The best online auction sites are a haven for bargains, and perfect for snapping up deals on old and new goods. Though there’s more work involved than simply online shopping, there’s nowhere better than online auction sites for finding cut-price treasures or selling your own items. We’ve compiled this guide so you can see how these sites compare when it comes to customer service and fees, so you can pick the one that suits you best.
eBay seems like the obvious choice when it comes to the best online auction sites, and with millions of users to prove its reputation, you might be wondering why you would look elsewhere. Though it’s the biggest name, it does have higher fee structures for selling items than some competitors and doesn’t have the same catalog when buying niche items, like collectibles. That’s why it’s best to consider a few sites when tracking down or selling certain items, so you know you’re getting the best deal possible.
Accessibility and excellent customer service have to be tip-top on online auction sites, as you want to know that your money is safe and your purchase is guaranteed. That’s why we’ve given indications in each of our reviews as to the different ways you can get in contact with the website just in case, as well as focusing on sites with a wide range of products. If you want more help with where to shop, then check out the best online shoe stores and the best giftcard exchange sites.
1. eBay.com: Best online auction site overall
The biggest name in online auction sites, eBay, should generally be your first port of call for selling or buying online with other users. Simply put, with over 180 million registered users and growing, your products are much more likely to sell, and you're much more likely to find what you want here.
The site is incredibly straightforward to use, too, with options for listing items internationally, a comprehensive rating system, and plenty of payment methods available. A mixture of auction-style bidding and Buy It Now options means you can always choose what works best for you, with auctions tending to lead to better deals.
This comes at a cost, though. Literally. eBay is pretty pricey when it comes to the fees it charges, and while sellers get a certain number of listings for free each month, they're still charged a commission for each sale. There are fees for many other upgraded features, too, so it can get expensive.
Still, for so many eyes on products, you can't beat eBay, and there's an excellent reason it's so popular - it's incredibly simple to use.
2. eBid.net: Best value online auction site
eBid prides itself on being a cheap way to list items. It's always free to list with no limit, and the maximum sales fee is 5%. Even better, if you plan on using it frequently, you can sign up for a lifetime seller's plan and benefit from even more bonuses like free photos and no final value fees, amongst others, to save money in the long term.
It's a useful option if you plan on selling a lot, but you'll need to be a little cautious. That's because eBid has significantly fewer users than eBay. It's active across the world but only has around 3 million registered users, which can make a difference to your sales chances.
On the other hand, it does mean that users browsing your items may be more tempted with less competition to entice them away. Despite the smaller userbase, eBid is a tempting option if you want to get away from eBay's overwhelming nature and the expensive fees thanks to its fee system and easy to use interface.
3. Webstore.com: Best for rare finds
Webstore does things differently from the competition because it's entirely donation-supported, meaning there are no fees to pay. Unusually, it also allows users to buy some items without signing up for an account, although this is down to the seller's discretion. This combination of features means that Webstore is quite popular amongst those listing unusual or rare items, and it's certainly charming in its quirkiness.
However, it also means you don't have much come back if there's a problem. Support is basic and via email (or physical mail!), and there's no resolution center with issues having to be resolved between buyer and seller. The website is also appallingly designed by modern standards, but it is functional at least.
That may sound like a lot of negatives, but you'll be surprised at the quirky things you can find here, making it a more attractive proposition than you'd expect. You might not use it as religiously as eBay, but it's surprising what you can come across with an occasional browse.
4. Bonanza.com: Best for extra features
With enthusiasm for the unusual, Bonanza almost seems like Etsy with categories that capture a sentiment as much as it does a product type. That could make it a perfect place for gift ideas as well as for selling. Bonanza appreciates it's up against it with competition as you can easily copy your items across from eBay, Amazon, and Etsy, as well as use its well-designed photo editor to correct images on the site itself.
Predictably then, the big issue here is that not many people use Bonanza, so you won't get the reach you would with more significant sites. It also has quite limited support with email only or live chat if you're willing to pay more.
On the plus side, fees are relatively well priced, and you can choose to sign up for a professional account to boost your credibility.
Bonanza has some neat ideas that make you want to use it more often. It just needs more users to be a must-visit site.
5. Auction Zip - Best traditional online auction site
If you love the thrill of standing in an auction hall and making a 'proper' bid, then Auction Zip is for you. It captures that same spirit, allowing you to bid in real-time for various items. Those items are quite unusual a lot of the time, which can make things more appealing. It's simple to use, and you can pay through the usual methods, potentially bagging yourself an eccentric result.
However, those same advantages are Auction Zip's disadvantages. It's a fascinating site, but some of the items are a little too strange, and it's not always convenient to need to be available for the bidding process.
We can't help but admire the ambition here, though, and purely as something to browse through and occasionally take a shot on, Auction Zip is far more gripping than larger sites. It's almost addictive watching the bidding unfold. Just look out for its limited customer support, which could cause issues.
How we researched the best online auction sites
We browsed each online auction site and checked multiple different factors. That includes how easy they were to look through as a guest, along with how simple the sign-up process was and how quickly you could get started. We also searched for a mixture of common and unusual items to see the breadth of what each online auction site offered.
We also researched the fee structure for each site extensively and consulted how simple it was to get in touch with the site if an issue arose. Finally, we looked at how users could resolve issues between buyer and seller if any occurred.
How much does it cost to sell on an online auction site?
Online auction sites have many ways of eating into the bottom line of your sales. Here are the most common fees you need to consider:
- Subscription fees can range between $2 and $299 per month. The fees depend on how much you sell and what seller tools you want to incorporate in your store.
- Seller verification fees are often free but can sometimes cost between $10 and $29. Some sites require monthly payments to maintain the verification.
- Final value fees are the percentage each auction site takes from every sale you make. These percentages range between 0.75 and 10 percent and vary depending on how much the final bid is. Sites like eBay and eBid have flat rates that stay consistent with each sale.
What’s the difference between a listing and a Web Store?
A single item that you list in an auction is a listing. A listing has a description of the product, a suggested selling price and photos. Unfortunately, most sites will only let you list a certain number of items for free before charging you for each listing. If you want to avoid this fee and have many items to sell, look into opening a web store.
A web store lets you pay a monthly subscription for lower listing fees and fewer fees overall. Buyers can browse all your listings in one place, instead of finding you by searching for the individual items.
Are online auctions safe?
Auction fraud usually occurs when a seller doesn’t ship a purchased item. It can also happen when you accidentally purchase black-market goods and are subject to numerous hidden fees. It’s important to research any seller you’re buying from. Be cautious of sellers outside your country or any who ask that you mail payments to a P.O. box.
If you make a purchase on an auction site, be sure to pay with a credit card or another payment option where you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the items. Don’t mail a check and never send cash.