Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Where can you find antique Pez dispensers, hot vintage heels and (finally!) the perfect lamp to match your weirdly patterned bedspread — all on sale for just a few bucks? Or better yet, where can you sell them to make some extra cash?
We’ll give you a hint: It’s not Walmart. At least, not our Walmart. (And if yours fits the bill … would you let us know where you live?)
No, it’s your favorite online flea market.
Not only are regular flea markets wacky and wonderful, but their goods are usually pre-owned, pre-loved and dirt cheap. (Who wants to pay the full retail price?!) In short, they’re a dream.
But everything is virtual these days. You turn to your laptop (or, let’s be real, your smartphone) for everything from takeout to taxi rides to a date for Friday night.
So it’s no surprise there’s a whole world of online flea market shopping out there. And it’s just as quirky and addictive as the real thing — especially since you can see it all with just a few clicks.
The Obvious Online Flea Markets
Of course, a few online flea markets are industry giants you almost certainly already know about:
- Amazon: A once humble bookselling website, Amazon has become an online marketplace so powerful that its astronomic growth sent its founder, Jeff Bezos, into space. Vendors big and small can sell new and used products on the site, and they can appear on your doorstep in as little as one day.
- Craigslist: Known for sending shivers down the spines of journalists due to upending newspaper revenues, the online classifieds site is an easy way to pawn off your tchotchkes to neighbors, find some hidden treasures yourself — and so much more. It’s all anonymous, though. So give out your personal deets sparingly, and always meet in a safe, public space!
- eBay: This classic buy-and-sell site has been around for more than a quarter-century. Although it bills itself primarily as an online auction site, it operates like most online flea market sites. Many of its listings are available for immediate sale — and it seems you can find just about anything you might desire.
- Etsy: Sort of like eBay’s quiet, artsy little sister, Etsy specializes in handmade goodies, but it’s also a treasure trove for lovers of all things vintage. In fact, it has a whole category devoted to vintage items, and it’s well-organized enough that you can dive into niches as specific as bolo ties, fedoras and marbles.
- Facebook Marketplace: Compared to the other geezer sites so far, Facebook Marketplace is relatively new. Launched in 2016, the online marketplace feature is built into regular ol’ Facebook, and you can buy or sell all kinds of stuff on Marketplace, including cars and campers. You can even find rental properties. Marketplace is locally focused, but it also supports shipping.
OK, we covered our basic-online-flea-market bases, so now it’s time to move on to the weird and wonderful ones. Half the fun of a traditional flea market is stumbling upon offbeat items and great deals you never would have found elsewhere.
To replicate a real flea market experience virtually, we checked out a variety of smaller online flea markets and compared inventory, prices and user experience to help you find the best deals at the digital folding table.
Read on to see what we found out.
- Easy to use and navigate
- Has smartphone apps
- Haggle friendly
- Lots of empty categories
- Very little information on seller
- Listings may include very little information
In a battle of the Fleabays (Fleabay.net is a less reputable site), the dot-com version comes out on top. Flea-bay (notice the hyphen) is a solid online flea market that features a pared-down and slightly dated interface. But that doesn’t make it at all difficult to use.
The site has dozens of categories to browse, but most listings seem to be focused on electronics, clothes or accessories. Like many small online flea markets, it lacks the thousands — or even millions — of listings like some of the better-known online marketplaces.
Still, it’s fun to browse when you’re trying to get a quick flea-market fix online.
Similar to Craigslist, Flea-bay simply connects you with sellers. No transactions take place on the site, so haggle away!
- Easy to see if items are pickup only or shippable
- Useful filters
- Bartering and haggling allowed
- Unencrypted website
- PayPal account required for payments
- Lots of old listings
Compared to other online flea markets, vFlea feels the closest to actually thumbing through junk until you find a treasure — before leaning across the table to make a bid. The interface is also a touch more polished.
Each listing’s thumbnail specifies whether items are shippable or for local pickup only and also includes an asking price. The platform has built-in “buy now” and “haggle” options, and even an opportunity to “barter” with goods of your own.
Like most online flea markets, items are organized by tags as well as categories, creating better searchability and organization. The site populates the number of listings currently available in each category in parentheses, so no mysteries there.
Finally, vFlea still has some weird stuff available, although it draws the line at community events. For instance, you’ll come across the occasional hilltop timeshare, which apparently can be shipped or picked up locally.
- Sleek interface
- Fun and quirky inventory
- Active community forum and blog
- Vets sellers to some extent
- Can be tough to verify vendor reviews
- No bidding
Although Bonanza seeks to be the best eBay alternative, it doesn’t offer bidding or bartering options.
It does, however, list categories for everything from home goods to collectibles, including coins and paper money.
And there’s also a wonderful category called “Everything Else,” with subsections like “Metaphysical” (which features “haunted” items) and “Weird Stuff” (we found cockroach earrings).
There’s even a “Vintage” section under fashion so you can easily shop for those precious duds from another era.
- Verified locals only
- Popular option
- Lots of easy-to-use filters to help you find the best bargains
- Frequent listings for free stuff
- Haggle friendly
- Lengthy signup process
- Smaller towns may not have any users
- All purchases made offline
Technically, Nextdoor is a social media site for your community. And it takes that seriously. You actually need to input a valid address, which you will have to verify, to join your community group.
Once you’re in, you can do all sorts of stuff. Gossip. Post community PSAs. Discover local events. (Our photo director uses Nextdoor to save money by polling neighbors for recommendations and hunting for deals from local businesses!)
Another great feature? “Finds,” Nextdoor’s very own local buy-and-sell section. You can browse listings to find deals across all kinds of categories. Toys, games, furniture, vehicles, free stuff, and much more! Its nifty filters make finding exactly what you want a breeze.
- Pick-up and shipping options
- Easy to review sellers
- Tons of listings and categories
- Haggling accepted
- Very polished site and app
- No niche — inventory fairly bland
Mercari touts a user-friendly experience whether you’re browsing on its websites or scrolling through listings with the smartphone app.
There are tons of freshly listed items across a host of different categories. And if you live nearby the seller, you can opt for pickup. Otherwise, shipping allows you to tap into a massive selection of goods.
What’s great about Mercari is how easy it makes reviewing the seller. Click the seller’s name and, boom, you can see more details about them and quickly check out any reviews. Mercari also handles payments. So no worrying about forking over cash to strangers in person!
6. The Internet Antique Shop (TIAS)
- Inventory chock full of antique goodies
- Simple browsing
- Replicates the wonder of sifting through a quiet antique market
- Still active after 25 years
- Verified vendors
- Listings contain little info
- Usually only one picture per listing
Founded in 1995, The Internet Antique Shop (TIAS) is a bit of an antique itself. While it never took off quite like its buy-and-sell siblings eBay or Craigslist, TIAS has carved out a remarkable niche for all things antique.
The site looks a bit dated. But, hey, it sells antiques. Maybe that’s an intentional part of its charm? It still functions just fine. The category’s sidebar makes browsing simple. And, before you click, it shows upfront how many listings are in any given category — a feature other virtual online flea markets could learn from.
This site is truly a gem. It’s one online flea market you don’t want to overlook. With subcategories like vintage sewing tools and breweriana (read: old signage, steins and more from classic breweries), TIAS really makes it feel like you’re about to stumble upon unique treasures with each click.
- Safe in-person exchange
- Optional anonymity
- Easy customer support
- Anonymous options can lead to scams
When new fathers Arean van Veelen and Nick Huzar ended up with a bunch of extra stuff they didn’t need, they saw an opportunity and co-founded OfferUp. The company (with its accompanying smartphone app) was created in 2011 and OfferUp claims to be the largest mobile marketplace in the U.S.
The marketplace doesn’t force sellers to enter names and post profile pictures, though it is encouraged in OfferUp’s posting rules. Optional anonymity is both a pro and a con. Similar to a dating app, communication and transactions between buyers and sellers can be anonymous, so you’ll want to check out a seller’s profile for ratings and any reviews.
The good thing about anonymity in this virtual online flea market is that if you want to sell an embarrassing couch locally, your friends and neighbors won’t necessarily know it’s yours!
We talked to a frequent user who said “the best thing about OfferUp is it’s easy to use and I don’t see a lot of duplicate listings on other sites like Facebook Marketplace.” The user recently sold a bedroom set and bought some cool vintage, mid-century lamps.
- Offers bidding
- Every item is vetted
- Clunky website
- Only available in larger cities
Founded in 2014, 5miles is similar to OfferUp because the focus is on local buying and selling. A unique feature of 5miles is comparatively robust options for pro sellers, which means you might find more high-quality and vintage items.
The site (and app) promotes safety and security in transactions. Created by Lucas Lu who earned a Ph.D. in physics and has a professional background in e-commerce at Alibaba and Light in the Box, the look and feel of the site is more similar to Etsy than Craigslist.
Despite the site’s title, you can search up to 50 miles from your location and there are shipping options if you don’t want to drive that far or meet up in person.
- Established and trusted
- App integrates social media elements
- Known for pricey items
- Slow shipping
Poshmark isn’t just for buying and selling used clothes. Now they sell kids toys, home goods, electronics, and even pet accessories.
If you’re looking for an online shopping destination that includes brand names for less, sustainable buying, and a social media experience in one, Poshmark could become your go-to.
With Posh Stories, sellers can craft videos to describe and promote their listing, which gives you a better idea of what you’re purchasing.
We talked to one user who had success selling high-ticket clothing items. The user said, “If you have some gently used, brand-name items sitting around, you can get more for them on Poshmark than on other sites.”
10. Ruby Lane
- Unique vintage selections
- Long history
- Quality control
- Listing fee for over 15 items
With daily and weekly arrivals, a magazine, and seemingly endless scrolling for one-of-a-kind items, we could easily get addicted to Ruby Lane.
Buyers and sellers can feel secure with the site’s long history in e-commerce. Founded in 1998, the shop pre-screens items and has a Secret Shopper program where buying experiences are checked for quality.
Oh, the weird and wonderful things you’ll find — and sell — for less.