eBay Selling Formats and Options

Last updated: May 30, 2017 - 10:33am EDT

Part of deciding what to sell on eBay is how you are going to sell it. Most e-commerce websites simply allow you to set a fixed price for an item and hope that a buyer accepts that price. However, on eBay.com, you also have the option of letting multiple buyers bid on your item in an auction. You can even let multiple buyers offer prices that they're willing to pay for an item, and then select one that you think is fairest.

But which of these selling options should you pick for any one item that you want to sell? This lesson will help you make a decision by explaining how each of these options work in detail, as well as giving you advice on what types of items they work best for.

Fixed price formats

Buy It Now

"Buy It Now" listings are the most basic type of listings you can create. They work much the same as they do on many other online marketplaces: you set a fixed price for an item (or group of items) and then wait for a buyer to accept the price. If they do, then they can buy the item from you immediately without having to bid against other buyers in an auction.

Buy It Now + Best Offer

For most of your "Buy It Now" listings, you have the option of adding the "Best Offer" option. This allows buyers to submit price offers for your item. For each offer, you have the choice of accepting it (resulting in the item's sale), rejecting it, or giving the buyer a counter-offer. You can also set your listing up to automatically accept or reject offers within certain price ranges. For more information, see our detailed article on eBay Best Offers.

Auction-style formats

Auction

Auctions are how items were originally bought and sold on eBay, and they continue to be popular. When you create an "Auction" listing, you specify an opening bid for your item(s), as well as how long you want the auction to last. Then, buyers will place bids for your item, and at the end of the auction, the highest bidder is obligated to purchase your item. If you're interested, we have an in-depth explanation (with an illustrative example) of how eBay's auction system works.

Auction + Buy It Now

If you want to offer buyers the best of both worlds, you can create a listing that's a hybrid of the "Auction" and "Buy It Now" formats. Basically, you create an "Auction" format listing, but in addition to setting an opening bid for an item (or group of items), you also set a fixed price. That way, if a buyer likes your item but doesn't want to get in a bidding war over it, they can buy it on the spot and save themselves the hassle. Note, however, that the "Buy It Now" option for an "Auction" listing will no longer be available for buyers once at least one of them places a bid on that listing's item(s).

Auction + Reserve Price

If you want a bit of insurance when you create an "Auction" listing, you can use the "Reserve Price" option. This allows you to set a minimum price that you are willing to let a buyer pay for an item that you put up for auction. This, in turn, allows you to ensure that you never end up selling that item for less than how much you think is fair to make from the sale.

If you set a reserve price on one of your "Auction" listings, buyers who bid on that listing will be able to see that it has a reserve price. However, they will not be able to see exactly what that price is, unless you reveal it to them by contacting them or putting it in the listing description. If, by the end of that auction, the current highest bid is less than the reserve price you set, then you aren't obligated to sell the item to the auction winner (but you still can if you want).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Using the "Reserve Price" option for one of your "Auction" item listings counts as a listing upgrade, and so it costs extra money. Reserve prices under $75 incur a $3 fee. Reserve prices of $75 or more incur a fee of 4% of the reserve price (but no more than $100).

Auction-style vs. fixed price: which eBay selling formats should I use?

If you have experience selling items without the aid of an online marketplace system, then whether you use primarily "auction-style" or "fixed price" listings may simply be a matter of which selling format you're used to.

On the other hand, if you're confused as to which selling format to use (and when) – especially if you're new to (online) selling – there are a couple of different factors to consider. The table below will give you a quick summary of some general comparisons between eBay's two main selling formats.

  Auction-Style Listings Fixed Price Listings
Duration Options 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days (or 30 days for "Real Estate") 3, 5, 7, 10, or 30 days (or "Good 'Til Cancelled")
Free Listings per Month No Store 50 combined of either type
Basic Store 250 250
Premium Store 500 1000
Anchor Store 1000 10, 000
Over Monthly Limit Listing Fees per Listing No Store $0.30
Basic Store $0.25 $0.20
Premium Store $0.15 $0.10
Anchor Store $0.10 $0.05

 

There are a few general things to note from this table:

  • Auction-style listings generally don't last as long as fixed-price listings, which means that you have to renew them more often if your items don't sell.
     
  • You generally don't get as many free auction-style listings per month as free fixed price listings (though, if you have any type of eBay Store, whenever one of your auction-style listings sells an item, you get an extra free auction-style listing for that month).
     
  • Auction-style listings are generally more expensive to post than fixed price listings, if you go over your monthly limit for them.

The trade-off is that you usually stand to make much more money selling items through auctions, as opposed to with fixed prices.

As we discussed earlier, however, there are several different variations of these two general types of selling formats. So which format should you use, and when should you use it? The following are some general guidelines.

When should I use "Buy It Now"?

Buy It Now eBay listing

"Buy It Now" listings are best used when:

  • You know exactly how much money your item is worth, and/or how much you need to charge for it to turn a profit
     
  • You want to sell multiples of the same type of item, which lets you get a decent price for them even if they aren't in high demand
     
  • You're not in a huge rush to sell your wares (as "Buy It Now" listings can last longer than "Auction" listings)

When should I use "Buy It Now + Best Offer"?

Buy It Now and Best Offer Listing

The "Buy It Now" and "Best Offer" options are best used together when:

  • You are selling an item just to get rid of it, and aren't too concerned about how much money you make off of it
     
  • You need to sell an item quickly, but are worried that it won't attract much demand in an auction
     
  • You have a relative idea of how much your item is worth, so you know what price points would constitute a fair deal or not

When should I use "Auction"?

Auction Style Listing on eBay

"Auction" listings are best used when:

  • You are selling a unique or otherwise hard-to-find item, and are perhaps unsure of its true value
     
  • You expect your item to be in high demand, which can drive up the value of bids
     
  • You expect the value of your item to fluctuate, so you want to sell it quickly while it's still potentially worth a lot of money

When should I use "Auction + Buy It Now"?

Auction or Buy It Now eBay listing

"Auction" listings with the "Buy It Now" option are best used when:

  • You know how much your item is worth, so you'd be happy getting a certain value out of it if someone bought it on the spot
     
  • You think that your item is in high enough demand that you'd be able to get more than your asking price if you put it up for auction

When should I use "Auction + Reserve Price"?

Auction and Reserve Price listing on eBay

Using an "Auction" listing with the "Reserve Price" option costs money – and quite a bit, at that – so use it sparingly. However, it's a good idea when:

  • You have an idea of what an item is worth, but you want to see what its true value is and/or how high demand for it is
     
  • You want to set a low opening bid for an item to attract potential buyers, but don't want to risk selling it at too low a price if demand for it ends up being low
     
  • You want to avoid setting a high opening bid for an item, so that you don't scare away potential bidders and end up having trouble selling the item at all

 

That wraps up our explanation of eBay's selling formats, as well as our advice on when you should use each of them. However, something else that you'll probably want to think about when deciding which selling formats to use – or what you want to sell in the first place – is your potential overhead expense. We'll break down some of the common costs associated with running a selling business on eBay in our next article on seller fees.

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