Everybody knows where to go online for low prices and fast shipping on almost everything imaginable — its domain name starts with an “A”. While Amazon is ubiquitous for online shopping, there are a handful of items I’d never dream of buying anywhere else but eBay.

Most people don’t think about eBay when making everyday purchases. Today, it’s sometimes still viewed as that strange place on the internet where nerds swapped musty baseball cards in the 90’s. What you might not know is that while eBay is a good place to get hard-to-find or used items, over 60% of the stuff sold there is brand new, and over 80% is sold via “Buy It Now,” rather than through lengthy auctions.

The main reason to buy new or otherwise readily available stuff on eBay is that it can save you a ton of money, and we’re all about that. Here’s a list of seven things eBay saves us the most money on.

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1. Cords, Cables, and Adapters

I haven’t bought a single HDMI cable, USB cord, headphone jack adapter, or dongle anywhere else for over a decade. eBay just smokes the competition on price when it comes to items like this. The cool thing about cables is that it doesn’t really matter much if you’re buying cheap, generic stuff. For the most part, digital cables just do their job.

Photo of a power strip from eBay

When I recently needed a spare USB-C charging cable for my Android phone, I found that they were available domestically for about $3 (including shipping), and if I was willing to wait a month or so to get one from China, they were available for seventy-five cents! iPhone cables are available just the same.

2. Smartphones and Electronics

If you’re getting your phone from your carrier, you’re probably doing it wrong. Typically, carriers sucker people into deals where the phone is discounted or “free” if you sign a multi-year service contract with them. But secretly, the full retail price of your phone is worked into the monthly service payments from then on.

By paying for our smartphones in full on eBay, we free ourselves from these contracts, and our carrier (Verizon) actually gives us a service discount of something like $20 per month since they didn’t have to provide us with a device.

Every phone you’ve ever heard of is available on eBay both new and used, so you can start browsing for whatever you like. Personally, we don’t like buying used phones, so we usually get a model that’s about two years old brand new on eBay at a massive discount.

3. Coupons

You’ve probably never even considered buying coupons, but on eBay, it’s a big business. One of the best coupons on eBay we buy regularly is the Lowe’s 10% off coupon, which you can usually get for around $2. It will save you 10% on anything at Lowe’s, so if you’re doing a serious home improvement project, it can put several hundred dollars back in your pocket.

@tripofalifestyle Pour one out for all the times you didn’t do this 🤦‍♀️ #savedatmoney #lildicky #moneytok #frugalliving #homeowner #homeownertips #realestate #lowes ♬ Save Dat Money (Club Djs Mix) – DJ Hot Day

You don’t even have to wait for a physical coupon to be mailed to your house. A lot of eBay sellers will send a digital barcode coupon to your phone within two minutes of payment. Just make sure you read the description and check for a digital delivery option.

Other popular coupons for sale on eBay include Bed Bath & Beyond, Harbor Freight, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, and plenty of others you can just search for yourself.

4. Discounted Gift Cards

Like coupons, gift cards are probably not something you think of buying to save yourself money. But if you’re willing to sift through the listings, you’ll find eBay has gift cards discounted from face value even after shipping costs are accounted for.

At most though, this might save you 5-10%. Decent discounts are usually only available on gift cards to higher-margin businesses like Starbucks and iTunes, but if you’re a regular buyer somewhere like that, stocking up on gift cards might save you a little money. Just don’t get too excited.

If you’re the type of person who spends money more easily when there’s a gift card in your pocket, this strategy might have more of a negative effect on your finances than a positive one. So just be careful, and make sure you apply this trick with discipline.

5. Books (Especially College Textbooks)

If you like to read (or are forced to by your professor), eBay usually beats everyone else on books, both new and used. When we were in college, Lauren and I bought at least half of our textbooks on eBay because their sellers crushed Amazon’s prices on certain titles.

Photo of textbooks from eBay
Early preview editions, Chinese editions (with English contents), eastern economy editions, used copies, and just plain brand new books — I got ‘em all on eBay for less money.

As a physics major, I found a ton of brand new “international edition” textbooks, which usually have the exact same contents with a different cover, for less than half the price of their domestic counterparts. You’re not always gonna score big, but it’s worthwhile to at least check.

6. Car and Appliance Parts

When our condo’s central AC died, a local supplier wanted $450 for a new control board. I picked one up on eBay for $27 and installed it myself. The markup on specialty items like this is astronomical.

eBay also has just about every automotive part ever made, both new and used. Since we tend to buy cheaper used cars, I’m usually brave enough to attempt repairs myself or hire someone from Craigslist to do them for me rather than going to a shop, and probably half of my parts come from eBay.

7. Anything Used

As a professional photographer, you’d think I would spare no expense when it comes to camera equipment, but I actually buy nearly all of it used on eBay.

While I use Nikon’s flagship camera, I actually paid half price by buying it used. Since professional camera gear is built so well, used equipment holds up very nicely over time.

Photo of Nikon cameras from eBay
When my used Nikon D5 arrived from eBay, my old Nikon D4 got listed for sale there. It’s the circle of life!

eBay is king when it comes to used merchandise. While Amazon has used stuff available, you don’t even get to see photographs or read descriptions of the actual items you’re buying. Every eBay used item listing is custom-made.

Some Tips and Words of Advice

  • A lot of people think they’re going to get scammed on eBay. As a buyer, it is nearly impossible. The eBay Buyer Protection policy is so strong that it’s almost unfair to sellers in some cases.
  • Use the sort functions and filters heavily. For a lot of stuff, I sort for “Buy It Now” listings only so I don’t have to mess with auctions, and I also sort by bottom-line price (with shipping) from low to high a lot.
  • Check where your item is shipping from. Items from overseas will take a long time to arrive.
  • Look at seller feedback scores. The score scale is a bit strange: 99% positive is good, but 97% positive is stone-cold terrible.
  • There is a lot of cheap, generic crap on eBay. While you can’t go wrong buying a USB cable for a dollar, I recommend against buying things like generic rechargeable batteries. They just aren’t made the same.

Have fun eBaying, but remember not to get sucked into consumerism in the process. The main reason to use eBay is to get things you already needed less expensively. If you find yourself buying more stuff you don’t need as a result, remember to take a step back and reign yourself in.

— Steven

Cutting back on small expenses one by one can add up to a life-changing effect. Check out Step 2 of our Financial Roadmap for more money-saving tips.

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