Knowing what to charge for shipping and handling

How to Calculate Shipping Costs for eBay Sales

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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How to Calculate Shipping Costs for eBay Sales

I want to start selling on eBay, but I don't know how to estimate shipping costs and who to use for shipping (UPS, FedEx, USPS). I know that if my shipping and handling charge is too high, people won't bid. But, if it's too low, I could lose money. Can anyone tell me how to calculate the proper shipping costs for items I sell on eBay?

You Need a Digital Scale

I ship on eBay and Amazon. Both services as well as all major shippers like USPS, FedEx, etc. have online shipping tools that help you calculate the costs. You do need a digital scale that you can buy for about $20 or less. That way, you can weigh small envelopes as well as packages. You can get one on eBay at a good price or sometimes free with online shipping programs like

How Will You Include Shipping?

To calculate eBay shipping, you first need a good scale. There are many good, inexpensive shipping scales available. Then pack your item for shipping. Once you know the weight, you can find shipping cost calculators at the websites for USPS, FedEx and UPS. You also need to factor transportation and packing material costs into your decision.

One reason many people use USPS is that priority shipping envelopes and boxes are free. They have competitive flat rate boxes (good for heavy items). Also, USPS will pick up priority mail at no cost if you schedule the pick up a day in advance. You'll need domestic and international shipping costs if you plan to open your items for international sales.

If your items are a uniform size, you'll only need to do this once for each type of item. Otherwise, you'll need to do it more frequently.

Once you've determined your shipping cost, you have to decide how you will include this in your price. You can bill it separately as a shipping cost, or you can include it in the price of your item and advertise as free shipping. There are pros and cons to both of these choices, and it also depends on what you sell and what other competing sellers do. I've been selling books on eBay for 15 years and find it flexible and rewarding.

Add At Least 20%

When you weigh your item, add at least 20% to that weight to account for shipping and insurance costs. Ebay has a shipping tool to automatically figure shipping costs, but it can under-estimate the costs at times.

Experience Is the Best Teacher

I've been on eBay since 2001. First off, it's a good idea to invest in a mailing scale that weighs up to at least five pounds. More if you'll have larger items to mail.

For some auctions, I offer free shipping if the package will weigh a few ounces. Buyers really like this! But for heavier items, I weigh each item and add a few extra pounds to the weight. The more you sell, the better you'll get at "guesstimating" how much to add. Ebay has a place where you can put in the shipping weight of the auction item and each prospective buyer can input their zip to see how much the shipping would be. So it's really calculated for you.

The third way you can do it is "flat rate shipping" where you set the postage cost regardless of where the buyer lives. If I'm not sure what to charge, I try to find a few completed auctions of the thing I'm selling to see what those sellers charged for shipping. Then I choose a "middle" amount to set. If I see I'm getting "burned" frequently on the shipping, then I'll up my stated costs a bit.

With a little experience, you'll figure out which method works best for you.

Go with Free Shipping

However you decide what to charge for shipping, my advice is to include that in the minimum bid or BIN number and put free shipping on the listing. You'll get far more interest from buyers with free shipping than with any, even very low, listed shipping amount.

Make Your Life a Little Easier

I found that when selling on eBay, offering free shipping seemed to bring in a lot more buyers, and it saves the trouble of your having to figure out for each purchase what the added shipping costs will be or waiting to send an invoice and get paid. In addition, it makes it easier for buyers, since they know in advance exactly how much they're agreeing to spend.

To do this, figure out the most cost-effective shipping method. Use media mail for books, DVDS, etc., and either priority or first class mail for most other things. Compute how much the item (with packaging) will weigh, and the longest zip code away you're willing to ship to. This tells you the maximum cost of shipping you might incur and then price your items accordingly to include a profit.

If you ship through eBay, you do get a small discount, such as free tracking, and the tracking number is automatically posted to your buyer, making life easier as well.

No Need to "Guesstimate"

This is so easy. There's no need to "guesstimate" when you can have the exact weight and size before you list the item. First buy the $19.99 postal scale on eBay. These are amazing, accurate, and cheap.

  1. Weigh item sitting in box you will use with the packing material when you do the listing. Double box fragile items. Keep a small supply of boxes of the sizes you will use in stock. You can flatten them, so they don't take up much room.
  2. When doing the listing, merely plug in the weight and the dimensions. Tiny items that weigh 13 ounces or less plug in "first class parcel."
  3. Larger items put first mailing alternative parcel post or whatever they are calling it today. Put second mailing alternative as "priority."
  4. If the item weighs one pound ten ounces, always put "one pound 15 ounces." If three pounds two ounces, always put "three pounds 15ounces. This way, even if scale has made a mistake, you are covered.
  5. Generally USPS is the cheapest, and if you ship priority, you get free insurance.
  6. Always check the priority option! If the buyer lives within a couple of hundred miles of your location, the cost of priority is sometimes astonishingly cheap for huge boxes, cheaper than parcel post. Priority comes with some free insurance, which can make priority a better deal. For heavy, small items, you should always check the cost of flat rate priority. Sometimes this is the best deal for very heavy items.
  7. When you get paid, you plug into the eBay system the dimensions of the box and the weight, and eBay automatically prints the label.
  8. When taping the label on with clear tape, cover all of label with clear tape, so it won't run if package gets wet or tear off. Only leave the bar code uncovered, so it can be scanned.


Keeping It Fair and Honest

I always charge actual costs and only bid with sellers who do the same. To me, it's the only fair and honest method.
Kay in WV

Shipping Broken Down

When you list items with a proper and complete title, eBay will suggest shipping for you, which is usually accurate. Just be sure to weigh your item and check it against their suggested weight. In general, under 13 ounces goes USPS first class (or priority mail if you want it to be quicker), 13 ounces and over goes priority mail by weight unless you can fit it in one of their flat rate priority products (pick up some from the post office to see if your item fits), and only the very biggest and heaviest items need to go by UPS.

Utilize Wealth of Information on eBay

First, you should pretend you're mailing your item and pack it the way you would ship it (you don't need to seal it). Then weigh the package. I use a kitchen scale I bought cheaply at Walmart. Now go to eBay's Seller Information Center, which has a wealth of information for sellers. In the ship smart section about determine shipping costs, you'll find a link to a shipping calculator where you can input your weight and package size and get the cost for various shipping options. I use USPS and a flat rate for most of my shipping. I also recommend you learn to use the eBay shipping label program, which, depending on how you want to mail your package, can give you a discount on shipping.
Sandra in VA

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