It’s common knowledge that Amazon and eBay are the two kings of online retail. But are you really using them to their fullest potential?
You probably go to Amazon for consistency and variety, while reserving eBay for when you want to buy something as cheap as possible. Amazon, selection. eBay, price. It’s that simple, right? No, not quite! Things have changed over the years.
There’s more to “finding the best deal” than savings alone, especially with the advent of AmazonBasics. Here’s everything you need to know when shopping between the two.
What Is AmazonBasics?
In 2009, Amazon launched a line of private-brand products called AmazonBasics. This is akin to the private brands found in supermarkets and discount retailers (e.g. Target’s “Up and Up” brand or Walmart’s “Equate” brand).
After analyzing categories for top-performing products, Amazon created its own version with the AmazonBasics label. It started with a focus on basic goods like batteries, electronics accessories, and storage containers. Since then, it has expanded into hundreds of niches.
AmazonBasics aims to be the budget option of choice for online shoppers. But is it a better deal than eBay? How does the quality compare? Keep reading to find out.
As of this writing, a search for “AmazonBasics” reveals 1,237 results — impressive when you consider the brand hasn’t even been around for a decade. Amazon releases dozens of new AmazonBasics items every month, always in top-performing categories.
AmazonBasics is next to useless in new markets (e.g. smart thermostats), fast-moving industries (e.g. fashion), tight niches (e.g. pet food dispensers), and for highly-specific products (e.g. gaming consoles). Instead, AmazonBasics is best for consumables and broad niche items: pet waste bags, clothes hangers, HDMI cables, camera tripods, surge protectors, etc.
eBay is the exact opposite: no matter how niche the item you need, you’ll probably find it. Each of its hundreds of categories contains thousands of listings. eBay is particularly good for vintage and/or discontinued goods — items that retailers have no way to stock.
AmazonBasics is affordable, but not cheap. The entire line of AmazonBasics products is optimized for bang-per-buck rather than strict dollar amounts. So, while the AmazonBasics option is rarely the least expensive in a given category, it’s usually one of the best values — when compared to other budget options, of course.
For example, the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High-Security Shredder ($100) is almost twice the price of the Bonsaii DocShred 12-Sheet Shredder ($55) but significantly cheaper than the Fellowes Powershred 12-Sheet Shredder ($140).
eBay’s wider selection also means more room for price variations. For example, as of this writing, a Sentinel 12-Sheet High-Security Shredder costs $42 and an Aurora JamFree 12-Sheet Shredder costs $70 — both cheaper than AmazonBasics and available to Buy It Now.
And don’t forget that eBay has auctions, where you can buy quality products at a fraction of the cost as long as you’re patient and skilled enough to win.
Check out these search results for AmazonBasics products and you’ll notice something interesting: the vast majority of them have 4.5-star ratings. Customers love the brand, and as someone who has several AmazonBasics items, I can attest that quality is excellent.
But there is a bit of trickery going on. Just a little bit.
According to research by Skubana, it seems that Amazon discontinues AmazonBasics items if they fail to maintain a 4-star rating or better. This may feel like manipulation, but it’s actually good for consumers: if a product sucks, it should be discontinued. This policy ensures that the AmazonBasics line only consists of worthwhile options.
eBay, on the other hand, is completely hit or miss. You may find the product you want, but it’s in terrible condition. Or you may find the perfect listing for way below market value. Successful eBay experiences depend on how well you manage expectations, and a bit of luck.
And don’t forget about eBay scams! They can be serious and tough to spot.
Shipping, Packaging, and Returns
All AmazonBasics products ship in “frustration-free packaging,” which basically means the item is stuffed into an Amazon box, padded with miniature pillows, and sent on its way. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the unboxing process, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Fortunately, all AmazonBasics items qualify for two important things: free two-day shipping with Prime, and free returns whether you have Prime or not.
Packaging for eBay items is dependent on the seller. If you filter listings by New only, it’s pretty much guaranteed that items will deliver their original retail packages. Once you dip into Used listings, that goes out the window (though some may explicitly mention original packaging).
Free shipping offers aren’t uncommon on eBay, but they often default to regular speed shipping, which can take anywhere from 5-20 business days. Not all sellers accept returns, and even when they do, you’ll have to pay postage for it.
Warranties and Protections
In the U.S. and E.U., AmazonBasics items are protected by a 1-Year Limited Warranty, which covers defects in materials and workmanship (except for consumables like printer ink, for which the warranty voids as soon as it’s used). Such defects will be repaired or replaced. In the U.K., the warranty is the same but for two years.
While eBay doesn’t issue warranties, it does have a Money Back Guarantee: if your purchase doesn’t arrive or isn’t as described, eBay will refund you completely. Services and items in high-value categories (e.g. vehicles) are excluded.
For electronics, you can purchase a SquareTrade Warranty through eBay within 30 days of checkout, but not if it’s a used or second-hand device. However, you may be better off using the extended warranty protection of a credit card.
Which Retailer to Prefer: Amazon or eBay?
- If you want absolute bottom-dollar prices, eBay.
- If you have a higher tolerance for risk, eBay.
- If you need to buy niche, vintage, or discontinued items, eBay.
- If you value consistency of quality, AmazonBasics.
- If you hate shopping and want to spend as little time as possible, AmazonBasics.
- If you frequently return items, AmazonBasics.
Over the past several years, I’ve evolved from an eBay shopper to an Amazon shopper. I love the AmazonBasics line and it has yet to disappoint me. However, I still recognize the value in eBay: there will never be a time when AmazonBasics matches the variety available at eBay.
Between Amazon and eBay, which do you prefer? Have you bought AmazonBasics before? If so, how happy are you with it? Did I overlook any point? Share with us in the comments down below!