Can You Make Money Selling Old Stuff?

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I have a story to share about why we stopped selling on ebay. It’s because we were scammed out of $500+ in merchandise from two dishonest buyers. These were new items, not “old stuff” but I want to share so you know there are risks.

We sold two brand new helmets within weeks of each other to two different addresses. The buyers both filed claims asking for their money back. They said we sent them damaged, used helmets.

They sent their damaged ones back to us (telling ebay they were returning our merchandise back to us) and kept our brand new helmets. While they got their money back, we were out two helmets.

Despite disputing it, we lost. This was back in 2013. Up until then, I sold some things here and there since around 2001 without any issues. I wasn’t a hardcore seller by any means as it wasn’t my focus, but I did make some money. But after that experience, we never sold on there again.

At that time, ebay seemed to favored the buyer more than the seller. I don’t know what they do now. I’m hoping things changed for the better.

If I were to sell again, I would read all the ebay rules and see what safeguards they have in place. Maybe you can video the item and continue videoing as you box it up and hand it off to the post office, FedEx, UPS, showing the shipping label. Would that be enough evidence to prove what you sent?!

Bottom Line

Yes, you can make money selling old stuff. But it depends on what you are trying to sell. Just because something is old, doesn’t make it valuable. Even if it is valuable, it doesn’t mean there is a market for it. There also many be 20+ others just like it listed online.

Here are some variables to consider to determine if you think you can make money selling online or other places.

Can You Make Money Selling Old Stuff

I do think it was better “back in the day” when less people were selling things. However, there are more buyers now too. There definitely potential to earn money. Millions of people sell and make money doing it.

If you are new to it though, I want to you to know there are a lot of variables to consider.

What to Consider

  1. What do you want to sell?
  2. What condition is it in?
  3. Will you be selling it in person (rummage sale, garage sale, estate sale, consignment shop, etc.) or online (Craigslist, ebay, Etsy, eBid, Mercari, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUP, Poshmark, etc.)?
  4. Are you trying to sell stuff you already have?
  5. Do you plan to buy things purposely to flip them (resell them)?
  6. How much time are you willing to photograph, list, package, and ship the items?
  7. Will this be worth your time?
  8. What’s your risk tolerance?

What to Do Next

  • Look it up online: How much is it selling for? Are there 100 for sale or is there interest in it?

Consider what you want to sell, and look it up online. If you know the name of it, you can do a Google search and see what pops up.

If you aren’t sure what to call your item, you can take a picture of it, and do a reverse image search on Google. It’s really easy to do. Search “how to do an image search” on Google to learn how.

It’s likely your item will pop up and you can learn what to call it and get an idea of pricing. You can go to those online marketplaces and search around.

  • Choose the best place to list it

If you want to sell a grill or furniture, it may be best to list your item online locally or have a garage sale. If you are selling a vintage car, you may want to list it on a place that specializes in it. If you are selling clothing, many sellers list on Poshmark and ebay.

  • Take the time to list it properly

Describing and photographing your item accurately is essential. It will help reach the right buyer, and it helps protect you. Be as transparent as possible with your description and listing. You don’t want to have to deal with a bad review and/or a return because you misrepresented your item.

Things don’t always have to be in mint condition to sell. It depends what you are selling and what the flaw is.

How Much Money Can You Make

How much money you can make selling old stuff depends on what you sell and where you live. Oftentimes, as we work to purge through our belongings, we find some things are better and easier to sell locally. You will be limited to your local area. This can include larger items.

You will have to consider several things.

While people may drive a distance to purchase tractors, trailers, trucks and sheds, they won’t be as likely to drive to buy crystal, toys, or books.  Shipping costs often makes some items “not worth it” to the buyer. Factor this in before planning to sell heavier or larger items.

Know that even if some things aren’t worth your time and energy to sell, you will gain intangibles such as the freedom from less clutter and empty spaces. 

Hidden costs of old stuff

Also consider the costs storing your stuff — instead of your vehicle — inside your garage. There are costs involved in that your vehicle is left unprotected outdoors instead of being in a covered space.

The same can be said of a shed you may have on your property. Is your stuff inside the shed more valuable than what you may have outside exposed to the elements?

Also, consider the costs of storing your things. If you are paying for a storage area or a storage unit, consider getting rid of it. Donating items that you pay to store won’t make you money but you will save money from not having to pay for the storage space.

Consider donating items to a local charity shop or an organization which collects to support various organizations.

Sometimes, though, it’s easier for us to get rid of our stuff if we can sell it and earn money from it. Selling old stuff and the second-hand economy is a thriving industry. You might be familiar with how it works - selling, buying, swapping or exchanging used goods. But you might not know is how much you can actually make using it.

In the United States, the secondhand clothes market has grown 21 times faster than retail sales of new clothing, over the past three years.

People sell used goods worldwide. As of last year, the entire sub-industry was valued at $34 billion in Australia alone.

Where to Start Making Money Selling Old Stuff
Making Money Selling Old Stuff – Source: Unsplash

Where to Start Making Money Selling Old Stuff?

Let’s face it, not everything we want to buy needs to be brand new. Making due with what you have or buying secondhand are key components of slowing down and enjoying a more minimal lifestyle.

Purchasing used or second-hand goods is good for the environment plus your wallet. According to research by Gumtree Australia, 90% of Aussies have purchased a second-hand item at some stage. 62% of Australians buy something secondhand at least once a year, saving almost half the cost of what they would pay for a new item.

But what about getting rid of old stuff?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the average American home has 300,000 items. Even more, one in ten Americans rent an off-site storage unit as reported by New York Magazine.  Donating to charity is a good way to clear out your clutter and help others at the same time.

Do your research before you choose a charity and donate items the charity can actually make use of. There are certain rules and guidelines on what sort of clothes and items charities accept. Many people are not aware of this, which leads to charities being flooded with clothes they cannot process. Still, in most cases, if it’s wearable, it’s better to donate clothing than throw it away.

Per Huffington Post, the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year. In this day and age, we also can’t ignore the possibilities that the Internet provides! For most people looking to sell off second-hand items, heading online will be their first point-of-call.

According to Gumtree Australia, 88% of people prefer selling their used things online. Using various online platforms allows you to sell almost anything to anyone in the world.

second hand economy making money
second hand economy making money

You are not limited to a certain location, it doesn’t take much time and you can make some good money doing so.

Let’s Talk Numbers ~ How big is the Second-Hand Economy

Now that you know that the second-hand economy is something you should pay more attention to, let’s discuss how much you can actually make selling items you are no longer using or no longer want.  It’s estimated that around 100 million used goods were sold online in the past year.

Depending on where you live, there are trusted online marketplaces you can use. These include Ebay and Craigslist. In addition, there are forums on Facebook for local sellers.

There are specialty sites as well that focus on certain types of products. Although it’s known for homemade items, Etsy may be a place for you to sell as well. You can choose an online platform in which you mail the item. Other, more local forums, give you the chance to meet in person. 

Other good options are to generate interest in your community and host a community garage sale. You can do it as a fundraiser for a cause or everyone can keep the proceeds from what they sell. Think of all the unused things hidden in your garage or attic. 

You don’t need to be an experienced seller to make some money in the second hand economy. As the Gumtree report shows, about 1.3 million Aussies made money selling online for the first time via their platform. According to the research, in 2018 an average seller could make $1,577.

  • Millennials are the most active group on the second-hand market: 61% of them have sold something online in the past year, making on average $1,958.
  • Generation X is right behind them, as 54% of them sold used goods online with average earnings of $1,637.
  • Baby boomers are not slacking either, 51% of them participated in the second hand economy in the past 12 months, cashing in $910 on average.

What can you sell

The answer is simple - anything. The best way to go about it is to start with decluttering your space. If you need motivation, there are best selling books about creating order in your home. 

These offer tips for parting with things that don’t offer utility or joy. We all have things we don’t use, need or want.

Go through your closet, clean out your garage, check your attic.

Spring cleaning or moving house is a great opportunity to find a lot of unused items in your household. 

According to the Gumtree report, 65% of unwanted items are clothes, shoes and accessories. If they are a certain desirable brand, there will be a market for them. If you’re bored of your old clothes don’t let them sit in your closet for ages. Make some money!

If you haven’t worn it in the past 12 months, you will probably never wear it again. Sell it online, make some extra money and free up that space. The same goes for other items.

The most reported unwanted goods are books (57%), DVDs and CDs (54%), games and toys (48%), and electronic goods (47%). However, these are categories that people may not be looking to buy because they have enough already.

What sells?

  • Brand name label clothing
  • Clothes in season (winter boots in the winter, etc.)
  • Clothes in lots (bags of toddler clothing instead of separate pieces)
  • Tools and machinery
  • Vintage items
  • Garden supplies
  • Furniture, lamps
  • New, unused items
  • Coins
  • Sporting equipment
  • Collectible toys such as Lego
  • Unique artwork
  • Cars

Remember, if it looks like junk, nobody will want it. Look on popular sites such as Ebay, Etsy, Craigslists, Offer Up, and forums online specific to your neighborhood.  Remember to not be discouraged if your used items don’t fall into these categories. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

So if there’s something you don’t need anymore, there’s a good chance there is someone out there looking for it. You will also have the benefit of a clutter-free space.

If you are moving, this would be a good time to declutter. You want to make your house look the best it can when selling. What know one tells you about selling a home is that all clutter — especially in the realtor photos — matters.