Etsy vs. eBay: Factors to compare before selling
Etsy and eBay are two of the most well-known online marketplaces in the world. It’s likely you’ve bought something from them — but have you sold something with them? Each ecommerce platform has its pros and cons for sellers. We’ve put them head-to-head across five categories so you can see exactly how they stack up for your business.
eBay is the go-to place where just about anything (both new and used, but mostly new) is sold to a largely American customer base looking for well-priced and often mass-produced items. Etsy, on the other hand, is a smaller global marketplace where mostly American buyers flock for handmade items or unique vintage items — and products with creative flair.
While Etsy is a smaller platform than eBay, the site attracted 81.9 million buyers in 2020. If your potential customers value high-quality, artisanal goods, this may be the best platform for you. If building a loyal customer base is essential to your business strategy, Etsy is a good place to set up shop. Over 40% of sales are repeat sales from active buyers.
If your sights are set on U.S. customers, rest assured that Etsy attracts a largely American customer base. Etsy is the fourth most visited American ecommerce website after big giants Amazon, Walmart and eBay. Many successful Etsy sellers have turned their Etsy shops into full-time jobs.
In comparison to Etsy, eBay is a behemoth marketplace. As of 2021, eBay was the second-largest market in the United States. It had 159 million customers worldwide. Customers on eBay are after pretty much anything — secondhand, wholesale or brand new. It’s worth noting that the majority of sellers sell new, mass-produced products.
What you choose to sell on eBay will ultimately determine your level of success there. Top selling categories include cell phones and other electronic goods. Other popular categories include clothing and jewelry.
Eighty percent of goods sold on eBay are new — but don’t jump to any conclusions about eBay being an unsuitable platform for selling used items, as 39.8% of used items sell.
Both online stores go out of their way to make shipping easy for sellers, but it’s important to note that if you decide to sell on eBay, you may feel obligated to offer free shipping in order to compete with other sellers. Both eBay and Etsy offer sellers handy shipping tools and resources to make managing shipments easier. The tools and resources vary from platform to platform.
Shipping with Etsy is worthwhile. It’s cheaper than shipping directly with most carriers because Etsy offers sellers discounted postage labels (for carriers like USPS, FedEx, and Canada Post).
Much like eBay, Etsy offers its own handy tools and capabilities that make shipping easier for sellers; calculated postage make determining shipping cost easy; convenient shipment tracking so you can feel in control; the ability to create, edit, and bulk edit delivery profiles to automate shipping; and assistance with customs forms, so crossing borders is a breeze.
Etsy is not designed for dropshipping, as you cannot resell handmade goods. The seller must make all handmade goods.
On eBay, there is considerable pressure on vendors to offer free shipping in order to compete. This is at your own expense, so you need to factor it into your listing pricing. Not everyone can afford to offer free shipping, but shipping for the majority of purchases made on eBay (71%) is free.
There is additional pressure to sell low-priced items on eBay. The marketplace is known for competitive low pricing, and users can sort search results by lowest price + shipping, as illustrated below. As a result, offsetting free shipping with your listing pricing could be a challenge.
eBay makes shipping easier by providing its sellers with certain shipping tools and capabilities. They include shipping labels, which can be printed at home; free co-branded shipping supplies; a shipping calculator to estimate the cost of shipping via various carriers; the option to ship internationally; and the ability to offer buyers shipping discounts, flat rates and free shipping.
If you’re thinking of dropshipping your products, like many other eBay sellers, the eBay platform allows this.
At first glance, eBay seems more inviting for new sellers because it incentivizes them with up to 50 free listings per month. Etsy doesn’t roll out the welcome wagon in that way, but its fees are more predictable than eBay’s. Etsy always requires listing fees, but those fees are more defined and standardized than eBay’s fees — which can vary greatly, depending on a variety of factors determined by the seller. Both platforms enable users to create an online store, but Etsy’s Pattern stores are more affordable than eBay’s.
Selling fees on Etsy are better defined and more consistent than on eBay. The fees can be broken down into two sections, listing fees and listing renewal fees — Etsy listings expire after four months. Both fees are $0.20 per item. Listings are renewed automatically unless otherwise terminated via manual termination.
For listed items, no additional listing fees are charged to sellers who wish to put those listings on their Etsy Pattern store (Etsy’s personalized website tool), and sellers incur no listing fees for Pattern-only listings. Unlike standard listings, Pattern-only listings do not expire. Etsy doesn’t charge sellers to edit listings. When listings sell, sellers incur transaction fees, which are deducted from the seller’s balance (5% per sale plus any delivery and gift-wrapping charges).
Etsy sellers in good standing are eligible for Etsy Plus — a subscription that helps Etsy sellers take their stores and sales to new heights by providing their own domain name and advanced customization tools. It costs $10 USD/month and is deducted from the seller’s balance monthly.
Payment processing fees for online sales apply if you use Etsy Payments (these fees vary based on bank account location). Sellers may also incur payment account currency conversion fees to convert from USD.
If you decide to use Etsy Pattern, your site is free for the first 30 days, followed by a $15 USD/month subscription fee — much less costly than the eBay equivalent.
Sellers on eBay must pay the platform’s monthly and/or annual fees. These fees vary from seller to seller, depending on the number and type of listings they publish, the number of items they sell and any advanced listings they purchase.
eBay’s fees can be paid automatically or via one-time payments. Your eBay fees will vary dramatically if you’re a casual seller or if you have an eBay store. Stores on eBay require a subscription. The fees for an eBay store subscription are as follows:
- If paid monthly:
- Basic plan costs $27.95
- Premium plan costs $74.95
- Anchor plan costs $349.95
- If paid annually:
- Basic plan costs $21.95
- Premium plan costs $59.95
- Anchor plan costs $299.95
Listings on eBay incur Insertion Fees (listing cost) and Final Value Fees (percentage of final sale) per item — that vary based on the seller’s use of eBay (if they do or don’t have an eBay store subscription). However, if you have an eBay store, you can take advantage of up to 200 zero insertion fees for your listings.
Etsy’s and eBay’s advertising fee structures for their in-platform ad programs are very distinct. The fees for Etsy’s in-platform advertising program, Etsy Ads, are fairly standard — comparable to Google AdWords and Facebook. eBay’s advertising fee structure is based on a percentage model — one that Etsy recently adopted for its new external ads program.
Just like Facebook ads, Etsy’s advertising rates for its in-platform Etsy Ads are based on a daily budget set by the seller — their maximum daily spend. Etsy’s default minimum daily budget is just $1.00. Sellers are charged when ads are clicked, and CPCs are calculated daily and added to the payment account of the seller on the following day — which means Etsy advertisers are paying up front without any guarantees that their ads will pay off.
In February of 2020, Etsy introduced a new advertising service called Offsite Ads. It’s designed to be risk-free — Etsy users get charged a percentage (12% if the vendor makes over $10,000 USD in 12 months, 15% if under) only when they make a sale. These Offsite Ads are promoted exclusively outside of Etsy’s platform on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Bing.
eBay’s advertising rates are chosen by the seller and based on a percentage of the item’s sale price. As a result, an eBay seller knows exactly how much they will pay to advertise and sell the item from the outset.
eBay ads are lower risk than classic Etsy Ads, as the seller pays only when the item sells on eBay. Etsy Ads, Etsy’s in-platform ads, are charged per click regardless of whether the listing sells. The eBay ad rate is charged only when a buyer clicks on a promoted listing and purchases it within 30 days of the click. The fee is based on the ad rate that was in effect at the time of the first click.
Seller experience is quite different on eBay vs. Etsy when it comes to performance, tools and more. A major difference is eBay is a more competitively structured platform while Etsy is more communal.
On Etsy, a seller’s performance is less critical and is not as highly scrutinized by the platform. Customers’ opinions matter most. Etsy Reviews allows buyers to rate their experiences with Etsy purchases.
Sellers are members of an extensive maker community on Etsy. It enables sellers to offer each other support and helpful critiques through Etsy’s community forums. Etsy encourages sellers to follow their company policies and gives guidance on ways to improve their selling (like via good marketing and advertising) but doesn’t rate sellers.
You can read this post to learn how to become a top seller by scaling your Etsy business.
Seller performance matters greatly on eBay. The more hard work you put into it, the more you’ll be rewarded. Sellers should aim to create a pristine customer experience and make lots of sales in exchange for eBay’s stamp of approval — seller levels. These levels are like badges of honor that let customers know they’re in good hands — which in turn helps the seller make more sales on eBay. Seller levels (like Top Rated and Above Standard) let customers know that buying from the seller will most likely be safe and enjoyable.
To become a Top Rated Seller, you’ll need to have an eBay account that’s been active for at least 90 days; have at least 100 transactions and $1,000 in sales with global and/or U.S. buyers over the past 12 months; comply with eBay’s selling practices policy; meet the requirements for transaction defect rate, cases closed without seller resolution and late shipment rate.
eBay’s seller levels aren’t the only seals of approval on the platform. eBay customers can also provide sellers with public feedback via eBay feedback scores. These scores show potential customers what they can expect.
Seller tools: Etsy
Etsy has a more relaxed community vibe compared to eBay. This approach makes it well suited to small businesses. Sellers are encouraged to help each other succeed, and Etsy gives free practical advice to increase sales via the Etsy Seller Handbook. This digital handbook provides advice and inspiration to Etsy sellers via articles on key topics such as product photography, pricing and getting found.
In addition to the handbook, Etsy community forums offer sellers the opportunity to support each other directly, share advice and provide friendly critiques.
For the seller on the go, the Etsy app helps sellers manage their business while out and about.
Seller tools: eBay
eBay can be a highly competitive marketplace. Sellers are encouraged to scale up, expand their listings and thrive. To help them do that, eBay offers the following professional tools designed to help sellers hit and surpass their goals:
- Seller Hub: A free tool that enables sellers to enhance and streamline their business operations and increase sales.
- Selling Templates: These reusable templates help frequent eBay sellers create high-quality listings quickly and easily.
- The eBay App: The app enables sellers to sell and work with eBay’s tools on the go with ease.
- Sales Reports: These free reports for sellers are designed to help track your business, understand the main drivers of your sales and guide key business decisions.
If you’re a beginner and this looks overwhelming, don’t fret — check out this guide to learn how to start your eBay journey.
Etsy vs. eBay: Which will you choose?
Where will you choose? Will it be an eBay store or an Etsy store?
Both eBay and Etsy are outstanding online marketplaces that could potentially be a great fit for your online business. It all depends on what you intend to sell and who your potential customers are.
While Etsy is undoubtedly a more niche marketplace well suited to smaller businesses that sell handmade, creative, artistic, unique and vintage products, eBay can potentially work for any seller because of its massive reach and vast diversity of inventory. We hope this cross-comparison helps you find the right online marketplace to sell products.