Resale Value Faceoff: Craigslist vs. EBay vs. Consignment

Thanks to the Internet folks have more options when it comes to turning second-hand stuff into cash.

The question is: Who gets you the better deal: EBay (Stock Quote: EBAY), Craigslist, or the pre-Internet way, the second-hand store down the street?

Here are some things you should consider if you’re thinking about making a sale:

OPTION #1 - EBay may be great, but watch out for those fees!

Cost: The San Jose, Calif.-based auction website makes money in two ways: through commissions on all items sold and “upgrade fees” which allows sellers to pay for premium placement of their products on the site.

How it works: If you sell your barely-used 32 inch flat screen HDTV for $1000 you can expect the company to take a 10% cut, so you end up with $900. The trick is making sure your TV gets bought.  With more than 84 million active sellers, there are bound to be more than a few TVs like your up for auction, and standing out could be difficult. You can improve your chances by paying an upgrade fee for as much as $179. That will place your product at the top of the list.

Ease: You don’t have to be a tech wizard to master eBay, but it wouldn’t hurt to get acquainted with PhotoShop either. Take a few good pictures of your item and then take a look at some of eBay’s design templates and decide which one will make your stuff look great.

Chances for Success: Overall, eBay has been incredibly valuable for sellers because of its
Global reach. Unfortunately, because of the huge number of products on the site it’s easy for an individual seller to get lost in the shuffle.

Whether or not you sell depends on the quality of your posting and how you’ve priced your product. Setting your price too high can scare off potential customers. A good tip is to come up with a reserve price, which is the absolute minimum that you’re willing to take. Bidders can’t see the reserve price, so there’s a chance that a flurry of bidding will raise the value of your item. If no one cracks the minimum, you’re not obliged to sell. If they do, you’ve made a few bucks. The bad news is that you’ll have to pay as much as $4 to set the reserve price regardless of whether or not you sell.


OPTION #2 - Craigslist is cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Cost: Free. Craigslist doesn’t charge for classifieds, which, by the way, is why so many newspapers are in trouble.

Ease: While eBay comes with a laundry list of directions and suggestions, Craigslist is more straightforward. Post your item, upload a picture or two, state the cost, attach your contact info and wait for those calls or emails to come rushing in. (And if giving your contact information to millions of people isn’t your cup of tea: don’t worry. You can have requests sent to a “blind” email address which craigslist.org will then forward to you.)

Chances for Success: Ask any 20-something where to flip merchandise, and there’s a good chance that they’ll say Craigslist. “I only sell on Craigslist, especially in a hopping market like New York City,” says journalist Tyler Mitter. “I bought a shag wool carpet for $150 off Craigslist, found out it shed too much for my taste and sold it to someone else on Craigslist the next week for $250.”

You’ll get that quick turnaround on Craigslist: the site is hyper local. Unfortunately, you never know who is going to show up at your door.


OPTION #3 - Not all thrifts are created equal.

Costs: Geography tends to determine what resellers sell to their customers and how much they’ll charge. However, most shops will insist on a 60/40 split (favoring the store) for items sold for under $50. Higher-end fare such as a wedding gown will net you as much as 50%.

Ease: There are an estimated 30,000 thrift and consignment stores in the U.S., so odds are pretty good that you’ll find one close to you. It’s important to pick the right kind of store when deciding who to approach to sell those old frocks. You may be able to unload a reasonably intact pair of Adidas gym shoes at your local Salvation Army, but odds are a designer consignment store will take a pass.

Chances of success: Thrift shoppers can range from the unemployed to college students to housewives. Even wealthy Wall Street-types looking for a good deal. There’s no guarantee that any thrift-store denizen will walk out with your cast-off clothing, but you can improve your odds by making sure that the clothes are neat, well-styled and, most importantly, spotless.

Lots of second-hand shops are now selling their merchandise online too. So, before you start hunting for a half-priced Prada bag, check out some of these options:

• Jill’s Consignment. This online hub for designer names has handbags, shoes and vintage clothes. You’ll pay through the nose, but know that others paid more.

• Clotheshorse Anonymous. This Dallas, Texas institution has kept Lone-Star State ladies in Chanel for more than 30 years. Don’t let the luxury keep you away, though. Consigners are always welcome.

• Goodwill Industries International. EBay isn’t the only online auction house. By logging on to Goodwill Industries’ Internet auction site you can bid on items like hipster jeans or musical instruments and have them shipped to your home.

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