Kelly Bryant | 

The Definitive Guide to Shopping and Saving on eBay

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Full disclosure: Up until recently I had only been using eBay as my solo Hail Mary play when trying to find what felt like the impossible get. For example, my kids have a knack for becoming obsessed with cartoons popular a decade ago. This makes it nearly impossible to find licensed toys for those shows in any store. But eBay? It usually comes to my rescue. (Seriously, they have a seller with Floogals stuffies, and if you're asking, 'What are Floogals?' then I've made my point.)

Except I'm not here to talk about the many times eBay has saved my rear, but rather how you can actually get eBay deals to save money. Maybe you just think of eBay as a way to make money reselling clothing and such, but the platform is actually chock full of savings hacks.

I'll cover all the basics of eBay (i.e. how not to get screwed when making purchases) and then explain the best ways to save. But first, text HACKS to 57299 for smart shopping strategies sent straight to your phone. Or download The Krazy Coupon Lady app for up-to-the-minute deals and sales.

Is eBay really safe to shop?

a computer displaying an item on ebay and someone pulling that item out of a box

Short answer: yes, eBay is safe to shop. For starters, there’s an eBay Money Back Guarantee in place to protect a large majority of the platform’s transactions. That means buyers can get their money back if an item doesn’t arrive, is faulty or damaged, or is a total mismatch from its listing. 

All of that said, it’s smart to check a seller’s rating before you bid on anything or make a flat purchase. And if an item appears too good to be true (like an in-demand tech product that retails for $699.99 but someone is selling it for $50), it probably is. So while eBay constantly monitors their space, keep an antenna up for red flags. That's key to a successful eBay transaction. 

Final sale items aren't included under the eBay Moneyback Guarantee.

If a listing is tagged as "final sale," the guarantee will not cover the item if it doesn't match what was advertised at all. With that in mind, think long and hard before you take the plunge on anything listed as "final sale" and really take the seller rating into account.

Do I need to create an eBay account to shop there?

Technically, no. But there are some exceptions. You do have to register for an eBay account if you want to:

  • Buy an item costing more than $5,000 (hello, big spender)

  • Bid on an item in an auction.

  • Sell on eBay.

However if you're purchasing something that has the 'Buy It Now' option (meaning you don't have to bid) and the item is under $5k, rock on with that 'Checkout as a guest' function. But if you want to make an account, here's how.

How to make an eBay account:

  1. Click 'Register' on the upper left corner of the eBay homepage.

  2. Provide your first and last name, email, and password. Alternatively you can proceed with either your Google, Facebook, or Apple account.

  3. Next you'll provide your mailing address and phone number to make shipments on your orders easier. Plus you'll have the option to sign up for old-fashioned USPS mail from eBay that includes coupons (more on that in a minute).

Now that the basics are out of the way, let's get to the good stuff — your eBay hacks and savings questions, answered...

Does eBay have coupons?

Yes, they actually do! And these are a great way to add more savings on applicable purchases. Keep in mind these coupons vary and can be anything from 20% off a clothing order to 15% off shoes. There's even a public link where you can find all of the active eBay coupons.

Otherwise, if you'd like alerts about coupons, you’ll have to go into your account’s ‘Communication Settings’ in order to make sure you’re receiving eBay coupons. Here’s what to do:

an ebay page with the account settings button highlighted

On the eBay homepage in the upper left hand corner click on ‘Hi [Your Name]’ and then click on ‘Account Settings’ from the dropdown menu.

the account settings page on ebay with "communication preferences" highlighted

From the Account page, click on ‘Communication Preferences,’ which will be in the last column on the right.

ebay communications preferences with ‘General email promotions’ and ‘Postal mail catalogs and promotions' checked

Once on the Communication Preferences page, scroll down to ‘Marketing Communications.’ If you check ‘General email promotions’ and ‘Postal mail catalogs and promotions,’ this gives eBay permission to send you coupons and discounts in the future.

To redeem a coupon on eBay:

When you're at checkout you will see 'Review item and shipping' up top, then below that there will be 'Gift cards, coupons, eBay Bucks'. Just enter your code there and click 'Apply.' You may only use one coupon per order.

Note: You can't use eBay coupons on auction item listings or when using the site's Best Offer or Seller Offer features. When you submit a 'Best Offer' that's telling the seller exactly how much you're willing to spend on an item, and if they accept, you purchase the item for that price and the auction is over.

Save up to 55% buying directly from brands in the eBay Brand Outlet. 

someone looking at the brand outlet on ebay

If you were today years old upon learning that major brands actually sell some products directly through eBay at super cheap prices, you are not alone. But seriously: Cuisinart, Crocs, Hey Dude — gang’s all here. 

I found a pair of Hey Dude Men's Wally Sox Micro Loafers in the eBay Brand Outlet for just $41.99 with free shipping. That same pair of shoes on Hey Dude's site was listed at $59.99. That's a 30% savings.

Now let's say a pair of Hey Dude shoes is the exact same sale price on both the brand's own website and eBay, you have to hit $50 to get free shipping on Hey Dude but anything in the eBay brand outlet ships free. That makes eBay ultimately the better deal.

A few brands that sell directly on eBay:

Aim to save at least 50% with eBay Daily Deals, which is a curated collection of their steepest discounts.

someone shopping on ebay

If you look at the very tippy top of the eBay homepage, you'll see a tab for 'Daily Deals.' Click it and you'll find all of their featured and trending deals divided up by category (laptops, gaming, fashion, etc.). If you click on a specific category, let's say sneakers, the site will take you to their top deals on those. Then, click on the box on the right that says 'Show featured items' and choose 'Price: lowest first' to get the cheapest products at the top.

I've seen products across all categories up to 85% off. Use that sorting option to bring the lowest prices up first, that way you can stop scrolling when you've hit your budget limit.

Is buying from eBay Refurbished a good deal?

someone looking at a refurbished vacuum out of a box

Here’s the thing: you can typically save up to 50% off buying an item that has been designated as an "eBay Refurbished” product. However, I’ve seen even bigger savings than that. In one instance I came across a refurbished iRobot Roomba self-emptying vacuum cleaner for just $299.99 (regularly priced at $899.99) being sold directly by iRobot on eBay. That’s a 67% discount, plus you get free shipping and a two-year warranty because it falls under the condition of “Certified - Refurbished” (more on that in a sec). 

All this to say, if you’re in the market for any electronics, from Apple Watches to household items like ceiling fans, the eBay Refurbished section is worth a look. 

How do I really know what condition the item is in?

The term “refurbished” is always a little, well, off-putting. It leaves you wondering if someone is reselling you a lemon with a glow-up. The good news is that every item with the “eBay Refurbished” label comes with either a one-year or two-year warranty serviced by Allstate (so, ya know, “you’re in good hands” — thanks, folks, don’t forget to tip your waitress). This warrantee is free of charge. You won’t incur any additional fees, it just automatically comes with your eBay Refurbished purchase. 

Now the length of that warranty depends on the item's condition, which eBay vets and puts in one of four categories: certified, excellent, very good, or good. A certified rating gets the two-year warranty. All others get a one-year warranty.

Here’s how to decipher the condition “levels."

Certified: These are refurbished products that are either coming direct from the brand that first made them, or an authorized reseller who has an official license with that brand to hawk their wares. These items should appear pristine. 

Excellent: Items in this condition category can come from third-party sellers (aka not the manufacturer or an authorized brand reseller) that eBay trusts and monitors on the reg to make sure there’s no funny business. Products should look nearly brand new without visible wear and tear.

Very Good: From the same types of third-party sellers listed under “Excellent,” but may have some minor cosmetic blemishes.

Good: Comes from a third-party seller who has been vetted by eBay, but does look like it’s had a moderate amount of previous use. 

Note: Beware of anything labeled "Seller Refurbished." It's not that this is bad, exactly, but these items just haven't been vetted by eBay. That means they don't come with the warranty and all the good stuff that make you feel safe about the purchase. "Seller refurbished" is just how an individual seller decided to label their item.

Yep, eBay Refurbished items are returnable.

Well, at least for the 30 days following your purchase. And eBay Refurbished returns are free. There are some return rules, like the product has to be in the same condition you received it, but overall you should be good to go as long as you make that return within 30 days of receipt.

Can I get free shipping on eBay?

someone looking at a package delivered on their porch

You can get free shipping on eBay, though it really varies by the item and the seller. All eBay Refurbished items ship for free, and much of what you find in the Brand Outlet ships free as well. Plus, literally everything on their eBay Deals page ships free. But individual sellers may charge shipping on a Buy It Now or auction listing.

If paying for shipping is a dealbreaker for you (I totally feel this), then use the sidebar filter to only search for items with free shipping. Here's how:

  1. Search for the item you'd like to buy.

  2. When the results populate, look to the left-hand side of the page and scroll dow until you see the tab that says 'Shipping Options.'

  3. Check the 'Free Shipping' box so that the only results that appear are the ones where shipping is gratis.

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