Having bought and sold a fair amount amateur radio equipment on Ebay I felt I could add to some of the excellent information already out there. I lot of what I am about to detail is really a general guide to Ebay.
First of all who sells on Ebay:
- Licenced Radio Amateurs.
- Dishonest people
Most of the main ham suppliers use Ebay to advertise special offers, clearance items and used goods. Absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact, as a new Ebay purchaser this is a good place to start. Just make sure they are who they say they are - there Ebay rating is normally proof enough.
There are some small dealers that trade in components etc. The money involved in these purchases are so low that I would tend to take a risk even if the amount of feedback is low.
Licenced Radio Amateurs
Most are honest. They are normally easy to trace via the RSGB Year book or qrz.com however make sure that you are dealing with the real person. It has been known for a dishonest person to register on Ebay using a bogus call sign as their id. If there is little feedback and the item is expensive try contacting another amateur local to the seller and see if it really is the ham that is selling the rig or whatever.
Remember that the vast majority of Ebay transactions go through without problem. If the item is expensive and there is little or there is high bad feedback then treat with caution (others will). If you can collect the equipment then you may get youself a bargain as others will not bid.
Look for things that don't stack up. Somebody selling their transceiever will know a lot about it - check they are licensed ask them a technical question or two (if you don't know what to ask seek help fom another ham - most are very helpful).
Ebay is an excellent place to sell ham gear - your get an international audience for your sale. If possible start selling cheap items - buyers are more likely to take a risk with somebody with little or no feedback when the item is cheap. If you are licensed make sure that this is known and give it to any potential buyer. Describe the item honestly - photograph any cosmetic damage if you are claiming the goods to be in good condition. If you are auctioning a transceiver or other expensive item invite potential buyers to inspect the goods.
Before bidding on an expensive item find out about it. Let us take the classic FT-101 rig for example. This is an excellent rig and still reaches good prices on the seconhand-market. Searching the Internet you will find out that its mains transformer is a source of trouble if the rig has been over run. One of the main reasons for this is operators running too much power on AM.Before buying one of these I would check to see how long the current owner had used the rig for and make sure that he/she had not used it for AM or that they fully understood the issues.
Some time ago I decided to buy a Yaesu FT1000MP V Field. I checked the dealer prices and the Ebay market. What I realised was that the prices on the USA Ebay were considerably lower than the UK Ebay for this particular machine. I knew that new rigs were less expensive in the USA that in the UK however this did not explain the size of the difference. Checking the USA dealers I realised that Yaesu had dramatically dropped the USA new price. I guessed, as it turns out correctly, that Yaesu were about to replace the FT1000 as the flag-ship. I further realised that the price diffrence was so large that I could save money even if I ended up paying VAT on the import. I found a suitable machine that had a buy-it-now price. The seller had excellent feedback. He had given his call sign so I was able to check him out and found contest logs showing that he was using an FT1000. I asked the seller a few more questions, he answered honestly telling me a lot about the rig and his attitude made me feel comfortable. The whole transaction went without a hitch except that I got stung for the duty and VAT however I still made a considerable saving over the UK prices (they tumbled a few months later when Yaesu dropped the UK prices).
A much cheaper purchase was a FT209. This was described as in good condition. For a machine of this age I would expect some cosmetic damage but it to be fully functional. Although he had little feedback the price I paid was very much lower than I had expected When it arrived it was cosmetically reasonable however the memory functions were faulty as was the tone generator plus the display lamp was blown. The lamp and memory were not important but I wanted to use this for mobile so the tone was. An hour or so with the soldering iron plus a couple of minature LEDs and a couple of switches cured all the faults. The reality of the situation was that it was highly unlikely that a rig of this age had no faults so I did not believe his claims. I set my maximum bid price to what I would have expected to pay for a scrap machine. Had he been honest about the condition then I (and others) would have beleived him and placed higher bids.
Ebay is a great source for components both current and obsolete. Most of the components that I have purchased have turned out to be very good however I did receive some LEDs from one supplier that were obviously seconds.
With big purchases - use your head not your heart. Check out the seller, check out what the item is really worth and stick to your maximum bid. If you don't win this one then the chances are that another one will turn up again in the following days or weeks. For cheap items - most Ebayers value their feedback rating more than the money made off these, so why not take the risk?