Our blogger Jonty Pearce was thrilled to discover the online demand for his boating junk. Here he share his Ebay tips for negotiating a fair sale

I first met Dick Durham when he came aboard for a ‘Me and My Boat’ session, during which I jokingly referred to Aurial as ‘HMS Ebay’. It tickled his fancy and made me consider the notion more seriously. As with many owners who have taken on old boats, Aurial was much in need of upgrade and my budget was insufficient. Ebay came to the rescue, and during seven years of nautical buying and selling I learned a lot.

Researching chandlery prices for items such as electronics, sails, winches, dinghies and general spares made it clear that my wish list exceeded my fiscal capacity by a considerable margin. The obvious solution was to sell the removed unwanted items on the web auction site Ebay, thus offsetting the cost of replacement kit by a considerable amount. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the demand for my old equipment surprised me.

There are some basic ground rules that need to be followed in order to start selling or buying on Ebay. Firstly you need to register, and it also helps to set up a PayPal account linked to your personal bank account and/or credit card account. PayPal is secure and safe in my experience, and allows you both to pay for purchases as well as receive funds from sales. If you have an insufficient balance in your account, PayPal can draw funds from whichever account you nominate to cover purchases. Likewise, when (if) you want to withdraw your profits, funds can be transferred back to your bank.

Selling is not cost free – both PayPal and Ebay incur seller’s fees. An Ebay listing usually costs a small insertion fee and a charge of 10% of the final sale price. PayPal charges 3.4% plus 20p per sale, though purchases and money transfers are generally free. Ebay tots your fees up as you go and charges your nominated account monthly, and PayPal takes its cut on each sale transaction. Purchases enjoy no Ebay or PayPal charges.

Most Ebay users start with purchases. There are three options – Auction, Buy It Now, and Make Offer. It is also possible to ‘Watch’ items without entering a bid. It is all self explanatory, but there are some tips to share.

  1. Auction: bids can be entered on any item listed. The current price is shown, along with the number of bids and the end time. Details of the item are given that include whether it is new, used, or refurbished. Read the description carefully – don’t make assumptions. The starting price can range from 99p to hundreds of pounds. I will often initially put in a low bid on items that interest me which then allows me to track the item’s progress in my ‘Bidding’ folder. If I win the auction with that bid, so much the better, but all too often the price spirals away. However, if keen, I will follow the auction and place increasing bids according to my preset budget. It is all too easy to go above one’s set level in the heat of the moment – I can get quite excited. Sad, I know. If you win an item on a bid you later regret, there is no going back, so be sensible and set a realistic maximum. If I know that I will not be near my computer, iPhone, or iPad at the time of the auction’s end Ebay permits a ‘maximum bid’ and will automatically place bids for you up to your maximum. If you are then outbid, you lose the auction, but you can be reassured that Ebay does not push prices up to your maximum – only other bidders can do that. I do think that placing a ‘maximum bid’ gives other bidders a target which sometimes pushes prices higher – perhaps as not every bidder is online as auctions reach their last seconds. There is nearly always an escalation in price during the last minutes as the race to be the final and highest bidder heats up near the auction’s end time.
  2. Buy It Now options release you from the pressure of auctions. Either you want it at this price, or you don’t. I have frequently bought through Buy It Now and have always been happy with the deal.
  3. Make Offer, the final buying option, is often shown alongside Buy It Now. Indeed, all three options can be seen at the start of a listing, but as soon as an auction bid is entered, the Buy It Now and Make Offer options are usually cancelled and the item continues as auction only. Make Offer does what it says on the tin. Your offer is sent to the vendor, and may be rejected automatically if it falls below his preset level, or presented to the vendor who then has 24 hours to accept, decline, or make you a counter offer. With sensible offers reasonable savings can be made.

Once an item has been won, you need to pay for it. Some Buy It Now sales demand immediate payments, but usually there is no rush – though you get a reminder if you have not paid for a couple of days. The slower you pay the longer it will take to receive your item as nobody despatches items until payment has been made. Payment options are shown in the listing – PayPal is by far the commonest, though some ask for cash on collection, or offer cheque, transfer, or credit card payments.

Other cost issues to be aware of can be postage and customs charges. Some vendors include postage in the sale price, and some make an additional charge. It is clearly shown in the listing, but watch out for excessive postage charges – some like to profiteer. Similarly, watch out for items from abroad – customs charges may be payable and your item may be held up in customs until you have paid the fee.

As for selling, you have the choice of the same three selling options. Buy It Now gives the chance of the fastest sales – with or without a Make Offer option, though it costs a little more. I tend to choose Buy It Now for those items for which I am certain of the market price. Otherwise auctions are best, with the option of a reserve price to prevent selling way under value. There are several key tips.

  • Give an accurate and full description – demand is increased for a clearly honest advert.
  • Consider the value of the item and the cost of postage – I advise giving free postage to expensive items, and covering your costs with cheap items.
  • If an item is faulty, make it clear. If you do not know if the item works, state it – don’t risk your reputation on half truths.
  • You may be more successful selling items separately rather than grouping them together in one insertion.
  • Good pictures are essential – present your item in its best light.

Many users worry about Ebay scams. Whilst selling a car through Auto Trader I received a number of emails offering immediate purchase of the unseen vehicle with a PayPal money transfer. I gather that the car is collected and the money transfer stopped. The resulting fraud enquiry makes this sort of scam only worthwhile for valuable items, and such problems can be avoided with common sense, or by buying from vendors with a good feedback score. One fraudulent sale loses the vendor their reputation and means restarting from scratch. An element of trust is involved, and whilst I would avoid payments of thousands, transfers in the hundreds do not make fraud worthwhile.

I have been fortunate to enjoy some great deals:

  • An Aquair 100 generator, bought for £120 and sold for £650 on a sailing forum.
  • My Avon Redcrest dinghy, bought for £100 with outboard bracket, floor, oars, and spray cover before being sold separately two years later for £200 to go towards purchase of a Ebay Tinker Tramp sailing inflatable.
  • A C70 Raymarine chartplotter, Raystar 125 antenna, ST60 instruments and autopilot upgrade all partially or completely financed by sale of replaced items.
  • A spare rebuilt Bukh 36 engine for £250.
  • An Eberspacher D4 heater for £250 offset by the sale of an Eberspacher D1L for £100.

Other purchases have ranged from AIS to storm sails, always at bargain prices. I do try to support chandleries and would never research an item in a shop before buying online, but have been able to afford far more toys and equipment that I would never have managed at retail prices. Conversely, I have seen some items fetch more on Ebay second hand than new retail equivalents – I once watched mystified as bids for a pair of used Lewmar 40 winches and a Davis sextant shot past the advertised cost of new ones.

So don’t junk your old chandlery and electronics – there is always someone who needs them, and Ebay is a great way of making new kit affordable. Inevitably, the watchword must be caveat emptor, but with care ambitious nautical upgrades can be made possible. I’m glad to say that my current refit is complete, and HMS Ebay sails on renewed.


Jonty Pearce