In the Secondhand Shopping Market, Online Estate Auction Buyers Find Quality, Diversity, and Value

Blog Written by AuctionNinja Staff
Written by: AuctionNinja Staff
February 1, 2024 Updated 02:02 PM
February 1, 2024 Updated 02:02 PM

As online secondhand shopping is on the rise, buyers who are seeking new outlets are learning how online estate auctions create deeper accessibility to the things they want most. AuctionNinja, the leading destination for online estate sales and auctions, commissioned an independent research firm to survey 1,008 shoppers with experience in online estate auctions to reveal their shopping habits, preferences, and motivations when it comes to finding hidden treasures. Here is their take on the three trends that are powering the rise of online estate sales: 

Trend 1: A tight economy and growing inflation 

have triggered a new generation to find a lower price point for both necessary and aspirational items. In this economic climate, 41 percent of estate shoppers say their interest in buying secondhand at online estate sales has increased, while 58 percent would opt into refurnishing with secondhand items versus buying new. It just makes sense.


58 percent of estate shoppers say they would opt into refurnishing with secondhand items versus buying new.

Driving the secondhand U.S. market, 

eBay remains the largest, multi-product online reselling platform, garnering 64 percent of U.S. buyers. (Facebook Marketplace comes in second with 55%). But buyers who search online for particular brands or products discover that online estate auctions provide a wealth of pre-loved items sold by professional sellers at thrift store prices.


This Lee Industries curved three-cushion slipcovered sofa was sold on AuctionNinja for $24.

Online estate auction buyers want value, but they also want quality. 

Secondhand shoppers, searching for quality brand names like Gucci, Tiffany, and Rolex, find them in online estate auctions, often for much less. 


This vintage black leather Gucci bag was sold on AuctionNinja for $196.

Trend 2: Thanks to new consumer behaviors, virtual resales are booming.

The value of the online resale market in the United States is forecast to overtake the value of offline resale in 2026 by more than $5 billion. Even in categories that were not particularly robust prior to COVID-19. Home furnishings resale is now a $17.1 billion industry, while resales of toys, games, and collectibles have increased exponentially.

Private estate auctions are great places to find
antique or retro furniture, home decor, art, clothing, vintage toys, and more. It’s like entering a high-end shop where everything has been curated. Online estate auctions offer quality items from reputable sellers. Better still, 81 percent of online estate sale shoppers like that they can shop multiple sites at the same time.


Vintage toys - one of the things that can be easily found in online estate auctions.

Shoppers who bid in online estate auctions don’t BUY items, they WIN them.

Bragging rights play a big role in estate sale shopper satisfaction: 42 percent of estate auction buyers say they save 50 percent or more on the secondhand goods they win.  In addition, 41 percent of estate sale shoppers claim they’ve purchased a valuable item from an estate that the owner didn’t know was valuable. As one survey participant put it, “Nothing better than finding an expensive item for a bargain price,” adding, “Sometimes the hunt is better than finding the item.”


“Nothing better than finding an expensive item for a bargain price. Sometimes the hunt is better than finding the item.” - says one survey participant.

Provenance plays a part.

For 27 percent of estate sale shoppers, getting a peek into the lives of other people is one of the reasons they shop at estate sales. To be able to say an object came from the home of a famous opera singer or author grants a special panache to the buyer that doesn’t come from retail alone. 

Trend 3: The gig economy, because everybody needs a side hustle.

It seems that half of the people in the U.S. today have side hustles. AuctionNinjas has discovered that 42 percent of estate sale shoppers have purchased items to resell them. And among the 49 percent of online estate sale shoppers who say they’re DIY enthusiasts are those who upcycle for profit.


Among the 49 percent of online estate sale shoppers who say they’re DIY enthusiasts are those who upcycle for profit.

Turning a hobby into a moneymaker is satisfying. From cars to furniture to watches - if you can fix it, you can sell it for a higher price for a career (or at least some pin money), and restoring an estate sale item to its former glory can be especially rewarding.

Re-using, recycling and upcycling save more than money, they save the environment.

Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData (which conducted re-use research on behalf of online reseller Mercari), noted that “the rise of online marketplaces and resale platforms is allowing consumers to both make money and do right by the environment as they sell unwanted products to those who will make use of them. More people are now engaging in the re-use ecosystem and are finding the experience enjoyable." Further research into the circular economy suggests that re-use could eliminate as much as one-third of consumer detritus. 

How Estate Auction Sellers Can Succeed Online

Just as consumers are casting wider nets in the search for the “perfect sofa” and other items, estate auction sellers who offer these items online can find many more buyers. AuctionNinja's inaugural survey of 1,008 online estate auction shoppers found

  • Estate sale shoppers went, on average, to five different in-person sales per year but participated in online estate auctions eight times per year - 60% more online estate sales than in-person estate sales.
  • At 81%, most online estate sale shoppers like that they can shop multiple sales at the same time.
  • Shoppers spend 33% more at online estate sales than in-person. Part of that is bidding frenzy: estate sale shoppers spend an average of $212 when shopping online estate sales, compared to $159 per in-person estate sales. 


These trends must be music to estate auction sellers’ ears! The only cloud: a dropoff in physical attendance at estate sale auctions is indicated by the fact that

  • 1 in 4 shoppers don’t want to go back to in-person estate sales after they’ve seen how easy it is to shop online.
  • Although the average estate sale shopper will drive up to 42 miles to pick up an item they’ve won at auction, 61% expect to be buying less from physical sales and more from online sales. 
  • Only 28% of respondents have visited traditional malls in the last 12 months (which means they’re unlikely to passively notice auction advertising).



Ready to locate an estate sale company or explore online estate auctions? Visit AuctionNinja.com. If you're new to online estate auctions, try it risk-free by sigining up here.

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