What is a Reserve Price on eBay?

eBay, the world-renowned online auction and shopping website, is home to millions of listings.

With a diverse array of products, it provides a platform for both buyers and sellers to interact in a competitive marketplace.

One of the intriguing features of this platform is the concept of a “reserve price.” This price often leaves many scratching their heads, especially newcomers to the site.

So, what is a reserve price on eBay? Let’s delve deep into the topic and provide a clear understanding.

The Basics: What is a Reserve Price on eBay?

A reserve price on eBay refers to the minimum price set by a seller that they are willing to accept for an item.

This ensures that their item won’t be sold for anything less than this predetermined amount.

If the auction concludes without reaching the reserve price, the item remains unsold.

  • Purpose: Sellers often employ reserve prices as a safety net. This ensures that their valuable items don’t get sold for a lower value than intended, especially when they believe the item holds significant worth.
  • Visibility: Importantly, while bidders can see whether an item has a reserve price, they cannot view the exact amount. They will only know if they’ve met the reserve price or not.

Why Sellers Use a Reserve Price

There are various reasons why a seller might opt for a reserve price on eBay:

  1. Valuable Items: For items of significant value, setting a reserve price can protect the seller from incurring a loss. It ensures that they get a fair price for their product.
  2. Market Testing: Some sellers may be unsure about the exact worth of their item in the current market. By setting a reserve price, they can gauge the interest and value without committing to a sale at a potentially lower price.
  3. Psychological Tactic: A reserve price can create an element of mystery and can stimulate competitive bidding. When bidders see an item hasn’t met its reserve, they might be prompted to bid higher.

Pros and Cons of Using a Reserve Price

Like any feature, using a reserve price on eBay has its upsides and downsides.


  • Protects Sellers: As previously mentioned, sellers can ensure that their items aren’t sold for less than they’re worth.
  • Stimulates Interest: The allure of a reserve can, at times, spur increased bidding and excitement.


  • Potential Deterrent for Buyers: Some buyers can be put off by a reserve price, especially if they believe the seller’s expectations are unrealistic.
  • Additional Fees: eBay charges sellers a fee for using a reserve price. Depending on the item’s value and the set reserve, this could either be a flat fee or a percentage.

Setting and Changing a Reserve Price

When listing an item, sellers have the option to set a reserve price. This can be done in the ‘Selling Format’ section of the listing process.

  • Changing the Reserve: Sellers have the flexibility to lower their reserve price (but not increase it) during the auction if they wish.
  • End of Auction: If the auction ends without reaching the reserve price, sellers have the option to send a Second Chance Offer to the highest bidder or relist the item.


Understanding what is a reserve price on eBay is crucial for both sellers wanting to protect their valuable items and buyers wishing to strategize their bids effectively.

As with any feature, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

For sellers, it offers a safety blanket, and for buyers, it presents a fun challenge in the bidding war.

As the online marketplace evolves, the reserve price remains a cornerstone of eBay’s auction process.

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Edward brings years of experience in a variety of different fields including online marketing & No-code app development, and he's been investing in stocks and cryptocurrency since 2016. Outside of work you'll usually find him watching movies at the local cinema or playing games in the Apple Arcade.

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