How Much Does it Cost to Sell an Item on eBay? - dummies

How Much Does it Cost to Sell an Item on eBay?

By Marsha Collier

It doesn’t seem much to list an item on eBay, plus pay a small Final Value Fee. A few cents also go to PayPal. One by one, these minute amounts tend to breeze by even experienced sellers. You don’t really see your eBay fees, because they’re not directly deducted from your sales. eBay bills you at the end of the month. It’s easy to lose track of your costs.

[Credit: ©]
Credit: ©

All those nickels, dimes, and quarters add up. The hundreds (thousands?) of people who are selling items on the site for $1 can’t be making much of a profit — not even enough for a pack of gum! To avoid this low-profit trap, you must be keenly aware of every penny you spend on listing fees, Final Value Fees, listing options, and PayPal fees.

Becoming complacent and blithely ignoring your eBay costs as you list items for sale can be easy to do. As a person in business for yourself, you must take into account outgoing expenses as well as incoming revenues.

The cost of your initial listing (does your time to write and photograph not have a cost?) is just the beginning of your advertising budget for that item. You have to factor in the cost of all the listing options and features you use as well. After all that, you also pay a Final Value Fee to eBay after the item sells.

Insertion (listing) fees

If you don’t have an eBay store, you are entitled to 50 free listings per calendar month (beginning at 12:00:00am Pacific Time on the first day of each month and ending at 11:59:59 pm Pacific Time on the last day of the month). That means the listings are free of insertion fees. After that, the fee is a straightforward $.30 per listing, whether it’s a fixed-price listing or an auction.

Adding extra listing features adds more to the listing fee. For example, when you place a reserve on an auction, you’re charged an insertion listing upgrade fee based on the amount of the reserve price.

Free listings are not available in the Real Estate, Motors: Boats, Cars & Trucks, Motorcycles, Other Vehicles & Trailers, and Powersports, and some Business & Industrial categories.

What listings count toward your free limit? See the following:

  • New listings (whether auction or fixed price)

  • Relisted items when eligible (that is, when you relist an item that didn’t sell the first time)

  • Listings ended early, or those that eBay ends early due to an eBay policy violation

  • Duplicate identical auction listings (even if one or more of those listings are removed for policy violation by eBay)

If your item doesn’t sell, you do have the option of relisting your unsuccessful item. Your relisted item will count as an additional listing for the month. Writing a better title, starting with a lower opening bid, or adding a snappier description and better pictures may help in selling the item.

Reserve-price auction fees

In a reserve-price auction, you’re able to set an undisclosed minimum price for which your item will sell, thereby giving yourself a safety net. Using a reserve-price auction protects the investment you have in an item. If, at the end of the auction, no bidder has met your undisclosed reserve price, you aren’t obligated to sell the item and the high bidder isn’t required to purchase the item.


For example, if you have a rare coin to sell, you can start the bidding at a low price to attract bidders to click your auction and read your description. If you start your bidding at too high a price, you might dissuade prospective bidders from even looking at your auction, and you won’t tempt them even to bid.

They may feel that the final selling price will be too high for their budgets. You want to get the auction fever going with lots of bidders!

Everyone on eBay is looking for a deal or a truly rare item. If you can combine the mystical force of both of these needs in one auction, you have something special. The reserve-price auction enables you to attempt — and perhaps achieve — this feat.

The reserve-price auction is a safety net for the seller but often an uncomfortable guessing game for the prospective bidder. To alleviate buyer anxiety, many sellers put reserve prices in the item description, allowing bidders to decide whether the item will fit into their bidding budgets.

Should you have a change of heart, you can lower or even remove your reserve price after you receive a bid on the item.

Placing a reserve price on one of your auctions means that the item will not sell until the bidding reaches the reserve price. When your reserve-price item does sell, you’ve sold your item at a profit. The reserve fee is based on the reserve price you set, so be sure to set the reserve high enough to cover the fee and still give you a profit.

Why not spell out the amount of your reserve price within your listing description? That way, there’s a good chance the buyers will know what they’re in for. Why not also offer free shipping in a reserve auction to take the edge off.

Starting Price ($) Fee
0.01–199.99 $2.00
200.00 and up 1% of reserve price (maximum of $50.00)

If your item doesn’t sell the first time with a low starting price and a reserve, you can always relist it at a slightly higher starting price without a reserve.