Buying and Selling Used Cell Phones: Ebay Versus Craigslist

Two of the most popular used cell phone markets are eBay and Craigslist. Both are extremely useful websites because they have millions of users buying and selling phones everyday. However, while both marketplaces have their advantages, they also have their disadvantages. I have sold hundreds of items on both eBay and Craigslist, including a handful of cell phones, and I’m going to provide you with all of the ins and outs of both marketplaces.

Ebay vs Craigslist

Convenience – Quick And Easy Is Best

There are a few factors to consider when comparing how convenient one marketplace is compared to another. First, let’s start with becoming a registered user. To buy or sell a phone on eBay, you will have to register for a user account. You’ll have to submit your contact information, choose a user ID and password, verify that you’re at least 18 years old, and then agree to the user agreement and privacy policy. If you’re selling on eBay, you’ll have to also create a PayPal account so you can accept online payments. On the other hand, Craigslist simply requires an email address to list an item for sale. All communication between the buyer and sell on Craigslist is through email so neither party will be required to register. However, if you do want to create a Craigslist account, which is completely optional, you will have access to a control panel where you can publish new ads, edit current listings or re-post expired ones. Craigslist also saves basic user information such as email address and default geographic location. Without a Craigslist account, there is no way to manage a post except through a link in an email that you receive whenever you post as an unregistered user. If that email gets lost or if you lose access to that email address, you will not be able to modify your post. Since I use both eBay and Craigslist multiple times a year, I have accounts with both websites. If you are only selling a phone once and don’t plan on selling anything ever again, registering for an account may or may not be convenient for you. Craigslist will hide your email address from buyers, although you still may get some spam messages and low ball offers.

Ebay Registration

If you’re selling a phone, you’ll have to manage the delivery to the buyer. If you’re selling on eBay, you’ll have to ship the phone after you receive payment. This will require printing an order receipt from the eBay seller tools, buying a box, and safely packing the phone inside the box. Then you will have to bring the box to the USPS, UPS, or FedEx store. If you want to pay a little more, you can have UPS or FedEx pack the box for you. It’s nice that selling phones is easier than selling larger items because it doesn’t require dragging a heavy box down to the local post office. As the buyer in an eBay transaction, it is a little bit easier because you simply have to wait for the package to arrive to your mailbox. When selling on Craigslist, you will have to agree with the buyer on a local place to meet and exchange the phone in person.

When selling your phone, time is of essence. As I said in other articles, phones depreciate, so the sooner you can sell your phone, the more money you will get for it, Additionally, if you’re like me, you’ll be anxious to get the cash sooner rather than later. You’ll have to remember, supply and demand play a big part in how fast your phone will sell. If you have a newer more popular phone, you will find a buyer faster. If you sell your phone on eBay with the “But It Now” fixed price option, you will have to wait until a buyer chooses to buy your phone. If you choose to sell on eBay as an auction, you still will have to wait until the end of the allotted time which is usually seven days. On Craigslist, there is only a fixed price option. So when you list your phone, if you don’t immediately receive offers, you’ll have to reduce the price or accept lower offers. A speedy sale is also important for a buyer. If someone loses or breaks their cell phone, they are going to want a replacement as soon as possible. Therefore, on eBay they will have to wait for an auction to end and for the phone to ship. On Craigslist, there is less of a wait time for a buyer as they can arrange for a sooner time to meet with the seller to make the exchange.

Riskiness – Better Safe Than Sorry

There are always precautions to take when buying from or selling to someone you don’t know. In some way or another, the item being sold is going to have to transfer from the seller’s hands to the buyer’s. With Craigslist, after a buyer and seller agree on a price, they will have to designate a time and place to meet to swap cash for the cell phone. I always recommend meeting in a public place such as a hotel lobby, fast food chain, or a shopping mall. However, there are still scammers and criminals out there to be careful of. You’ll also have to deal with people not showing up to the meeting place or cancelling at the last minute. It’s best to bring a friend with you when meeting someone, and avoid any emails you receive that seem strange and shady. Also, don’t agree to accept mail order checks in exchange for shipping an item. When using Craigslist, always meet in person for the exchange and only accept cash. With eBay, luckily you don’t have to meet in person. The seller can see the payment as been sent by the buyer through PayPal, and the buyer can see when the item was shipped through tracking.

When using eBay or Craigslist, you’ll be making transactions with complete strangers. There will be buyers and sellers that you have never met and don’t know anything about. Thankfully, eBay has a feedback system in place. Every registered user on eBay has a feedback score that is calculated from all of their previous transactions. If you are buying a cell phone on eBay, I recommenced you only buy from a user that has a high percentage of positive feedback from a large amount of previous transactions. As a seller, you can cancel any bids that are made by users that  don’t have any feedback. Just make sure to say in your listing that you only accept bids from users who have a feedback history. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn’t have any type of feedback, review, or rating system for users. You won’t be able to see what kind of previous transactions a buyer or seller has because Craigslist doesn’t monitor or manage these. All transactions are arranged through email so it will be up to you to use your best judgement and to filter out all the questionable messages you receive. Although some people may not be comfortable meeting strangers in person to make a cash transaction, others prefer to meet face to face.

Craigslist Listings

In the investment world,they say cash is king. Many agree that cash is also the best form of payment on marketplaces. If you are buying and selling on Craigslist, you can use cash as your form of payment. You can’t really get scammed if you accept cash as a payment unless someone gives you counterfeit money, which is very unlikely these days. Most people also prefer to have cash rather than using a third party payment system. To reduce your risk using Craigslist, make sure to only accept cash as a seller. Avoid anyone that offers you a check, money order, etc… Although these other forms of payment sounds legitimate, there are various ways that buyers can scam a seller by using a form of payment other than cash. With eBay, the primary payment method is PayPal. PayPal is a very secure money transaction that allows a buyer to send payment to a seller just by knowing their email address. You’ll have to add your bank account details to your PayPal account so you’ll be able to withdraw your funds. While an eBay user can’t fake a PayPal transaction, they can file a dispute after the transaction has been completed in an effort to get their money back. For example, after a buyer receives their cell phone in the mail, they may say it doesn’t work, or they may say they never received the phone at all. Unfortunately this is the world we live in, and buyers can lie about the quality of the transaction. While you can limit your risk by providing tracking, insurance, and delivery confirmation from the post office, there still is the chance that a buyer will have a dispute with you. If eBay and PayPal investigate the dispute and agree with the other party, then they will reimburse the buyer and the funds will be deducted from your account.

Best Monetary Value

Buyers won’t have to worry about transaction fees on either marketplace but sellers will. Craigslist is a local cash exchange so there no listing or transaction fees. Ebay does have fees which include listing, final price, as well as some extra fees. The seller will also have to pay a percentage fee for the PayPal transaction.

The best part about selling your phone on Craigslist or eBay is that you’ll get more money in return than what you’ll be offered from any of the online or in-store buyback programs. That’s because there isn’t a middle man and you are selling your device directly to the consumer. Even for a cell phone buyer, you can get a great deal if you take advantage of the search filters. I have found that there are generally higher prices for cell phones on Craigslist than there are on eBay. This is because of the demand from local markets. While you can buy a phone from any location on eBay, you can only buy from local sellers on eBay. I currently reside in Washington DC and you can sell most used phones for a better deal on Craigslist. Therefore, I recommend buying used cell phones on eBay and selling them on Craigslist to get the most bang for your buck.

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  1. Thanks for all the great info you are providing.
    I’m puzzled about something though. In this post you recommend buying from Ebay and selling on Craigslist. but in another post “How to make a living selling used cell phones” it seems like you are recommending the other way around.
    Can you comment on that? Your arguments for both made sense. I just didn’t know which way you really preferred. Thanks!

    • Hi Jeff,

      I see how this can be confusing. In the “How to making a living selling used cell phones” post, I am addressing more experience buyers and I’m only talking about flipping cell phones for cash. I have found more of a gap between prices when buying on Craigslist and selling on eBay. When you starting doing this multiples times as a side income, you’ll become more comfortable with buying on Craigslist and avoiding scams.

      However, I am addressing this article to the average consumer that isn’t very experienced or comfortable buying a used cell phone. For someone that is buying a used cell phone for their first and maybe only time as their primary everyday device, I recommend buying on eBay instead of Craigslist. While you will probably find a better deal on Craigslist, there is a higher risk of being scammed on Craigslist than eBay. Ebay and PayPal has many protection policies in place to protect you as a buyer.

      • Thanks! That clarifies things. For about a month or so I was buying phones for a company just through Craigslist, but now I’m interested in doing this independently – buying and selling so your insight is very helpful. I’m still a little bugged about Ebay fees, but I will see how it all works out.

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