, sell a few non-tech items, too. Ideally, these should be great items that your family really doesn't need, such as your husband's never used tennis racket, or an outgrown ski sweater that your daughter only wore twice.

Keep in mind the kind of competition you're dealing with when you're selling tech on eBay. Some of those sellers have loads of positive feedback. If you can show some, too, you'll inspire more confidence among buyers.

After ten positive feedback ratings, you'll earn your first eBay star.

2. When you're ready to sell, use the advanced tool

When you start the process of selling an item on eBay, you'll see a few options. You'll probably want to avoid the eBay Valet. Though this mode includes an expert to help you sell the item, you'll need to pay an extra fee for those services.

Instead, you'll either want to "Sell it myself" (also known as "quick tool") or choose the advanced tool from the link at the top of the screen. If you click on "advanced tool," a window will advise you to use the quick tool instead if you're not a mass seller. Don't worry, though: eBay actually allows all sellers to use this tool.

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Sell it myself and the advanced tool are almost identical, except that the advanced tool offers photo and video capabilities you can't get with the quick tool. With both tools, eBay will suggest pre-populated templates for similar products previously listed on the site, if there are any. If you go with one of these suggestions, you can save time. You can modify the pre-populated templates as needed. Alternatively, you can create your listing from scratch.

But there are several advantages to the advanced tool that can help you to get a more professional-looking listing. First, the advtanced tool lets you include a product video, whereas the quick tool does not. Other features exclusive to the advanced feature include photo zoom and the ability to use photos from a web page instead of individually uploading photos from your device.

3. Be honest

You'll need to choose a "condition" for your product. Don't try to pass your gadget off as newer or in better condition than it really is; if there's a scratch on the cover of a laptop and a ding on the side, or if the battery is missing, the buyer is going to see these flaws when the product gets delivered anyway. And it's a lot worse for you then. Include a photo that shows the flaw.

eBay offers a Buyer Protection Program designed to make sure that buyers get what they paid for, or they get their money back. Buyers are given up to 30 days from the "last estimated date of delivery" to notify sellers that they haven't received an item, or that it supposedly wasn't as described. After that, the buyer gets only three days to respond to the seller.

If you don't respond to your buyer within three days, the buyer can file a claim against you with eBay. If eBay then decides to reimburse the customer, you will be required to pay eBay back.

You don't want to sell a product in December and think it's a done deal, only to hear from eBay in January that the customer is returning the item and that now, you owe money to eBay. You can dispute the customer's claim and appeal eBay's decision, but you might or might not win. And honestly, eBay errs on the side of the buyer.

4. You're usually better off with an auction

eBay lets you list items as an auction, with a definite start and end time, or by using a fixed price with the "Buy It Now" feature.

Buy it Now has the advantage that often, it can end very, very quickly. But if you don't mind wating it out a few days, the auction can get you more money, partiularly if potenial buyers enter into a bidding war.

If you haven't been able to sell the item at auction, you can always try again at a lower price with "Buy It Now."

5. Undercut prevailing pricing (a little)

Do a little homework. Search eBay and see what other people are asking for the item you want to sell.

And if you're selling any sort of mobile phone, whether a smartphone or not, eBay offers a special tool that will estimate pricing based on model, carrier, capacity, color, and condition.

As a smaller seller, you can raise your chances of a sale by undercutting the prevaling price just a tad. You might have ten positive feedbacks to your credit, but there are large sellers of tech products with thousands of positive feedbacks. A slightly lower price can help you to compensate.

Does it really matter to you much whether you get $500 for your old laptop instead of $525, considering that you're not using it, anyway? And what buyer doesn't love a bargain, especially on eBay?

6. Offer Fast 'n Free Shipping

Buyers also love fast shipping and free shipping. eBay has found that sellers can substantialy improve their results by offering shipping that is both fast and free.

Consequently, the company now automatically generates a Fast 'n Free logo when a seller promises to get an item delivered within four days of the transaction. This means that you'll need to choose an expedited shipping option. Instead of listing the shipping costs separately, you then build them into the price of the item.

Even if you decide not to offer Fast 'n Free, always use a shipping service that gives you a tracking number, for confirmation of delivery.

7. Write a detailed headline, and include a subtitle

eBay doesn't provide a lot of room for headlines. But be sure to include as much key information in your title as possible, such as the brand and model of the item, the color and size, and possibly even the UPC code.

If you want other facts to stand out, you can get a "subtitle" line, but that costs an extra 50 cents. Selling something pricey? It's totally worth it. Also, your ad will look more professional, and get more attention, if you "bold" the title for an additional $1.00.

Don't forget: Listings are free, in any case, until you sell your item. then, eBay deducts the fees from what you are paid by the buyer.

8. Keep your product description short

If you write a product description that's 800 characters or longer, eBay automatically abbreviates it to 250 characters for display on mobile devices. So if you want your full description to show up on smartphones, keep it to no more than 800 characters.

9. Use at least three photos

A picture isn't worth a thousand words. on eBay, it's priceless. People like to see what they're buying. Don't you? Especially if it's a high-ticket item, show the product from various angles. If you're icluding any accessories, such as a phone case or laptop bag, include photos of those, too.

eBay recommends at least three photos per listing. Don't use "stock" photos from the manufacturer's website. Take your own photos so buyers can see the actual item. It also makes your ad more credible.

These photos will also help to document the condition of your item when it left your home. Make sure that the pics aren't blurry. If you don't want to invest in a new camera or smartphone for your eBay selling occasion, borrow one that will provide high enough resolution from a friend or family member.

You can include up to 12 photos per listing.

10. Don't ship internationally unless you have the time

eBay asks sellers if they want to ship interntionally or only domestically. It's true that you'll look like more of a player, and raise your chances of a sale, if you go the international route.

eBay makes international selling relatively easy by asking sellers to send international mailings to a global mailing center in Kentucky. There, eBay calculates international shipping costs and customs duties and sends this information to you.

It is up to you, however, to communicate with the buyer about these costs, and you need to collect the funds from him. You might run up against language barriers, although eBay can help somewhat with translation. But unless you have time to deal with deal with these issues, stick to domestic shipping.

By the way, Fast 'n Free applies only to transactions in which both the buyer and seller are located in the U.S.

11. Do not accept returns

It can be tempting to accept returns, too, because lots of larger sellers do. As a smaller seller, though, accepting returns is pretty risky.

The chances of an item breaking in transit, for example, increases each time the product is shipped in either direction.

And anyway, under eBay's Buyer Protection Program, buyers are guaranteed that their items will arrive as described or they will get their money back.

Do you really want to allow a return for any other reason? Maybe the buyer has decided he needs the $200 he sent to you to pay for a traffic ticket he got last night? Maybe, after buying 12 USB sticks from you, he found a better deal with another seller? That's up to you, but be careful.

12. Answer questions from buyers

Once you've submitted your listing and it's running, check in on it a few times each day to answer any questions that might come up from buyers. There might not be any questions, especially if your description is highly specific. But you do want to be responsive to buyers if they do have questions. It's good for business.

13. If a buyer seems shady, cancel the transaction

Congratulations! You've just sold your old DVD player, or perhaps those cartridges for your old discontinued printer. Payment has cleared Paypal. Now it's time to ship the item...

Or is it? eBay gives you 30 days in which to cancel a transaction, even if you've already been paid. so what if you discover that the winner of your auction has zero positive feedback ratings, or two positive feedbacks and two negative feedbacks? Some buyers abuse eBay's Buyer Protection Program to scam sellers, and this is particularly true for tech products. So if you're not confident about the buyer, you're probably better off to cancel the transaction and hope for better results when you relist the product.

eBay does not allow buyers to leave negative feedback on sellers for canceling a transaction.

14. Protect the item from breakage

If you're going ahead with the transaction, do the best job you can of protecting the item from breakage in transit. You can print out shipping labels from USPS, FedEx, and UPS on your computer and pay shipping charges online. FedEx and UPS will even come to your house to pick up the package.

However, you might want to take the package over to the post office or shipping office, where staff is usually more than happy to help you make the package look neat. They'll probably even help you to protect the item, although you'll probably need to buy some bubble wrap or plastic peanuts.

15. Insure your package

Shippers vary in their policies as to insurance. UPS, for example, insures all packages for up to $100 free of charge. But make sure your item is insured to the hilt by declaring the full value (whatever you've been paid for the item).and paying a fee for the additional insurance.

Again, that's because of eBay's Buyer Protection Program. While this program is well intended, some buyers take unfair advantage of it. What can you do if, 20 days after receiving your item, a buyer suddenly reports that the iPhone he bought from you arrived at his house with a broken screen? It could well be that, his son or daughter dropped the phone on the floor on day 18.

You should dispute the buyer's claim with eBay for reputational reasons, and appeal the decision it it's unfavorable to you. However, there's no way you can prove what happened after you shipped the item, other than confirm the date and time when it arrived at its destination.

If you don't win the case, at least the insurance will cover the amount to be reimbursed to eBay. eBay will even enter an insurance claim for you. But you could still end up with a broken phone returned to you.

16. Record the product's serial number

Here's another type of scam that you hopefully won't run up against. A person buys two versions of the same product model from eBay: your item, plus an item from another seller, which is broken. He then claims that your item arrived broken in the mail, ships the broken product back to you, and wants his money back.

Many eBay-ers believe that they're protected from this sort of scam if they do not accept returns. Unfortunately, this isn't so. eBay's money back guarantee still prevails regardless, unless the seller can show that the buyer either made a mistaken report or committed fraud.

However, keeping a copy of the serial number can help you to win a dispute. If you still have a copy of the original sales receipt and documentation, that's best. If not, snap a picture of the serial number before sending the item. Also, email a copy of the serial number to the buyer before making shipment, just in case he has a scam in mind.

If the buyer then sends you back a broken item, check the serial number of what you've received. If it's different from the serial number for the item you sent, take a picture, and send both photos to eBay.

17. If it costs $750, require a signature

Some tech products command lots of bucks on eBay. Sometimes buyers will ask you to not require a signature, so that the shipper can leave the item on the doorstep if he's not at home when they arrive.

But here's another gotcha. If a transaction is for $750 or more, you really can't go along with this request, as reasonable as it might sound. That's because if a buyer pays $750 or more for an item (including taxes), and then claims that he never received it, eBay will not accept your shipper's delivery confirmation unless you required a signature.

So if some shady buyer did receive your package, but claims he didn't, you could be held liable for reimbursing eBay. If you don't pay eBay back, your eBay privileges could be revoked.

18. If the buyer doesn't pay, you have recourse

eBay has policies that are favorable to sellers, too. A buyer can only request cancellation of a transaction from a seller within one hour of entering a bid or agreeing to buy a product on "Buy It Now," for example.

Even more importantly, buyers are now expected to make payment on items that they've won within two days of the transaction.

If a buyer doesn't doesn't pay on time, the seller can open up an unpaid item case. If the buyer still doesn't pay or reach some other agreement with the seller, eBay can record the unpaid item on the buyer's account, something that doesn't look good to other sellers that a buyer might want to work with in the future.

You can also leave negative feedback about the non-payer.