Best Online Auction Websites

Buy and sell everything from real estate to watches online

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The e-commerce and online auction space is a $619.6 billion industry in the U.S. alone. Online auctions are a great place to find deals, sell your stuff, buy business equipment, or even secure your next family vacation. Other auction items include real estate, vehicles, aircraft, jewels, electronics, clothing, and even NASA Shuttle/Hubble equipment. 

We reviewed 28 different online auction websites to determine the best options available. The site should have a good reputation and have reasonable fees for both the buyer and seller. To determine a company’s reputation, we looked at real customer reviews. Here are our top picks.

The Best Online Auction Websites for 2021

Best Overall : eBay


eBay

eBay

eBay is the best overall online auction website because it’s free for buyers, both seller and buyer have protections from fraud, and you’re not restricted to just the United States. You can buy and sell on eBay from most countries.

Pros
  • Buyers and sellers from all over the world

  • It’s free for buyers

  • Offers both seller's and buyer's protection

Cons
  • Seller's fees aren’t uniform across categories

  • Final value fees can be as high as $750, depending on your category

  • Displays third-party advertisements and listings from other sellers on any eBay page—including your listing

Launched in 1995, eBay is one of the oldest and largest online auction platforms, with 185 million active users worldwide. It’s the best overall online auction website because buyers don’t pay anything to use it unless it’s an international buyer who may have a currency conversion fee. Plus, both seller and buyer have protections in the event of fraud.  

Categories on eBay include:

  • Collectibles and art
  • Electronics
  • Entertainment memorabilia
  • Fashion
  • Home and garden
  • Motors
  • Sporting goods
  • Toys and hobbies
  • Real estate
  • Tickets and travel
  • Pet supplies
  • Gift cards and coupons
  • Specialty services
  • Baby essentials

Anyone can sell on eBay, although there are restricted and prohibited categories. For example, you can’t sell lockpicking or locksmithing devices. eBay also doesn’t sell any of its own items, which means you have no competition from them as a seller. 

When selling on eBay, you can use photos and video to showcase your items. 

Seller's fees depend on your category, listing price, and final sale price. Fees include:

  • Insertion fees: For most categories, you receive up to 200 listings for free per month, then pay $0.35 per listing. 
  • Final value fees: Pay a percentage of the total sale price, which is usually less than 10% for most sellers. 
  • Listing upgrades: Take advantage of optional upgrades like international visibility, larger photos, and listing your item in multiple categories. Upgrades start at $0.01 per listing and go up to $6.50 per listing, depending on the item price.

Best for Real Estate : Auction.com


Auction.com

Auction.com

We chose Auction.com as the best real estate online auction website because users can buy bank-owned and foreclosed homes at auction prices. Some listings have bids starting at just $1, and some properties aren’t for sale yet but are likely to head to auction.

Pros
  • Many deals close within five weeks

  • Offers a mobile app

  • Access photos and local market data for each property listed

Cons
  • Properties sold as-is

  • Most listings are cash-only

  • Some listings require the buyer to pay a buyer’s premium of 5% or $2,500, whichever is higher

With 6.1 million registered buyers and $51 billion in sales to date, Auction.com is a leader in the online real estate space. It operates in all 50 states and helps buyers purchase foreclosed, short-sale, and bank-owned residential properties quickly—many deals close in a little over a month—making it the best for real estate auctions. 

Most vacant properties have photos of both the outside and the inside. Occupied properties don’t usually show inside photos, and instead share outside and aerial views. 

Each listing is sold as-is, so a buyer should perform due diligence before bidding on a property. They should also secure financing before bidding because closing can happen quickly, often in under five weeks.  

Earnest money must be deposited within one day of auction close, which is 5% of the sale or $2,500, whichever is higher. This isn’t an extra charge as it goes toward closing costs. This differs from the buyer’s premium, which is a fee that goes to Auction.com. 

Not all properties have a buyer’s premium, but there is always an earnest money deposit. You can filter the listings to avoid a property with a buyer’s premium.

Best for Auto : Copart


Copart

Copart

The best online auction website for autos is Copart because you can buy vehicles for parts or in drivable condition 100% online and have the vehicle shipped to you. Many of its listings don’t require you to have a dealer's license to purchase, which means ordinary buyers can bid on a vehicle.

Pros
  • If a listing requires you to have a business license, brokers or authorized representatives can bid for you

  • Individuals, businesses, and dealers can buy and sell vehicles

  • Offers both clean and salvage titles

Cons
  • Must have a membership to bid on a vehicle

  • Fees can be high

  • It takes effort and consistency watching auctions to know what’s a good buy

There are more than 190,000 vehicles on Copart, which is an online auto auction site operating in 11 countries. It gets the nod for the best site for auto auctions because individuals, businesses, and dealers can buy and sell used, wholesale, and salvage cars, exotics, trucks, boats, ATVs, and SUVs. You can even buy and sell freightliners. Both clean and salvage titles are available on the site. 

Each listing provides detailed descriptions, photos, and conditions of each vehicle. There is also a calculator to determine shipping costs to your location. It’s not clear where Copart will ship, but there is a fair chance you’ll have to secure third-party shipping or pickup. 

Your deposit amount must be 10% of the desired bid amount if you are a Basic member. If you have a Premier membership, your deposit is just $400. Basic members have $1,200 in buying power, whereas Premier members have buying power up to $100,000 per day. 

Buyer's and seller's fees depend on the final purchase price but start at $1 and go up to 12%. Heavy vehicle fees can be as high as 20%. 

There are three memberships available, and you must have a Basic or Premier package to bid:

Guest Basic
$59 per year
Premier
$199 per year + one-time
$400 refundable deposit
Browse online inventory Everything in Guest Everything in Basic
Create a vehicle watchlist $1,200 in buying power $100,000 buying power per day
  Create saved searches Bid on multiple vehicles at a time
    Avoid needing multiple deposits

Best for Business Equipment : BidSpotter


BidSpotter

 BidSpotter

Buy and sell industrial, commercial, plant, and machinery equipment through BidSpotter, which is an online auction site dedicated solely to business equipment. Sellers are professional auctioneers, and usually have companies available to ship you your items after winning.

Pros
  • It’s free to create an account, and you only pay for your winning item

  • Most auctioneers have rigging/removal/delivery companies they work with to get you your assets after you’ve won

  • Some auctions allow pre-bidding so you can participate even if you’re not available live

Cons
  • To sell, you must be a qualified and licensed auctioneer or consign your items to one of their auctioneers

  • Some auctioneers require a deposit and buyer’s premium

  • You must register for each auction to view and participate

BidSpotter is owned by Auction Technology Group, which has over 2,000 auction houses using its technology and lists over 12 million lots each year. Eight billion dollars worth of items sold per year makes it one of the largest online auction websites in the world. It’s the best online auction website for business equipment because it doesn’t cost anything to bid—you only pay for your winning item. The auctioneers can even set you up with a company to ship the equipment to you.  

Creating an account is completely free, although to sell you must have professional credentials like an auctioneer’s license. However, you can consign your items with one of BidSpotter’s Premier Auctioneers if you’re just a regular consumer.

Auction types available include live webcast auctions, live online-only auctions, and timed-only auctions. At bidding close, winners will receive an invoice to pay the auctioneer directly, rather than BidSpotter. It’s free to bid, although an auctioneer may require a buyer’s premium and/or a deposit. Buyer’s premiums can be as high as 18%, in addition to sales tax. 

Categories of equipment available include:

  • Agricultural equipment
  • Automotive and vehicles
  • Computers and electronics
  • Drilling, mining, and forestry
  • Food and beverage equipment
  • Heavy construction equipment
  • Industrial and commercial
  • Laboratory and pharmaceutical equipment
  • Metalworking
  • Plastics and rubber machinery
  • Printing equipment
  • Real estate
  • Woodworking

Best for Luxury/Collector Items : Sotheby’s


Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s is one of the oldest and largest auction houses for luxury and collector items. In addition to having high quality standards, it offers in-house financing with its financial services division.

Pros
  • Every item must meet quality standards and have a minimum consignment value

  • Offers financing

  • If your item is ineligible for listing with Sotheby’s, they’ll refer you to one of their trusted partners

Cons
  • While quality standards are required, Sotheby’s makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee about an item’s authenticity, origin, age, or condition

  • Every item sold as-is

  • You may pay a resale royalty right (Droit de Suite) in addition to the buyer’s premium and sale price

Established in 1744, Sotheby’s has specialists in 40 countries and hosts 600 auctions per year. It earns the spot for best auction website for luxury and collector items because you can buy and sell in 50 different categories such as antiquities, jewelry, wine, contemporary art, and old master paintings. In addition to its auction site, there are thousands of products available to purchase at a list price. Sotheby’s also offers financing, should you need it.  

Anyone can sell with Sotheby’s, but they are selective in what items they’ll take. You have to submit photos, dimensions, history, and any item documentation with your estimate request. Within seven business days, you should have an estimate back. This estimate includes commission, damage and liability insurance fees, and marketing costs to promote the item. 

Sotheby’s doesn’t list its fees to sell your items publicly. However, estimates are free, so you can see what listing an item will cost before committing to it. Buyers don’t pay any fees to Sotheby’s. 

Every listing includes professional photos and a detailed description of the item in English, in addition to the language where the item is located. For example, if the Paris division is handling an auction, you’ll see a description in both English and French.

Best for Government Surplus Items : GSA Auctions


GSA Auctions

 GSA Auctions

When buying government surplus items, you want a legitimate website, and not one simply pretending to have affiliation with the U.S. government. GSA Auctions is a government website where you can buy Federal property like boats, helicopters, luxury vehicles, medical equipment, and even NASA Shuttle/Hubble items.

Pros
  • It’s an actual government website

  • Use proxy bidding to indicate your maximum bid

  • Payments made to the U.S. Department of Treasury at Pay.gov

Cons
  • Must verify your information with Experian to register an account

  • If the auction doesn’t meet the minimum reserve, you don’t win the auction even if you’re the highest bidder

  • Reserve price is never listed

GSA Auctions is the best online auction website for government surplus items because it’s an official government website run by the General Services Administration. You’re not paying a markup to a website pretending to be affiliated with the government. Every listing has a minimum reserve price, which means even if you’re the highest bidder, you may not win the auction. However, GSA Auctions may email you and accept your price even if it doesn’t meet that minimum reserve. 

Because GSA Auctions wants to maximize the money earned, you will never know what the reserve price is. Proceeds usually go to paying restitution to crime victims, supporting programs that prevent crimes, and purchasing new equipment.  

There are no buyer fees, although some items may require a deposit to bid. You cannot sell items on this site because it’s only for government property. 

Auction categories include:

  • Agricultural equipment and supplies 
  • Aircraft and aircraft parts
  • Boats and marine equipment 
  • Communication equipment 
  • Computer equipment and accessories
  • Construction equipment 
  • Electrical and electronic equipment and components
  • Fire trucks and firefighting equipment 
  • Furniture
  • Hand tools & shop equipment 
  • Household/personal 
  • Industrial machinery 
  • Artifacts, jewelry, and exotic collectibles 
  • Lab equipment 
  • Medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies 
  • Motorcycles & bicycles 
  • NASA Shuttle/Hubble 
  • Office equipment and supplies 
  • Photographic equipment 
  • Trailers, tractors, and manufactured housing 
  • Real estate 
  • Vehicles

Bottom Line

Online auction websites allow you to sell and bid on items from the comfort of your home or office. Purchase or sell things like real estate, jewels, business equipment, vehicles, and electronics. Most online auction websites offer protection for both buyers and sellers.

We recommend eBay as the best online auction website because it’s free for buyers, fees are reasonable for sellers, and its platform is incredibly user-friendly. It also offers protection for buyers and sellers from fraudulent and misrepresented listings.

Compare Providers

  Online Auction Website   Why We Picked It   Key Benefit
eBay Best Overall It’s free for buyers and most fees are reasonable for sellers
Auction.com Best for Real Estate Buy bank-owned and foreclosed homes
Copart Best for Auto You can buy clean and salvage titles whether you’re an individual, business, or dealer
BidSpotter Best for Business Equipment Caters exclusively to business equipment with professional auctioneers all over the world
Sotheby’s Best for Luxury/Collector Items One of the oldest and largest auction houses for luxury and collector items
GSA Auctions Best for Government Surplus Items This is an actual government website for excess items

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Online Auction Sites Make Money?

Online auction sites make money through listing fees, advertising fees, and buyer’s premiums. Think of buyer’s premiums as a commission—it’s a price above the winning auction price. You’ll usually find buyer’s premiums with online auction sites that use auctioneers. Other websites like eBay charge insertion fees, final value fees, and fees to upgrade listings. 

What Are the Most Popular Online Auction Sites?

The most popular online auction sites include eBay, eBid, Sotheby’s, Copart, Auction.com, and GSA Auctions. Most of these sites offer free buyer registration and allow winning auctions to be paid for with credit, debit, money orders, and cashier’s checks. Some even provide in-house financing options. 

How Can You Tell If an Online Auction Site Is Legit?

Before buying and selling on an online auction site, look at its reputation. You can usually find real reviews on social media sites like Reddit or Facebook. Legitimate auction sites offer privacy, security, and dispute resolution. 

It’s important to understand that while an online auction site might be legit, there are unscrupulous buyers and sellers on most platforms. Check seller reviews before bidding on an item, and if you’re a seller on a platform that allows buyer reviews, like on eBay, look at their reviews, too. 

What Measures Do Auction Sites Take to Protect Buyers and Sellers?

Most auction sites offer dispute resolution for buyers and sellers and limit what methods of payment are available. For example, most auction sites don’t allow wire transfers but allow payment by debit card, credit card, or PayPal. The Fair Credit Billing Act helps protect buyers when using their credit cards. 

Use the auction site’s in-house communication system if available. This way, should a dispute arise, the site can see the exchange between buyer and seller. Never take communication or payment offline to avoid fees because that limits your protection. 

How We Chose the Best Online Auction Websites

We looked at 28 online auction websites available and narrowed it down to the best options based on several features and considerations. We considered fees for both the buyer and seller, the site’s online reputation, real customer reviews, and available categories. Some sites are free for buyers, and others require a membership to bid on items. Those membership fees should be reasonable.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. IBISWorld. "E-commerce & Online Auctions in the US." Accessed February 18, 2021.

  2. Statista. "Number of eBay's total active buyers from 1st quarter 2010 to 4th quarter 2020." Accessed February 18, 2021.

  3. Federal Trade Commission. "Disputing Credit Card Charges." Accessed February 18, 2021.