How to buy and sell camera gear on eBay without getting burned.
Before you do anything, go to eBay Advanced Search, check the ‘Sold’ checkbox and search for the camera / lens / whatever you want to purchase. The results will give you a good indication of the actual market value of the equipment you’re looking for, meaning you should be able to avoid paying over the odds for it.
- Auction Versus Fixed Price
Auctions are always better than fixed price sales. Items sold by auction are almost always less expensive to buy than fixed price ones. Sellers listing cameras for a fixed price usually list them for top-dollar. It’s true that most decent camera gear is now sold this way on eBay but if you’re not in a hurry, the thing you’re looking for will come up in an auction sale sooner or later. It pays (literally) to be patient.
- Check Feedback
Check the seller’s feedback carefully before buying. Less than 99.5% is a bad feedback score. If you’re splashing out on a pricy camera or lens, you want it to be in good condition. Some sellers are less than complete in their description of the item for sale. Past feedback from buyers should point to the honesty or otherwise of the seller. (There’s a separate tab for feedback as a seller and a buyer. The ‘Seller’ tab is the one you should read.)
- Compacts and Lower-End Stuff
Be especially careful when buying compact cameras or lower-end stuff: owners tend not to be keen photographers and often won’t realise their equipment has faults. Higher-end equipment tends to be owned by enthusiasts who know what their camera is supposed to do. They also, in my experience, tend to look after their hardware better than happy snappers.
- Avoiding Bidding Wars
Sometimes you will find that there’s another prospective buyer out there who wants the same item you’re bidding on. This can lead to a bidding war, where back-and-forth bids raise the price substantially. The way to avoid this is to use AuctionSniper.com. This website lets you decide how much you want to pay for your camera and it then places a bid in the last few seconds of the auction. They take 1% of the sale price as commission but it almost always saves you money in my experience.
- Check It Over
When your camera arrives in the post, open the parcel immediately and thoroughly check it over. Any faults that weren’t listed in the advert mean you need to contact the seller and ask for either a partial refund (If you want to keep it) or request a return. Always use eBay’s own messaging system when contacting sellers about faults. If you use personal email, eBay has no record of communication, which is important if you end up having to open a dispute.
- Valuation Again
As with buying, it’s a good idea to look at eBay’s Advanced Search > Sold option to find out what your gear is worth before you list it.
- Fixed Price is Better than Aucion
In my experience, you will always get more for your camera in a fixed price sale. Although some auctions raise good prices for equipment,they tend to be hit-or-miss compared to fixed price sales.
- Long Listing
The longer your item is listed for, the better your chances of raising the price you want. More potential buyers will view your camera over 30 days than 7 days.
The more photographs you can put in your ad, the better. People like to see what they’re getting for their money. I size my eBay photographs to 2000 pixels wide before submitting them. eBay will resize them but 2000 seems to be about right.
Clean your camera / lens before photographing it. Little bits of dirt and dust are usually very apparent in big images and will put buyers off. A soft cloth and some compressed air make all the difference.
Be honest in your description. If there are any mechannical or cosmetic faults, list them in your ad. Failure to do so will most likely result in a complaint from the buyer. You really don’t want to get into a dispute or receive bad feedback.
- Pack it Well
Robust boxes are a must. I prefer double-walled ones. (I once had a film holder arrive broken because I sent it in a weak box.) Scrunched-up newspaper makes good packing. Don’t leave any space in the box for your precious gear to rattle around in.
- Insure it
Royal Mail’s Special Delivery gives you free cover up to £500, plus optional cover to £10,000 for an additional fee. You could also use Parcel2Go.com and get your parcel insured there, though their insurance is quite pricey. (They are good for sending stuff overseas though.)
…and that’s about it.