Is eBay Free to Use and How Does It Make Money?

eBay is a popular website for people to buy and sell goods, but what is eBay’s role in the economic relationships that form on it day in and day out? How does it differ from its competitors? This article will examine eBay’s “middleman” role, and how much you should expect to pay them to carry out that role.

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Is eBay free?

eBay is free to use as a buyer; you are not charged money to open an account, or keep it open.  You are only charged money if you buy an item, or submit a winning bid or offer for an item.  However, if you are using eBay as a seller, it will cost you money to run a store, list items for sale, sell items, and so on.

How does eBay make money?

eBay makes money by charging various types of fees to people wishing to sell items on the website.  These include subscription fees for running a store on eBay, listing fees for listing more products for sale than one’s store type allows, and a final value fee that is dependent on the type of item being sold.

eBay pricing systems

eBay Stores subscription plans

eBay has comprehensive business solutions for those wishing to have extra tools at their disposal to help them sell items on eBay.  These are known as eBay Stores, and there are three available packages: Basic, Premium, and Anchor.  Each package offers greater benefits than the last, such as the ability to list more items for sale without incurring listing fees, or having to pay lower listing fees on items that do exceed your store type’s listing limit. For a full comparison, see this chart on eBay.

Each store subscription has a monthly rate and an annual rate.  The monthly rate is paid on a monthly basis.  The annual rate is paid all at once, but is less expensive than the monthly rate.

 No StoreBasic StorePremium StoreAnchor Store
Monthly subscription costNone$25$75$350
Annual subscription costNone$240 ($20/month)$720 ($60/month)$3600 ($300/month)
Free auction-style listings per month50 combined of either type2505001000
Free fixed-price listings per month50 combined of either type250100010,000
Over monthly limit auction-style listing fees$0.30/listing$0.25/listing$0.15/listing$0.10/listing
Over monthly limit fixed price listing fees$0.30/listing$0.20/listing$0.10/listing$0.05/listing
Final value fees10% per item (max. $750 per item)4% - 9%, depending on item category (max. $250 per item)4% - 9%, depending on item category (max. $250 per item)4% - 9%, depending on item category (max. $250 per item)
Quarterly coupon for eBay-branded shipping suppliesNo$25$50$75
Quarterly credit for promoted listingsNoNoNo$25
Monthly store marketing and promotional emailsNo5000750010,000
Dedicated customer support (U.S. only)NoNoNoYes

eBay listing fees

eBay charges listing fees to users who post items for sale on eBay.  Depending on what eBay Stores package they have, a user can list a limited number of items for sale for free.  Any items listed beyond that will cause them to incur listing fees, which vary depending on the store type that they have, as well as whether each listing is for an immediate purchase or an auction.

 No StoreBasic StorePremium StoreAnchor Store
Free auction-style listings per month50 combined of either type2505001000
Free fixed price listings per month50 combined of either type250100010, 000
Over monthly limit auction-style listing fees$0.30 per listing$0.25/listing$0.15/listing$0.10/listing
Over monthly limit fixed price listing fees$0.30 per listing$0.20/listing$0.10/listing$0.05/listing

eBay final value fees

eBay also charges fees to a user whenever they sell something on eBay. Unlike the previously-discussed fees, final value fees are largely not affected by whether or not a user has an eBay Store package (or a particular tier of one), but instead are dependent on what type of item is being sold.

All final value fees are assessed on a per-item basis. They are based on the total value of the sale, which includes the item price and the shipping charges, but not the sales tax. Final value fees will not exceed $250.

Item CategoryFinal Value Fee (with any Store)
Computers, Tablets, and Networking4%
Video Game Consoles4%
Heavy Equipment4%
Concession Trailers & Carts4%
Imaging & Aesthetics Equipment4%
Commercial Printing Presses4%
Consumer Electronics6%
Cameras & Photography Equipment6%
Coins & Paper Money6%
Stamps6%
Musical Instruments and Accessories, (excludes DJ/professional audio equipment)7%
Motor Parts & Accessories8%
Automotive Tools & Supplies8%
All Other Categories9%

There are also sometimes special fees for doing special things to promote a listing, like putting up more pictures of the item or listing it in more than one category or national eBay site at once. For a full list of fees and applicable items, listing numbers, or actions, see this help page on eBay.

Anyway, that’s a quick overview of the fees that eBay charges in order to make money!