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Craigslist or eBay? The ultimate guide to selling your stuff online.

There are plenty of options for selling your unwanted goods online, but which site you choose will depend on what you're trying to unload. Here's how to get the most out of the five biggest e-commerce sites on the web, including eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and even Facebook. 

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Spring has sprung, which means it's officially Spring cleaning season. But wait! Before you toss all your unwanted junk in the dumpster, give it a second look. If one man's trash is another's treasure, you just might be sitting on a gold mine.

So how do you cash in on these potential riches? Sell that stuff online, of course! I surveyed all the online shopping experts on our team here at Brad's Deals, and came up with this handy-dandy guide for how to get the most out of the 5 best-known e-commerce sites on the web.

1. eBay

Although the e-commerce market has opened up a lot in the past few years, eBay is still usually the first thought for people looking to sell something online. Originally an auction site, you can also buy and sell things for a set price, and I personally know quite a few people with a sizable side income from eBay sales.

Cost:

eBay, like most other e-commerce sites, does charge small fees to sellers, which vary based on the category and selling price of the item. It can be difficult to predict how much you'll be paying in fees for any given sale, so make sure to use their Fee Calculator to avoid unexpected fees at the end of your transactions.

Best For:

Unique, niche or collectible items that buyers won't be able to find anywhere else. Also works well for brand-name clothing, working electronics and hot holiday items.

Getting Started:

To sell something on eBay, you'll first need to register as an eBay member. You'll then create a seller account and click "Sell" on the top of the page, which will bring you to a detailed walk-through of exactly how to place your item for sale on the site.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Before you list something, make sure to search the site for similar items. Reviewing what's already out there can help you decide on everything from the right listing price to which categories to put your item in.
  • Make sure you review eBay's official seller's checklist, their tips for successful selling and the rules for eBay sellers before listing an item!
  • eBay and PayPal are linked up, so using your PayPal account to buy and sell things on eBay is extremely easy and convenient.

2. Amazon

Everyone knows you can buy pretty much anything you could ever want or need on this online mega-store, but you can also make some money by selling your unwanted items in the Amazon marketplace.

Cost:

Like eBay, Amazon does take a cut of your sale, and that cut is difficult to predict because it varies based on the price of your item or the category you list it in, but for their first 40 sales, individuals are charged $0.99 per sale plus additional selling fees. Please refer to the official Amazon Selling Fee Schedule, or try a third party calculator like SaleCalc before you list anything to ensure you're not hit with a higher than expected seller's fee.

Best For:

Practical things like textbooks, kitchen items,  gently-used electronics, video games,  and brand-name clothing. If you want to see the top-selling items on Amazon at any given time, check out the Amazon Best Sellers page, which is updated hourly.

Getting Started:

Login to or create a new Amazon account, then click on Seller Account. You'll be prompted to either sell as a Professional (which costs $39.99/month but still charges various seller's fees) or as an Individual (which charges $0.99/sale plus various seller's fees and only allows 40 sales/month). Go with  Individual unless you're planning on selling more than 40 items per month. Once you've set up your seller account (you have to verify your bank account, credit card information, etc), click on "Inventory," then "Add Product," and type in the product name or ISBN number. It's that easy!

Tips and Tricks:

Brad's Deals blogger and successful Amazon seller Tessa McLean wrote an entire article about this a few years ago, here are a few of her tips:

  • Always be honest about the condition of your item. I like to think of it as Amazon karma. If you list honestly, others will too.
  • Always add in notes about your item. In college I had a couple books I bought for classes that I literally never touched. They were in perfect condition, but obviously were still considered "used." Insert a note saying that and somebody who is looking for a highlighter free used book in great condition will likely snag it up, even if it's a couple bucks more than another used book.
  • Note how much other Amazon users are selling the item for. Do a quick Google search as well if you're not pressed for time. This will give you a better idea of how in demand the item is and the appropriate price range.
  • Always ship your sold item promptly. A great experience will encourage the buyer to review you, which will improve your seller rating, which will encourage others to buy from you in the future!
  • It an item hasn't sold in a couple weeks, try lowering the price. Though, keep in mind that if it's more of an obscure item, it may just take awhile for the right buyer to find it. I've sold textbooks a whole year after I put them up for sale.
  • Ship the cheapest way possible. USPS is usually the cheapest option, especially is you wrap the item in brown paper. Whenever I could I used old brown paper grocery bags to ship my textbooks. Also, if it's a book or CD, make sure to tell the post office it's "media mail" and the price will drop even more.

3. Etsy

Etsy describes itself as "an online marketplace where people around the world connect to make, sell and buy unique goods," and you probably know it as "that website my cousin uses to sell her crocheted lampshades." Etsy might seem like a newcomer on the e-commerce scene, but it's actually been around since 2005.

Cost:

While there's no monthly membership for having a shop on Etsy, it costs $0.20 to list an item, and Etsy takes a 3.5% cut of every sale. Be sure to check out their seller's fees info page before you list anything.

Best For:

Original art, crafting supplies and hand-made or vintage clothing, jewelry, accessories and knickknacks.

Getting Started:

Sign up and open a shop with a fun, creative name (tips on naming an Etsy shop here!), verify your identity with your credit card (which will also be charged every time you put an item up for sale), and set up Direct Checkout, Etsy's payment system which works with every kind of international currency.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Good photography makes a serious difference. If you're expecting to sell the antique plates you found in your attic using pictures taken on a Motorola Razr, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. Make your photos Pinterest-perfect and watch the money roll in.
  • Treat it like a business--yeah, the stuff you're selling might seem like junk to you, but Etsy shoppers are a different breed than those on eBay and Amazon. They're not using Etsy to buy essential items that they NEED, they're using it to find unique things that they WANT.
  • Try out some social media marketing--create a Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest account for your business and share those perfectly crafted photographs with the world.

4. Craigslist

Craigslist the Amazon of the cheap, useful and necessary. I've found every apartment and almost every job I've ever had on the site, and have also bought essential items like bookshelves, coffee tables and even concert tickets.

Cost:

Free. Craigslist does not charge for any posting EXCEPT job listings, so unless you're on the hunt for a new employee, you're good.

Best For:

Useful, gently-worn or new items like electronics, furniture, dishes, curtains, art, tickets to an event or show, etc.

Getting Started:

You don't have to create a Craigslist account in order to make a posting, but it helps if your item doesn't sell right away and you want to keep re-posting it. Without an account, you'll have to create an entirely new listing from scratch every time, but with an account, you can just re-post and go about your day. Once you've created an account, do a little bit of research on what similar items are selling for on places like eBay and Amazon, and try to price it accordingly. Going a little high is fine, because most Craigslist buyers aren't afraid to do a little haggling, and if your initial price is too low, you won't have any leverage. Once you've decided on price, upload a few pictures of the item and write a concise title and a short description of the condition its in/your delivery options.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Unlike Etsy items, pictures for Craigslist don't have to look like something out of a quirky indie magazine, but they should be well-lit and the item should be easy to see and identify.
  • Don't sell anything too valuable on Craigslist, because you'll likely get a bad deal for it. Save the niche items for eBay, and the good-quality electronics for Amazon.
  • Make your transaction in public. Yes, the Craigslist killer idea is pretty overblown, but stranger danger shouldn't be your #1 concern: getting ripped off should be. Many police stations have started advertising their parking lots as safe zones for (legal) Craigslist transactions, so if you're feeling a little wary about meeting a stranger who's looking to buy your junk, request to meet near your local precinct.

5. Facebook

Believe it or not, Facebook can actually be used for more than stalking you ex boyfriend and hate-scrolling through pictures of your high school bully's adorable children! Facebook actually tried out a formal Marketplace a few years ago, but if it still exists it's winning the gold in the Hide-and-Seek Olympics because I can't find it anywhere.

Cost:

Free!

Best for:

Pretty much anything. I've seen my friends post everything from baby strollers to concert tickets to cars for sale on Facebook, so there's really nothing you can't advertise to your friends if you're trying to get rid of some extra junk.

Getting Started:

First, you have to decide where to post your item to sell. There are lots of Facebook groups out there for locals who are trying to sell stuff, but you also might want to post it to your personal page if you think your friends will bite. Of course there's no reason why you can't post it in multiple places at once, so if you find a few different groups that seem like a good fit, go ahead and post to all of them. As always, make sure you've taken good-quality pictures from multiple angles, and upload them all at once so people can scroll through them while shopping. Your description should be short and to the point but also clear and easy to read, and should accurately describe the condition of the item.

Tips and Tricks:
  • If you're posting to a group, make sure you follow the rules or risk being banned from posting anything else. Many groups have price or time limits on things people can post. Read first or regret it later.
  • As Facebook has no way to hold your buyer accountable, you should use the same safety precautions you would with a Craigslist transaction. Luckily, Facebook buyers don't have the luxury of anonymity, so before you meet up with a potential buyer, scour their Facebook page for details you can use if the deal ends up going sour. Jot down their full name, workplace, any mutual friends you might have, and save a couple pictures for good measure. It might seem creepy, but it could save you a lot of time and hassle if you end up needing to involve the police.

Which e-commerce site is your favorite? What's the weirdest thing you've ever sold? 

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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