Is It Still Worth Selling on eBay? an Analysis

With so many other online selling platforms now in existence, it is a fair question to ask whether eBay is still worth the time. This article will examine the biggest arguments concerning eBay’s value as a selling platform, to conclude whether it is still worth using in 2020 and beyond.


eBay has been subject of plenty of criticism over the years. There are a number of issues, however, that have caused the most debate.


When eBay was founded in 1995, the Internet was still in its infancy. As the first online auction website, eBay was a forerunner in this new type of retailing. Though eBay remains a household name for online shopping, competition for e-commerce sales has greatly increased over the years.

Amazon, for example, is widely considered to be the world’s largest online marketplace and is still growing, year on year.

Compared to Amazon, eBay is better known for second hand merchandise. This reputation is undoubtedly a result of being founded as an auction website, though over 81% of items are sold ‘as new’ (Q2 2020 reports).


There are three main types of selling fees charged on eBay – insertion fees, listing upgrades and Final Value Fees (FVF).

Insertion fees are a flat charge, billed when a seller creates a new listing. Sellers are eligible for a certain amount of zero (free) insertion fee listings every month.

Final Value Fees are usually cited to be the biggest financial barrier to selling on eBay. This is a form of commission, a small cut of the final selling price. The average FVF on an item is usually around 10%.

While this fee may seem high, it important to note that it is line with other online retail marketplaces. Amazon, for example, charges a ‘referral fee’ (similar to FVF) which varies from 8-15% of the final sale price. Unlike eBay, they also charge an additional ‘refund administration fee.’

Buyer bias

It is in eBay’s best interests to encourage as many sales as possible. One way to do this is to instill confidence in buyers to purchase items.

This drive for buyer confidence has led to the creation of such policies as the Money Back Guarantee, which allows buyers to return items they claim to be ‘not as described’ (a somewhat ambiguous term).

With such a reputation for favoring buyers, eBay has frustrated and alienated many sellers over the years.

Why eBay remains relevant

Despite the downsides, eBay continues to help users sell millions of products every year.

Marketplace size

While eBay’s e-commerce sales may continue to be dwarfed by Amazon, there is no denying that eBay still remains a popular, profitable online marketplace.

In 2020, eBay claimed to have 182 million buyers actively using the site. The total value of all successfully closed transactions between buyers and sellers was $27.1 billion in Q2 (1st April to 30th June 2020).

Ease of use

eBay always has, and continues to be, straightforward to use. It takes only minutes to sign-up and create a new listing, with no technical know-how required. New sellers are prompted with detailed instructions and advice regarding selling their item(s), to help improve the chance of a sale.

Upfront costs to sell on eBay remain minimal, with the biggest fee only requested after the item has actually sold. This allows aspiring sellers to have a go with limited risk and investment.

Founded as an auction website, eBay remains a diverse marketplace. There’s a little bit of everything from used clothing and collectables to brand new electronics and designer handbags. eBay allows sellers remarkable freedom to sell almost anything, with no minimum requirements.

Niche selling

Just the same with traditional retailing, it is crucial to have a ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP) to stand out from competitors. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Sell something different
  • Sell better than anyone else (cheaper/faster shipping/better presented etc.)

While there are a number of categories which have become extremely saturated, eBay still has opportunities for sellers specializing in unique items (the ‘something different’ mentioned above).

Finding a profitable niche has long been the ‘Holy Grail’ of eBay selling. It remains attainable today, but only with research and patience.

Final thoughts

eBay does not offer a perfect selling system. Increased competition, perceivably high fees and a bias to buyers have proved to be significant factors for some veteran sellers to move away from the platform.

On the other hand, eBay’s marketplace size cannot be ignored. Competitive categories aside, there is still room for new niche sellers to succeed. With low investment required and an easy to use listing system, it remains relatively straightforward to sell on eBay.

The good news is that there is no exclusivity required by eBay when using the platform. E-commerce sellers have the freedom to use multiple marketplaces to sell online. Indeed, some would argue that it is necessary to maintain a diversified income stream and not rely on one platform alone.

Of course, the foundations of any eBay business is hard work and perseverance. An aptitude for trial and error is also essential since there is no guaranteed route to success.

Experienced sellers, why do you continue selling on eBay? Share your thoughts in the comments below