Five Strategies for Shopping Secondhand on eBay

Karin Rambo of talks about five strategies for shopping secondhand on ebay

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you how Truncation is moving in a new direction, and how from now on I’ll only be shopping from ethical brands or buying items secondhand.

But even when I posted that I knew that I didn’t want to just leave it at that.

I want to take this journey with you guys and share any struggles/discoveries that I make along the way.


So. With that said, today I’m sharing something that isn’t necessarily a new discovery. It’s actually something that I have been doing long before I had ever even heard of the terms capsule wardrobe or ethical fashion.

We’re talking… eBay!

Now here’s the thing about eBay: it can be SO overwhelming.

There is so much listed that it can be really hard to sift through everything, but I have found some of the BEST gems by being a little persistent and having a clear strategy.

So To help you out, I’m giving you my top five strategies for shopping secondhand on eBay.


1.Have a Clear Vision for What you are Looking For:

eBay is not for window shopping. It’s best utilized when you know exactly what you’re looking for.

And this is why I think it’s a really good companion to a capsule wardrobe.

When doing a capsule, you have a much better idea of what you need each season and so you can go to eBay with those items in your mind.

2.Use Super Specific Keywords when Searching:

And having a specific item in your mind will make searching much easier.

As you can see in the picture below, I’m looking for white high top sneakers. Instead of just typing in “white high top sneakers”, which will bring up a thousand or more listings, you’ll need to use the advance search option.

Karin Rambo of talks about five strategies for shopping secondhand on ebay

I always select the specific category (women’s shoes) and select the size (obviously), price limit, material (if applicable), color, item location (north America), and returns accepted.

This will narrow your search down significantly and make it so much easier to search through items.

3.Only Shop from North American Sellers UNLESS Searching Vintage:

There is a very specific reason that I only search North American listings:  if I don’t select that filter, I will get a flood of listings from China.

Now, there are two reasons I don’t like shopping from the Chinese shops:

First, these shops are selling brand new items, which is the opposite of what I’m hoping to accomplish by shopping eBay.

Second, In the past I have bought things from these shops and the quality has been pretty terrible.

Only buying from North American shops will give you the ability to mostly sift through secondhand items that you know will have better quality.

Of course, it’s on you to read the descriptions and note any wear and tear that the seller notes.

The only caveat is vintage.

Obviously, vintage is always going to be secondhand and I have found some killer pieces that shipped from the UK, etc.

4.Only Shop from Sellers Who Will Return Items

I only shop from sellers who will return items.

I am just way too unwilling to waste money by shopping secondhand without seeing an item first.

95% of shops are going to be completely honest in the description about the condition of the item because it’s in their best interest (ratings are VERY important in eBay).

BUT, often the clothing you will buy will be several years old (or vintage, which can be really tricky) and sizes can be all over the place. Even when I ask for measurements, the item can still not fit well.

Just be prepared to pay your own return shipping.

5.When in Doubt, Ask Questions!

Which leads me to my last point: never be afraid to message the seller and ask questions.

Believe me, they don’t mind! As a seller myself, I would ALWAYS rather someone ask a question on the front end than have them return it.

SO! Now you know the inner secrets of having success on eBay. If you’re scared of bidding, don’t be! Try it out and see how it goes. You’ll win more auctions than you may think.

What do you think? Have you done very much shopping on eBay?

Until next time,



Hi there! My name is Karin and I am a lifestyle blogger with a focus on mindful style, clean beauty, and joy filled motherhood. I hope you find some inspiration here!

Find me on: Web



  1. February 19, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    Fabulous tips! I love shopping secondhand and I use eBay and Poshmark to procure items ethically for my capsule. I can’t afford to shop only from ethical brands right now, but I shop secondhand and then buy a few key pieces ethically.

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 7:51 pm

      That’s exactly what I do Cassandra! I would love to support more ethical brands, but it’s just not possible to do that completely right now. I just started looking around Poshmark lately and I really like that too!

  2. February 19, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    I love shopping on eBay. I usually have good luck with shoes and jeans. Last year I really wanted a pair of Sam Edelman booties that everyone was wearing, but wasn’t willing to pay $130 for them. I found a pair on eBay that had been worn twice and the lady found they were too big for her. I had already tried them on in stores so I knew my size and snagged them for $65. When I got them they looked as good as new!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      That’s so great Rebecca! That’s exactly what I love about eBay! Even before I was aware of ethical fashion, I always looked there first to see if I could find it for cheaper.

  3. February 19, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    Great tips. I have been shopping and selling on eBay for years. For the most part I have had good results and a few great surprises too!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 7:53 pm

      it really is so handy isn’t it? I have also had some pleasant surprises! Usually in the vintage category. 🙂

  4. February 19, 2016 / 5:31 pm

    Great tips! I’m so overwhelmed when it comes to eBay that I usually just avoid it but I know people who have scored some AWESOME deals that it’s definitely on my radar to utilize more often!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 7:59 pm

      I think it just takes practice. 🙂 Maybe start small and then build up your confidence! The nice thing is that eBay provides buyer protection, so you’ll never be totally in a jam.

  5. February 19, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    These are really great tips. I find Ebay pretty overwhelming, but if I go in with specifics, it’s much easier. Great to know you can filter by North American listings! Thanks!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:00 pm

      Finding out about that filter totally changed things for me! It made things so much less stressful!

  6. February 19, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Great tips!
    I shop on Ebay all the time and am super aware about how infuriating it can be if you aren’t specific!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:01 pm

      Thanks Esther! Specifics are what make it doable. 🙂

  7. February 19, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    I don’t usually shop on eBay because I can never find what I am looking for or it is hard to tell if the product photo is a stock photo pulled from online or the actual item. Will have to use these tips!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:01 pm

      If that’s what’s holding you back, definitely don’t hesitate to contact the seller! They are usually so willing to chat back and forth!

  8. February 19, 2016 / 10:38 pm

    I did a similar post like this in my series that I did. It definitely can be very overwhelming to shop on Ebay let alone online! You did a great job with this post!!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      Thanks Kelly! It can be, but it’s worth it right?

  9. February 19, 2016 / 11:13 pm

    The one thing I HATE about auctions on Ebay is that I almost ALWAYS get outbid at the final second or the auction ends at midnight and I’m just not willing to stay up to get into a bidding war. I usually look for buy it now deals…great points.

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:03 pm

      Did you know that you can tell eBay how much you’re willing to bid up to and then it will do the bidding for you? I figured that out recently and it changed everything for me!

  10. February 20, 2016 / 12:48 am

    I love shopping second hand and Ebay is one of my favorites! You can get great quality for very reasonable prices. Thanks for the tips.

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:03 pm

      You really can! And you’re welcome!

  11. February 20, 2016 / 5:07 am

    How exciting! I love that you’re taking a step outside the box and going all used clothing! More fashion bloggers should do it, it’s a amazing way to showcase some responsible fashion!!

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Thanks Bethany! I’m hoping to encourage other’s to do the same as well!

  12. February 20, 2016 / 5:41 am

    I haven’t bought anything from eBay in awhile but these are fabulous tips! I always watch out for anything coming from China including electronics or even phone cases. Terrible quality! I love the idea of only purchasing second hand clothing. I need to get better about thrifting 😉

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Yes to the quality! Not worth it! It’s definitely more of a challenge, but it’s satisfying knowing you aren’t contributing to the problem!

  13. February 20, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    1) your pup is so cute 2) these are very handy tips. I’ve shopped on eBay a couple of times for very specific items, but if I’m ever thrifting I’ll know where to go!

    Cameron Proffitt

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Haha thanks Cameron! It’s definitely a great place to thrift!

  14. Ashley
    February 20, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    I’m always browsing ebay and get a little nervous about purchasing! Definitely going to use these tips to help me decide if it is worth it!

    xo Ashley

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      Like I said above, maybe start small and then work your way up to a bigger purchase. 🙂

  15. February 21, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    Yes!! This article is awesome! Have you heard of Depop yet? It’s a mobile Ebay and it’s so quick and painless. It also FUELS my spending habit! You should check it out. Amazing secondhand things for a very low price. <3

    • Karin
      February 22, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for the tip!

  16. February 21, 2016 / 8:24 pm

    I have some friends who always find the cutest things off eBay. I’ll have to ask them if they use some of these tips – they sound great (and very smart!)

  17. Karin
    February 22, 2016 / 8:28 pm

    Thanks Chrisy! Maybe you could have one of them show you in person. That’s the best way to learn right?!

  18. Aub
    June 2, 2016 / 9:45 am

    I just recently started shopping ebay! I usually narrow my search by brand and size, and I have gotten several brand new bras for much cheaper than I would directly through the website. I have also gotten cheap professional-wear from CK and Express. I also narrow to the USA, because I don’t believe that things coming straight from China are ethically sourced, and like you I am trying to limit my impact as a consumer. It also reduces the CO2 emissions of transport! The only tip I would add is to give sellers the benefit of the doubt when you do receive something that doesn’t fit right, because they will usually work with you to make it right, rather than immediately leaving negative feedback.

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