I grew up scavenging yard and garage sales for used Star Wars toys when I was a kid, and the allure of a good price has remained stamped upon my core. Every time I open up Gumtree or eBay, I step into my own personal Temple of Doom, replete with treasure, trinkets and booby traps.
This is intended to be a rough dungeon guide to navigating the various online used marketplaces, to compare their strengths and weaknesses, whether you’re a buyer, a seller, or both.
4WDing, like most hobbies, requires some investment. What that is becomes entirely subjective, of course, and what it costs varies wildly. You can buy an L Series Subaru and hit the beach for $1,000, or you can spend $135,000 easy for a new LandCruiser without any accessories.
All of that is beside the point here. What I want to show you is the best way to get ahead on online marketplaces, be it a deal on something you want* (*Rule #1: All wants are needs when explaining the purchase to your partner), or just a better price for something you’re selling.
Once the undisputed king of online marketplaces, particularly for used gear, antiques, cars, etc, eBay has lost a little bit of its shine recently.
Selling on eBay
For me, the biggest problem is the final value fees if you’re selling anything of real consequence. They can really eat into the cash that ends up in your pocket.
Now that eBay has parted ways with PayPal, the time, and headache, around shifting money back into your bank account is diminished, but I still find eBay expensive.
Where eBay excels is in the guaranteed sale.
Have some tyres you need to move on? They might sit on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace for months until you get the price right and the right person comes along.
On eBay, set the opening bid to $1 and in 7 days (or less) those tyres will be gone at exactly the price the market this week was willing to pay, whatever that is.
If you have something rare, though, eBay can be great. Set a high reserve price and let the world fight over it. Just remember that you’re going to pay 12.55% of whatever you get in eBay fees.
Buying on eBay
eBay rewards the patient, calm buyer.
See something you want with a low bid, bid well within what you are prepared to spend for it and wait. Don’t fight other bidders and sometimes you can get a deal.
I find eBay expensive as a buyer as a direct consequence of its seller fee structures. Sellers tend to put a premium price on eBay items to cover their losses on the back end.
Within Australia, it is rarely the best place to go looking for gear, unless that gear is rare and you’re prepared to pay through the nose to get it.
When it comes to buying through the mail, eBay is well-equipped to protect buyers if items don’t turn up, turn up broken or switched out with something else.
eBay’s seller review system is what built the platform in the first place, and still one of its greatest strengths.
Owned by eBay in Australia until earlier this year, Gumtree is a free, local market designed for people to meetup locally to trade. It’s free to use for buyers and sellers, and while it’s made for cash transactions, you can search nationally.
Selling on Gumtree
Being fixed price, Gumtree rewards sellers who price their gear accurately, and often, who are patient.
Highlighted ads can help, particularly if you’re willing to push your ad to the front page, but most ads will end up there eventually for local buyers, so spending for premium ads isn’t necessary for most sellers.
Buying on Gumtree
The early bird gets the worm. Unlike an auction-style sale on eBay, items under-priced on Gumtree can be snatched up by keen browsers who see them first. Buying on Gumtree is a race.
The biggest potential issue with Gumtree is buying through the mail. If someone just never sends what you paid for, you have little recourse, legally or through the app.
Personally, I haven’t had any issues, but it can happen.
You can see some stats on sellers who have completed multiple transactions, for some peace of mind.
Pro-Tip: Set up saved searches on Gumtree to alert you instantly when something you’re looking for is listed.
The newest kid on the block, and right now probably the biggest and fastest growing. Designed to be a local marketplace, FB Marketplace can be challenging to sell or buy beyond your postcode.
Selling on FB Marketplace
While anything on FB Marketplace can be searched for, it’s difficult for buyers to find anything interstate without doing separate searches. As a seller, the best path to success is to join groups that are relevant to what you’re selling. If it’s gear for LandCruisers, join the local LandCruiser Swap groups and what you’re selling will be a the top of their users’ lists. If it’s more miscellaneous stuff, join localised groups for your postcode or town.
You can list items on 20 groups, and it seems to make a big difference.
Knowing what your stuff is really worth is good, but FB Marketplace makes it easy to drop the price until you get a fair trade.
Buying on FB Marketplace
Having real FB accounts attached to every transaction definitely adds some trust to the platform, though it isn’t perfect. Like Gumtree, you can do trades through the post, but that does carry risk.
Joining groups is a great way to find deals first on what you’re into, but you can usually find stuff quickly within your search radius. My biggest gripe is not being able to search nationally for anything. If you want to search Australia, you have to do separate searches for every major city with a 500km radius.
The best strategy here for buyers is to find what you want and make the seller a good offer. Haggling seems baked into the FB Marketplace experience more than in some other places.
Happy hunting out there, let me know what I’ve left out here from your own experiences in the comments below, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts!