Making Extra Money – Craigslist or eBay/Amazon?


Traditionally, when you wanted to make some extra money, you’d gather your extra junk and have a garage sale. Perhaps you’d call the local newspaper and get your own classified ad. You may have even pooled resources with your neighbors around the block. But in a modern age, buying and selling items can be radically different.

Whether it is intentional “flipping”, the art idealized as “buying low and selling high”, or merely spring cleaning, the decision of which medium to sell your items can be an important one.

Even if you decide on a traditional channel or a modern marketplace, you still have to figure out the logistics and the exact platform you intend to leverage.

Here are several guiding factors you should consider:

  • Desire to sell quickly – the transaction time will vary greatly depending on the item, market, and channel and their respective demographics
  • Available space for holding inventory – especially if this amounts to a garage or closet
  • Profit margin on the item – some items have very little room for expenses in order to be worthwhile
  • Volume demanded, feasible due to budget and storage constraints – some items have good margins but net very small gains on a unit basis; they may not be worthwhile if they don’t sell often
  • Item weight, fragility, and shipping costs – these factors may impact the expenses you incur, the insurance you may need, or the distance you are willing to take the item

Bulky, heavy or poor condition items lend themselves to only being sold locally. As do items that have high sensitivity to expenses and low volume – sellers fees on marketplaces may deeply cut into your profits (eBay takes 10% in many categories).

Items with limited appeal require reaching either broad audiences (think large geographic reach) or niche fanatics that are most easily reached through a given publication, website or online or in person community.

Selling locally may be a pain due to transportation expenses and travel time due to meeting with individual buyers. Unless the item nets a good profit, it may not be worthwhile for items that require a lot of volume. Furthermore,  you may not wish to always communicate with your buyers directly (especially if it calls into question your safety, as is the case with Craigslist, at times).

Shipped items, on the other hand, can be dropped off together at a carrier after they are prepared – one drop point for all items – simplifying your logistics. They come with the inconvenience of buying shipping materials and packing time.

There is no clear winner in the online and traditional item selling battle. Take your items and your goals into consideration, and pick the choice that leaves the most money in your pocket.

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