Etsy vs eBay Compared: Where Should You Be Selling? [Guide]
Estimated reading time: 19 minutes.
eBay is the second most popular shopping site in the world.
But Etsy has seen up to a 7000% year-on-year increase for some of its categories.
When choosing between Etsy and eBay, it might feel like you’re picking between giants.
Well, you are.
The key to choosing your platform is to consider your product, your customers, and the goals you have for your business.
Etsy and eBay offer different opportunities - and the way you interact with them might determine just how much money you can make on each.
Quick tip before we go any further! On Etsy, you can only sell items that fall into the following categories: handmade, vintage, and craft supply. If yours don’t, Etsy isn’t an option for you.
In this guide to Etsy vs eBay:
Table of Contents
Let’s get comparing!
A Quick Background On Etsy
There are a few different stories about Etsy’s conception, but it came down to a group of friends wanting to create a new kind of ecommerce platform.
One with a focus on handmade goods.
In the early days, Etsy founders needed to go out and find those craftspeople. And they did, at markets in the Brooklyn, New York area.
The platform soon gave arts and craftspeople a place to thrive online.
Back then, almost all Etsy sellers were women. This is still largely the case today, with 97% running their businesses from home.
Rob Kalin, one of the founders of Etsy, saw its mission as “allow[ing] the makers of the world to claim authorship for what they’re making.”
He likened Etsy’s place in the world of ecommerce (and that of its sellers) to Swimmy, a character in a children’s storybook.
In this story, a band of little fish (Etsy sellers) swim together under their protective leader (Swimmy/Etsy), to avoid being eaten by the big tuna (the larger ecommerce marketplaces).
Josh Silverman, the CEO of Etsy today, has a slightly different idea of the company.
He prefers the words “unique” and “personalized” over “handmade” and “craft”. He is focused on buyers and building Etsy’s global brand.
A Quick Background On eBay
eBay is one of the original ecommerce platforms.
Conceived by Pierre Omidyar back in 1995, the very first item listed and sold was a broken laser pointer.
Mystified at how quickly the price rose on his auction-style format for this used item, Omidyar saw huge potential.
“During that first two year period, we grew 20-50% every month… It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.”
eBay was so successful in those early days that Amazon even tried to follow suit. Only a new platform itself at the time, Amazon’s version flopped, and we never heard from it again.
Back to eBay:
- In 2012, eBay sold a lunch experience with legendary financier Warren Buffett in its annual charity auction for a record $3.46 million USD.
- In 2014, a rare comic book sold for a record $3.2 million.
- In 2021, the company’s annual revenue was over $11 billion.
You might be surprised to learn that today, 80% of products sold on eBay are new. Whilst the auction format is still going strong, sellers and buyers today have more choice.
And it’s paid off. At the time of writing, eBay is second only to its contemporary Amazon in the world’s most popular ecommerce sites.
Etsy vs. eBay Today: Comparison At A Glance
You get it. Both platforms are huge, with different stories and opportunities.
But there are a couple of similarities between the two:
- Most sellers are in the US (Etsy: 31%, eBay: 28%), and,
- Most buyers use the apps on mobile devices (Etsy: 67%, eBay: 60%).
Let’s take a closer look at the size of these sites and what you’ll be joining by choosing one of them.
|Number of active buyers worldwide||82 million||150 million|
|Number of sellers worldwide||4.4 million||25 million|
|New buyers in 2020||38 million||11 million|
|Top selling product categories (subject to change monthly/yearly)||Home & Living||Electronics & Accessories|
|Number of listings||> 60 million||1.7 billion|
At a glance, we can see that eBay is far bigger than Etsy, but that doesn’t always mean better.
Etsy has grown significantly in recent years, so the demand for its product types is certainly not wavering.
The bigger platform: eBay.
The platform to grow most recently: Etsy.
Etsy vs. eBay: The Products
When choosing between Etsy and eBay, you need to look at two things: what you’re selling, and the profile of people buying on these platforms.
“Etsy is a unique marketplace. Buyers come here to purchase items that they might not find anywhere else. Everything listed for sale on Etsy must be handmade, vintage or a craft supply. Handmade items are items that are made and/or designed by you, the seller.”
Suitable for Etsy: something handmade, unique, boutique, produced on a small scale, individual, creative, and/or vintage.
eBay, on the other hand, has recently been excelling in electronics, clothing and accessories, automotive items, health and beauty, and sports and outdoors.
Data shows that eBay users are also interested in these categories: news and media, adult, games, technology, and finance.
Suitable for eBay: most product types, something mainstream, scalable, second-hand, or something that you want to auction off and cash in on the highest price.
“Whether you want to make some extra cash, clear out unwanted items from around the house, or even start a business, it’s easy to start selling on eBay.”
Best for range and choice: eBay.
Best for unique, handmade, personalized items: Etsy.
The Selling Formats
How you want to sell your products can have far-reaching implications for your business.
Etsy has one selling method:
- Fixed price - you choose how much your product costs.
eBay offers two selling methods:
- Fixed price, and,
- Auction - buyer bidding action determines your final selling price.
“eBay rose to fame on its auction-style sales. You run a traditional auction for a specified number of days. At the start of the auction, you list an opening bid, and then buyers will bid up from the opening price. When the auction comes to an end, the highest bidder wins.”
So, on eBay you can choose between auction-style selling or fixed-price selling.
If you’re selling vintage items which have some degree of rarity or collectibility, appropriate to sell on both platforms, then eBay gives you flexibility.
That competition between buyers can drive up prices without you lifting a finger.
Better for competitive prices: eBay (via the auction format).
As is pretty standard for marketplace facilitators, both platforms prohibit the sale of:
- Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.
- Dangerous items such as hazardous materials and weapons.
- Items promoting hate, and violent items.
- Illegal items of any kind.
- Internationally regulated items.
- Pornograpgy and mature content.
On top of the items that Etsy prohibits, they have a few more rules about what can and can’t be sold on the platform.
Of course, this is all to protect the integrity of Etsy as a platform for original, handmade items.
While eBay doesn’t have these requirements surrounding arts and crafts, it does have comprehensive policies covering items such as knives, funeral items, and cosmetics.
Stricter rules for its categories: Etsy.
The Plan Options
The type of plan you choose will dictate the fees you pay to each platform, how much freedom you get to customize your store, and potentially, how many listings you can have at once.
It’s a critical stage in your ecommerce journey and should be revisited as you grow.
Etsy’s three plan types
- Etsy Standard: free.
Everyone that starts an Etsy store has a free Etsy Standard plan, until they decide to upgrade.
- Etsy Plus: $10 per month.
This is an upgrade that anyone can choose at any time.
- Etsy Pattern: 30 days free, then $15 per month.
Etsy Pattern is like Etsy’s answer to Shopify.
It allows you to create a store with much more freedom and customization. Etsy powers the ecommerce side, but your site looks like your own.
eBay’s six plan types
You don’t need an eBay store to sell on the platform.
You can sell and pay-as-you-go in a sense, which is ideal for those just starting up, wanting to experiment, or just selling bits around the house.
For business owners however, aiming to sell significant volumes of product, this can add up fast. And that’s where eBay stores come in.
Please note: these costs were correct at the time of writing but are subject to change.
- No package at all: pay insertion fees as you go.
Best to start-up or just sell the odd item.
- Starter store package: $4.95 per month.
Best for sellers offering a handful of products.
250 free fixed price or auction style listings.
- Basic store package: $21.95 per month.
1000 free fixed price listings, plus 250 free auction style listings.
- Premium store package: $59.95 per month.
10,000 free fixed price listings, plus 500 free auction style listings.
- Anchor store package: $299.95 per month.
Best for high-volume sellers with an extensive product catalog who would also benefit from customer support.
25,000 free fixed price listings, plus 1000 free auction style listings.
- Enterprise store package: $2999.95 per month.
Best for enterprise sellers who also have an extensive product catalog and wish to take advantage of customer support.
100,000 free fixed price listings, plus 2500 free auction style listings.
More options: eBay.
More customizable: Etsy (Pattern).
Cheaper: This depends on your products, volumes, and selling formats.
Both platforms charge you to use them.
There are some similarities in the types of fees, usually consisting of listing/insertion fees, transaction/final value fees, and payment processing fees on each.
Here’s an overview of some of the main fees on each platform.
Please note: These are subject to change. Always ensure you check the platform itself for the latest rates.
|Name of fee||When it’s charged||How much is it?|
|Listing Fee||For each item that you list for sale on Etsy.||$0.20 USD|
|Transaction Fee||Whenever you make a sale through Etsy.||5% of the price you pay for each listing, plus the amount you charge for gift wrap and delivery.|
|Advertising and Promotional Fees||When you use either Etsy Ads or Etsy Offsite Ads.||Etsy ads: You set the budget. Cost per click. Offsite ads: 15% of sale.|
|Subscription Fees||Paid monthly, if applicable.||Etsy Standard: $0 USD Etsy Plus: $10 Pattern: $15.|
|In-person Selling Fees||These will only apply if you sell in-person (e.g. at a market) and sync data with your online store. Fees vary.||Either 2.6% + 10c Or 3.5% + 15c, or 2.9% + 30c.|
|Payment Processing Fees||Charged on each transaction.||Assessed on the total amount of the sale, including tax and postage.|
|Delivery Fees||This might include Etsy labels if you purchased these.||Depends on specifications of shipping.|
|Regulatory Operating Fees||Applicable in some countries, covering “the cost of doing business” in that country.||The U.K.: 0.25%, France: 0.4%, Italy: 0.25%, Spain: 0.4%, Turkey: 1.1%.|
|Currency Conversion Fees||If Etsy accepts payments for your sales in a different currency to your store.||2.5%|
eBay has a few more fees to get your head around. Let’s take a look.
|Name of fee||When it’s charged||How much is it?|
|Subscription Fee||Monthly, if applicable.||Starter package: $4.95 per month, up to Enterprise package: $2999.95 per month.|
|Insertion Fees||When you create a listing (like a listing fee).||With the starter package, you get 250 zero insertion fee listings per month then it’s $0.35 per listing. This increases with each subscription package.|
|Final Value Fees||Charged when an item sells.||% of total sale + $0.30 per order.|
|Basic Fees for each category||Charged when an item sells.||Final value fee % + $0.30 per order.|
|Classified Ads Fees||Can be used for Business & Industrial, Specialty Services, Travel, Everything Else.||$9.95 for a 30 day listing (with no final value fees).|
|Fees for Real Estate Listings||Includes an insertion fee, notice fee, and fees for any optional upgrades you choose.||Between $70 and $300.|
|Fees for Optional Listing Upgrades||Auction style listings and other options included.||Between $0.10 and $3.|
|Additional Final Value Fees||For buying or selling outside of eBay (1), or sellers not meeting performance expectations (2).||Based on the total amount of the sale. Additional 5% of the final value fees.|
|Dispute Fee||If you are found at fault over a dispute.||$20|
|International Fee||If a buyer outside the US buys your item.||1.65% of total sale.|
|Seller Currency Conversion Charge||If eBay collects funds in a different currency to your own when you sell on an international eBay site.||3% if you’re in the US, various for other countries.|
|Shipping Label Fees||If you choose to print shipping labels directly from eBay.||Depends on your shipping specifications.|
|Promoted Listings||If you choose to advertise on eBay. Charged if a user clicks on your ad and buys within 30 days.||Choose your ad rate: between 1% and 100% of the item’s total sale price.|
Both Etsy and eBay offer advertising opportunities, for a fee.
Etsy automatically enrols you in paid advertising, meaning you can be completely hands-off and only pay a fee when it works.
eBay leaves advertising to you, allowing you to set specific criteria.
On Etsy, you can purchase Etsy Ads through the Advertising Dashboard on Shop Manager.
They display your listings prominently in places like users’ search results. In this case, the appearance of your ad is determined by search relevancy, listing quality, bids to display the listing, and sometimes likelihood of views and sales.
Etsy also has an Offsite Ads feature, which every seller is automatically enrolled in. Some sellers are able to opt out of the program while others are required to participate.
“Under the Offsite Ads program, Etsy pays all of the upfront costs of advertising on these providers [social networks and search engines]. If such advertising includes your listing, a buyer clicks on it, and then orders from your shop within 30 days of that click, you will be charged an advertising fee on these orders.”
There are also a few promotions that every Etsy seller can offer if they want to.
These are sales, coupons, and targeted offers. We go into more detail about these in our dedicated guide to Etsy advertising.
With eBay, you can select exactly what you want to promote, how, and when. It’s potentially more manual, but you can create your own strategy.
These are your options:
- Promote from within Seller Hub. This is described as a “sell it faster!” option. You can quickly promote one or more item/s.
- Promote using simple listing selection. This is more of a guided experience: first you select your preferred listings, set your ad rate, and then launch your campaign.
- Promote using bulk listing selection. This one suits consistent inventory that has low turnover rates, and involves uploading a .csv, then setting ad rate and launching your campaign.
- Promote using automated campaigns. With this, you can use filters to create your rules, and choose your ad rate strategy, before reviewing and launching. Any future listings will automatically follow these rules until/unless you specify otherwise.
If you want to read about these options in more depth, check out our guide to eBay’s promoted listings.
Think about where your audience might see your ads and how you can reach them there.
Better control of your own adverts: eBay
Better for advertising off the platform too: Etsy (arguably)
Better for sellers who want more hands-off advertisement: Etsy
Neither Etsy nor eBay have outsourced fulfilment options like Amazon FBA. (You can use Amazon FBA, even as a non-seller).
Instead, they help you fulfill your own orders through shipping label services.
“Creating an effective strategy for fulfilling and shipping orders will help you streamline the process and save valuable time. There are many tools on Etsy to help you manage shipping.”
Etsy can assist with the fulfilment of your orders by helping you set up a delivery strategy, delivery profiles, and guide you through the steps.
Etsy is also partnered with multiple post options, and you can buy and print your own shipping labels from your Etsy account.
This often works out to be less expensive than posting independently.
Is Etsy pushing free shipping on sellers?
In 2019, CEO Josh Silverman pushed for Etsy sellers to incorporate shipping costs in their selling prices, and offer free shipping at checkout.
This was in response to the consumer rise in demand for free shipping on products.
Etsy received some negative reactions from both sellers and buyers in response to this change in conditions.
Source: The Verge.
When deciding to sell on Etsy, make sure you’ve read and understood their free shipping policy. Etsy is convinced it’s what buyers want, but it needs to be worthwhile for you.
eBay encourages you to do a few things before you sell to ensure your shipping process is smooth:
- Set up your shipping options. This involves choosing how you will fulfil your orders, and which delivery carriers you want to use.
- Set your shipping rates so your buyers can know up front how much it’ll cost them. Keep in mind that 71% of eBay purchases are shipped for free, so see if this could work for you. See eBay’s shipping policy.
- Work out your estimated delivery timeframes, and write your shipping message. This is the message that goes out to customers when their order is confirmed and being shipped.
- If you’re selling internationally, make sure you’ve read about eBay’s Global Shipping Program.
After you’ve sold your item/s, it’s time to print your shipping labels, pack your sold items, hand your packages to shipping carriers, track the items you’ve sold, and deal with any return requests from customers.
Best for fulfilment: Support from both platforms is similar (and limited).
Etsy and eBay both have integrated payment gateways that all new sellers are required to use.
They offer multiple payment options to buyers, and you can choose payment frequencies too.
“Etsy Payments is the main way to get paid on Etsy. With Etsy Payments, buyers can use most payment methods to purchase from your shop. You get direct deposits to your bank account.
Some shops use PayPal to get paid. Starting April 26, 2021, you will be temporarily unable to open a shop in most markets where Etsy Payments is not currently available.”
You can set up your deposit schedule and choose whether to get paid daily, weekly, or monthly with Etsy Payments.
It’s the simplest, cheapest, and default payment method for sellers.
If you want to offer payment methods to buyers that aren’t included by Etsy Payments, additional fees will apply.
eBay Managed Payments
“When you sell on eBay, you get paid directly to your bank account. Payouts are simple and secure. As a seller, you can streamline operations with access to everything you need all in one place—consolidated fees, customizable reports, refunds and returns, shipping labels, simplified protections, and if applicable, tax documentation (Form 1099Ks).”
You can get paid daily or weekly, and you can change your payout schedule in the Payments tab of Seller Hub for eBay Managed Payments.
You can always find a simplified view of your funds status in Available Funds.
More payment options: They both offer a range, you’ll need to decide which works better based on your target audience and accounting preferences.
Selling On Etsy Or eBay: How To Decide
Etsy and eBay present different challenges and perks, and handle a few aspects of selling in similar ways too (like shipping labels and payment processing).
So how do you make the final decision?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing between Etsy and eBay.
- What do I want to sell?
What kind of product do you have and which category does it best fit into? Does one platform immediately make more sense than the other?
- Who are my customers? Where are they more likely to shop?
Check out what age groups gravitate towards which platforms, and how do they engage them off-site, if at all?
- How will I sell my product?
Do you want to sell at a fixed price, or via the auction format?
- How much control do I want to have over each stage of the selling process?
Think about the flexibility that each platform offers you, and whether you want to be more hands-on or hands-off.
Hopefully these will help you choose the right route for your business. A good next step is to put a business plan together, to start your journey with confidence.
Whichever You Choose, You’ll Need Tidy Accounts
Ecommerce sellers need to be able to accurately separate and record their income and expenses.
But the standard practice from platforms like Etsy and eBay is to deposit one lump sum into your bank account and leave it up to you to reconcile it when you need to.
If that sounds a bit daunting - or perhaps all too familiar - we’re here to help. Regardless of whether you choose Etsy or eBay, A2X can help you solve your accounting problems.
A2X is a connector app that breaks down those single deposits for you, line by line, in neat journal summaries posted to your accounting software.
It also splits transactions that span months and organizes your books via the industry-standard accrual method of accounting for professional accounts.
Not only does this save hours (or days) of your time, it also makes it easier to forecast business expenses, so you can make sure that your ecommerce store is profitable.
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