When you’re considering eBay versus Amazon for shopping online, the best choice isn’t always obvious. There’s a lot to consider. Everything from selection, quality of products, shopping costs and time, and customer support are all issues you need to consider.
To make this easier for you, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of shopping at eBay and Amazon so you can choose the best option before clicking that “Buy” button!
eBay vs. Amazon: Things to Consider
You can find almost anything your heart desires at either eBay or Amazon. Making the decision to shop at one site or the other boils down to the following factors.
- Do you want new or used? Does cost matter more than quality?
- Are you looking for something that’s hard to find?
- Do you know what you want, or prefer to browse instead?
- Does a personal connection with the seller matter to you?
Your answers to each of these questions will determine which site, eBay or Amazon, you should be using to buy.
Cost vs. Quality
Some people prefer getting the best deal on a specific item or brand, and may not care whether the box was opened or if the product was used once or twice. Other people care a great deal about receiving a new item in a sealed box.
As an example, let’s look at Sony’s sports earphones, the Sony MDR-AS210/B.
With an Amazon Prime membership, you won’t pay for 2-day delivery. They come to you brand new and sealed in the original factory box, practically overnight.
The eBay online shopping experience is a little different when you search for these, which turns up mixed options for both new and used:
New options are usually available at what’s called “Buy It Now” prices, which are usually a little bit higher than Amazon’s new item prices.
You may find some new items listed using the “auction” type sale at a lower price than Amazon. These are sales that multiple people can bid on in hopes of buying it at a lower price than retail. However, if you search completed listings, you’ll find most of these sell at or above Amazon prices.
If you really want items at a lower cost than retail, you need to be willing to accept a slight drop in quality.
Used Means Compromising on Quality and Shipping
This may mean an open-box item or something that was probably used once or twice already.
Usually open-boxed, refurbished, or used items are available at up to half the price of what items sell for new. This is the area where eBay historically shines. Shipping is often free here as well but at economy rates rather than 2 or 3 day shipping.
Just make sure to read the fine print. There’s a big difference between a set of earbuds in an opened package someone returned to the store and earbuds that have been used many times. Both are kind of gross, but the latter is grosser than the former.
It’s important to note that opting for a used item to save some money is also available at Amazon. They’re not as heavily promoted as new items on Amazon, but inside most new listings you’ll find a link to cheaper used options as well.
You’ll find items listed in Amazon’s used marketplace at similar prices you’d find at Amazon. And if you keep an eye out for the “Fulfillment By Amazon” option, 2- or 3-day shipping could be free if you have a Prime subscription.
So if you’re open to used items, either Amazon or eBay are equally good options.
Shopping for Hard-to-Find Items
One area where the eBay online shopping experience excels over Amazon’s is in locating obscure items that are no longer manufactured.
Years ago, when I used to work in the field of automation engineering, we had several pieces of manufacturing equipment break down. They were using old Allen-Bradley automated PLC controllers that had died. They were originally manufactured in the 1980s, and no longer offered for sale.
If you’re lucky you might find one of these items for sale in the Used Marketplace on Amazon, but on eBay, you can find many listings of these all day long.
If you’re looking for old electronics, collectibles, or antiques, then shopping eBay is a clear choice.
The Browsing Experience
Another thing that separates the Amazon online shopping experience from that of eBay is the search experience itself. If you know exactly what you want, Amazon’s the place to go and get it quickly.
On the other hand, the eBay online shopping process is tailored toward shoppers who like to browse through items, looking for special gems to buy. It’s far more segmented into specific categories. All you need to do is hover over any of the main menu items to see how many sub-areas there are.
As you drill down into those top-level categories, you’ll see many more categories on the left. Using these lets you browse down into areas you have the most interest in.
Once you identify the category you want to browse, you could spend hours just sifting through all of the unusual and unique items listed there.
There are also lots of advanced search features available on eBay to further hone down your list.
Even though eBay is trying to compete with Amazon in terms of new item offerings that provide free shipping and similar conveniences, this used item browsing experience has always been what makes eBay so popular.
It’s very much like walking through the world’s largest yard sale, and sifting through everything to find exactly what you need, but may not realize it yet. It’s also what makes eBay so wonderfully addictive.
Connecting With the Seller
The last factor you’ll want to take into account when deciding between eBay vs Amazon is whether knowing, or communicating with, the seller of that item matters.
On eBay, you’re far more likely to locate items that were used a few times (or more), that someone decided to sell right out of their own home. Photos aren’t usually professionally done, but they are of the actual item you’re buying. Not just some box plucked out of a warehouse.
You also have an opportunity to message the seller and ask very specific questions about the item.
If you want to, you could also send the seller a “Best Offer” to see if they’d be willing to just sell it to you immediately when you’re willing to pay a little bit more than the current asking or bid price.
This aspect of eBay gives it more of a community feel. You’re connecting with a real person, not some corporation. You know exactly what you’re getting, and the history about it as well.
If connecting with the seller is important to you, then eBay is your best bet. However, if you’re just looking to buy something new off the shelf and really don’t care who’s shipping it to you, then Amazon is the place to shop.
eBay vs. Amazon: Make Your Choice!
To sum up, if the following factors are most important to you, then you’re better off with the eBay online shopping experience:
- Willing to accept a few imperfections for a much lower price
- Not really concerned with fast shipping so long as you can save money
- You need to buy something that’s out-of-stock or not manufactured anymore
- Enjoy browsing and discovering unique items
- You enjoy a more community feel and relationship with the seller
If the following factors are critical for you, then you should go to Amazon to make your purchases:
- Prefer receiving items new-in-box and are willing to pay a little more for that
- Would like to get your purchased item quickly
- The item you’re buying is available in most stores but you’d like to find the best deal
- Don’t really want to waste time searching for your item
Ultimately, there is no winner in this race. It really boils down to what kind of online shopping experience you prefer. This is different for everyone, so consider all the factors above when making your choice. And don’t forget to explore our Amazon shopping guide and our online shopping guide!