Ebay vs. Craigslist vs. Reverb.com

Posted by Thoracius Appotite on Friday, February 3rd, 2017 at 09:09 PM

Throughout the years I’ve done a bunch of buying and selling musical instruments online. Buying is easy — you can just compare different sites to find the best price — but where is the best place to sell musical gear online?

Craigslist, ebay, and Reverb.com each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but from my experience there is one clear winner. I’ll talk through them here.


Craigslist is the leading online classifieds website, and it covers everything from buying and selling goods to finding a job to finding an apartment, etc. It has a category specifically for buying and selling musical instruments. The main advantage of Craigslist over the competition is that they collect no fee whatsoever — no listing fee, no transaction fee. So there’s no risk involved. There isn’t even advertising on the site. Listings expire after roughly a week, at which point you can easily relist.

Each metropolitan area has its own Craigslist, so your listings are targeted to people in your area, who will come and pick up the item and pay for it in person. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Buyers can get the item immediately, instead of having to wait (and pay) for shipping. You don’t have to deal with shipping at all.

The local nature of Craigslist is also a disadvantage. Your potential customer base is limited by the amount of people in your area. In some areas that’s minuscule. Even in Southern California, I’ve listed items at very reasonable prices that failed to sell even after relisting multiple times.

You should also obviously be very careful — demand cash on the spot in exchange for the item and be wary of scammers and other criminals. Craigslist offers no protections the other services offer.

There’s no harm in listing an item on Craigslist in addition to listing it on other sites. If it works, great. But don’t count on it. Buyers on Craigslist are on the lookout great deals. Personally low balling and haggling bug the crap out of me.


Ebay is the leading online auction marketplace. The marketplace is huge, and so you have a good chance your item will sell if it is competitively priced. You can choose to list your item for 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days. If it doesn’t sell you can relist.

You have three option for the type of listing. 1. With a normal auction you set the starting price for the auction. You can either strategically set it to a price so low it’ll lure in bidders, with the hope that they’ll bid the price up and up, or if you are more risk adverse you can list it at the minimum price you’re willing to part with the item for. 2. You can set a “reserve price” for your auction. If the bidding doesn’t exceed the price then the item doesn’t sell. 3. You can forgo the auction entirely and let buyers “buy it now” at a fixed price.

Since ebay offers so many options and listing upgrades, its fees are a bit complicated. They no longer charge to list items unless you use more than the 50+ monthly allotted insertion fee waivers. There is still a sellers fee though, which is the amount you are charged when your item sells. It is calculated as a percentage of the final sale price. You can also pay for extra features listing features, such as subtitle and image gallery. There is also the PayPal payment processing fee.

One thing to keep in mind is that though ebay’s rules prohibit buyers from returning items simply because they changed their mind, both ebay and PayPal will nonetheless side with the buyer in every dispute, no matter the evidence. They will force you to accept all returns and pay the return shipping out of your own pocket.


Since craigslist and ebay are the undisputed champions of online buying and selling, why would you bother with a small guy? I just recently used Reverb.com for the first time, and I’ve been consistently impressed!

Ebay is comprised of an endless amount of re-sellers who have no knowledge of the condition of the items they are selling. Craigslist is limited to local and consists mostly of sellers getting rid of old junk and buyers looking for great deals. Because of these issues neither is a particularly good marketplace for musical gear.

Reverb.com is a marketplace focused on musical gear. It’s well categorized. Its userbase understands and appreciates fair market value, and they’re very motivated. Listings don’t expire — they sit there until they’re sold. There is no listing fee, only a sell fee. They provide you with a discount bulk shipping label.

I decided to list three items that were collecting dust (figuratively) in my parents’ garage. A pair of original Yamaha NS-10 speakers, an Ensoniq SQ80 synthesizer, and a Danelectro Danoblaster Innuendo baritone guitar. They all sold within a week. I’d bought all of these at fantastic prices ten to fifteen years ago, but due to the nature of vintage gear I was actually able to sell them for more than I bought them for (at least if you’re not factoring in inflation). I am impressed!

Other Options

Check if there’s a Facebook group for buying and selling gear in your area.

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