For Seniors: How to Factor in eBay Shipping Costs

Before you think about placing a bid on an item on eBay, keep in mind that the maximum bid you place won’t be the only money you spend on an item. You need to also factor in the shipping costs, and, if applicable, sales tax.

Make sure that the amount you’re willing to spend includes these figures. If you have only $50 to spend, for example, don’t place a $50 bid on a fragile item that has to be shipped a long distance because, as the buyer, you’re the one who probably has to pay for shipping and insurance (insurance is included in the seller’s shipping charges).

Don’t abandon the sale just because you have to pay shipping. Sellers try to make shipping as affordable as possible to build sales.

  • If the item is not an odd shape, excessively large, or fragile, experienced sellers base the shipping charge on rates at the U.S. Postal Service, which is the unofficial eBay standard. Expect to pay about $5.00 for the first pound.

  • Some sellers (smartly) use First Class Mail for items that weigh less than 13 ounces after they’re packed — and sellers of media often use the slower-delivery Media Mail for their items. These shipping techniques can save you big bucks!

  • It’s routine for the seller to add a dollar or so for packing materials such as paper, bubble wrap, tape, and such. This is a fair and reasonable handling charge because the cost of these items can add up over time.

You may come across sellers trying to nickel-and-dime their way to a fortune by jacking up the prices on shipping to ridiculous proportions. If you have a question about shipping costs, ask before you bid on the item.

Before bidding on big stuff, such as a barber’s chair or a sofa, check for a statement like this one in the item description: “Buyer Pays Actual Shipping Charges.” When you see that, e-mail the seller before you bid to find out what those shipping charges would be to your home. On larger items, you may need to factor in packing and crating charges as well. The seller may also suggest a specific shipping company.

Also make sure that the seller plans on insuring your eBay purchase. eBay transactions sometimes involve two types of insurance, each of which costs money to the seller:

  • Shipping insurance: This insurance covers your item as it travels through the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, or any of the other carriers.

  • Some experienced sellers insure all their packages by buying annual policies with a company called Package In-Transit Coverage (U-PIC). Such a policy offers convenience to the seller — who doesn’t have to stand in line at the post office to get an insurance stamp. Instead, he simply logs the packages and reports on them monthly. A seller who uses this service will let you know when the item ships.

  • Buyer protection: Paying through PayPal, eBay’s electronic payment provider, provides excellent protection against all kinds of seller shenanigans. Generally your items are covered for the full purchase price.

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