Second-hand online shopping boom: what buyers and sellers should know


Cost of living and sustainability concerns are driving a second-hand shopping boom, according to new research from eBay Ads. 

The survey of 1,000 consumers found that a quarter bought second-hand fashion in 2021, with one in five saying they frequently buy second-hand or refurbished items. 

The data company which is a partner of eBay saw searches for ‘upcycled’ rise by 40% between December 2021 and January 2022, alongside increases in related search terms like ‘second hand’ (up 24%) and ‘repair kit’ (up 21%).

This comes as ITV reality show Love Island’s latest season has begun, placing a focus on second-hand fashion through its partnership with eBay. For the past three years, Love Island was sponsored by fast-fashion chain I Saw It First. 

Here, Which? looks at what’s driving people to second-hand shopping and shares advice on the platforms to use if you’re thinking of buying or selling pre-loved items.

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What’s behind the rise of second-hand shopping?

eBay Ads found that 20% of those surveyed say they buy more second-hand goods than they did two years ago. 

Buying products second-hand can potentially address two problems. It’s often cheaper, which is crucial during the ongoing cost of living crisis. It’s also usually more sustainable, an increasingly important concern for shoppers.

With inflation at a 40-year high, customers’ budgets are being squeezed from all directions. Vehicle and fuel costs are the biggest drivers of inflation, according to the ONS, but food prices are also skyrocketing. 

You can’t buy petrol that’s already been burned or food that’s already been eaten. But you can buy clothes that have been worn and phones that have been used. So it’s a clear money-saving and money-making opportunity for cash-strapped shoppers. 

  • Find out more: 15 ways to save money on clothes and shoes

How can I make money selling online?

With ‘second hand’ searches increasing, the demand for pre-loved goods is very much there. 

Selling your own possessions could be a great way to capitalise on this and make some extra cash. Plus, it will save any wearable or repairable items going to landfill if the alternative was throwing them away. 

While eBay may still be the most well-known, there are now a number of online marketplaces to choose from if you’re looking to sell. So how do you know which one deserves your old t-shirts or games consoles?

In January, we asked 4,000 people about selling via 10 of the most popular second-hand online marketplaces. We asked questions on factors such as delivery options, ease of use and payments to find out which website was best. 

Sellers rated Vinted the highest, with the site earning a 75% customer score. Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree followed, both with 68%. eBay and Freecycle were tied third best, with 67% customer scores. 

  • Find out more: best places to buy and sell second-hand online

What are people buying second-hand?

In January we also asked 4,000 people about their experiences of buying using the most popular second-hand marketplaces.

Buyers also rated Vinted as the best place to go, with top scores for ease of contacting the seller, making an offer and searching for items.

The survey also revealed the most popular items bought using second-hand marketplaces were books (33%), clothes, accessories or shoes (27%) and games and toys (19%).

  • Find out more: how to buy second-hand online

Is selling online worth it?

We can’t say exactly how much you’ll make from selling your old items, but our survey of 4,000 sellers found the most popular items sold were clothes (32%), books (26%) furniture (21%) and games (21%).

Read our guide on how to sell second-hand online for tips on how to make it as easy as possible. 

What are my rights when shopping second-hand online?

If you’re thinking of switching to second-hand shopping – perhaps you’re inspired by the outfits you’ve seen on Love Island contestants – keep in mind your consumer rights. 


This depends on if you buy from an individual or business.

If you buy from a trader or retailer you have the same return rights when buying second-hand online as you would when shopping via a business’s website. 

When you buy from an individual (as opposed to a retailer), it’s not as straightforward.  Be aware that most sellers/marketplaces won’t have a returns policy. The exception is Amazon Marketplace where sellers must have one.

So it’s important to check who is responsible if something goes wrong – does the site offer any kind of buyer protection or dispute resolution, or are you going to be on your own?  If there is buyer protection check for time limits on making a claim and what type of purchases are eligible.


You can still claim a refund if the product you buy is faulty or not as described. You may also be able to claim your money back via Section 75 if you bought something worth between £100 and £30,000 via credit card. 

  • Find out more: what are my shopping rights on an online marketplace?


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