How to Buy Used Gear on eBay—the Smart, Safe Way

By Scott Gilbertson

The post-holiday season is a great time to buy used electronics. Everyone has pulled the wrapping off the latest model and they're ready to get rid of the older one. Whether you want to save things from the landfill or just want to score a deal, buying used is a great alternative.

There are deals to be found in the used market, but unfortunately, there are plenty of scams as well, and telling the difference can be difficult. We've put together this guide to help you navigate the sometimes confusing waters of buying used electronics on eBay.

If you're feeling hesitant about buying used, that's OK. Don't rush in blindly and buy the first thing that seems like a deal. It's good to do some research. And remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Still, if your budget is tight and you want the biggest bang for your buck, buying used is the way to go. Here's how to navigate it and, hopefully, come out ahead.

Know What You Want and What It's Worth

Making smart decisions on used gear starts with knowing exactly what you want, specifically the options available and how those options affect the price. For example, let's say you want to buy an iPad. One of our favorite iPads is the 2018 9.7-inch iPad (8/10 WIRED Recommends. Our first step is to find out how much this iPad costs new. It never ceases to amaze me how often I see used products listed on eBay at higher prices than the original price from the manufacturer.

Currently, the 2018 9.7-inch Apple iPad costs around $330 at Walmart. That's for the 32-gigabyte, Wi-Fi-only model. If you want more memory or cellular connectivity, the price goes up. You need to know all the prices for all the models so you can make a educated purchase.

The same goes for other types of devices. If you're looking at phones or laptops, know the specs for each configuration and make sure the items listed match what you want. Don't be afraid to message sellers and ask specific questions.

Now that you have a list of models, configuration options, and prices from Apple, it's time to do the same thing on eBay. There are other auction sites out there, but eBay is the largest and best known. That said, there are some other sites worth exploring, particularly for mobile devices. Be sure to check out our guide to selling your old phone, which has a good overview of different auction sites that specialize in phones. If you're shopping on Amazon, we also have a guide on How to Shop Safe.

Now that we know what we want, search eBay for the exact model. In this case, I would start by searching for "iPad 2018 9.7" since the year and screen size guarantees we have have the right model. You could also try "iPad 6th generation," or "iPad 2018 model" and see which has the most results.

Scott Gilbertson via Ebay

Now scroll down and check the option to only show "Sold Listings". Take the five most recent sales, add up the price and divide by five. That's the average price of your configuration; don't pay more than that under any circumstances. Also be sure to note the lowest price, that's your awesome deal. Finding the lowest price can be tricky. In this case I would sort the results by price, low to high, and then start adding search operators and get rid of results you don't want. For example, adding "-pro" will get rid of iPad pro parts, and adding "-AS-IS" will get rid of broken iPads. (If you want to hide something from your search, just put the minus sign ("-") in front of the term and eBay will ignore it.) Our results will then tell us that the average price of a used 2018 32GB Wifi iPad on eBay is roughly $180.