Ebay solar panels; don’t buy any until you read this

Ever wondered why your eBay Solar Panel doesn’t produce anywhere near what it should do? Maybe you’ve been scammed like a heap of other people, by false advertising sellers on eBay.

I’m in the market for another 12V solar panel, for the top of our Dmax’s Canopy. I’ve bought a couple over the years, and each time I’m in awe of how much cheaper they’ve become.

However, what I’ve discovered just recently, is a lot of 12 volt solar panels being sold on eBay are falsely advertised. If you want the best eBay solar panels, start with ones that are correctly advertised.

Dmax solar panel
Is the panel the correct size for its rated output?

Check the solar panel dimensions

This false advertising purely relates to panel sizes, and claiming that a panel is rated to a higher wattage than what it actually is.

I’ll give you an example:

The panel I’m chasing is 200W, and I know that a 200W panel should be 1580mm long, by 808mm wide. Now, I jump on eBay, and I flick through the results, and open a few different options up.

If you check the dimensions, some of the panels being sold as 200W are only 1430 x 680mm. On the surface, that might seem ok, but dig a bit deeper.

I compare the details, and they are exactly the same, except for the sizes. 18V max power voltage, 11.1A max power current, cell efficiency of 17%, mono panels and standard test conditions. 

Ebay solar panel scam
Is your eBay solar panel performing as it should?

How is it possible for a panel at 1.27m2 to put out the same wattage as one at 0.9724m2? It’s not, and these eBay sellers are breaking the law by false advertising, and selling you a product that isn’t what you think it is.

It gets even worse – there are flexible ‘200W’ panels on eBay at 1070mm x 810mm (0.86m2). That’s a 47% size difference, with virtually identical specs.

Now, I understand there may be *some* variance in cell efficiency, and where the panels start compared to their borders, but not 47%. These eBay sellers are being totally unethical, and people are buying them!

EDIT – this is getting even worse. I saw a panel last night advertised as 300W, and its 1010mm by 670mm. That’s barely a 100W panel, being advertised as 3 times its capacity!

Solar panel wattage vs size
Is your panel too small for the wattage advertised?

What to look for

12V mono solar panels with a cell efficiency of around 17- 20% should be roughly 0.0064m2 per watt. If there is a substantial variance from that, you are being misled. With that in mind, here’s roughly the sizes you should be looking at:

80W panel = 0.51m2

100W panel = 0.64m2

120W panel = 0.77m2

150W panel = 0.96m2

160W panel = 1.02m2

200W panel = 1.28m2

250W panel = 1.59m2

If you want to know that the panel you are looking at is actually the wattage advertised, do the maths above, or jump on a reputable sellers website (like Redarc, Projecta, Bosch or Australian Direct) and compare sizes.

Solar panels on our camper trailer
2 x 200W panels on our camper trailer, at the correct size that they should be

The panels on our camper trailer came from Low Energy Developments, and we’ve been very happy with them so far.

You can read more about the new panels, batteries and the overall electrical upgrade here – Camper Trailer Electrical Upgrade.

If you are keen on looking at photos of the boat loader solar setup, you’ll find them here; Camper Trailer Boat Rack.

PWM controllers being sold as MPPT

Unfortunately, the false advertising doesn’t stop there. The next most common false advertising for 12V solar panels relates to the type of regulator used, and advertised. These are normally known as PWM and MPPT.

Itech PWM regulator
Is the solar controller PWM or MPPT?

The latter is generally considered the premium style, and the manufacturing costs dictate there should be a price difference. If you are getting a panel with an ‘MPPT’ regulator for an amazing price, chances are its probably a PWM in disguise.

MPPT ebay being sold as PWM
Is your regulator really a MPPT?

Buyer beware:

People have been buying solar panels off eBay for many, many years now. Many of the cheap ones are not going to be comparable in quality to the high end units, but they have proven themselves to be reasonable and great value for money.

However, its buyer beware; do your due diligence before handing your cash over to some scumbag on the other side of the world who thinks its OK to mislead their customers. Don’t believe the ebay solar panels review that says they are fantastic; check the dimensions and specs first!

Dmax solar panel
Is the panel the correct size for its rated output?

Fixed or portable panels?

Before you buy 12V solar panels, have a think about whether fixed or portable ones are better. I’ve written a great guide that you can check out – Fixed vs Portable 12V Solar Panels; what’s better?

Solar blankets

Lastly, there are some pretty sweet solar blankets on the market today. Some are incredibly expensive, but they are portable, very light weight and easy to store. If you are considering getting one, have a read of this – Solar panels vs Solar Blankets.

We’ve also done a Kings Solar Blanket Review, after getting one as a backup for a trip up north.

Solar blankets
How do solar blankets really perform?

Have you been ripped off?

I personally know a huge number of people who’ve bought panels that were advertised as being a much higher wattage, and it makes my blood boil. Have you been ripped off too? Let us know below in the comments!

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  1. Hi Aaron and Sarah,

    I’m from Lakes Entrance in Victoria and just bought a boat to live on. I’m trying to sort the solar setup at the moment.

    A friend has offered me 2 solar panels 190W each and 1580 x 808 im size. Not sure what brand but he’s an electrician and has the same panels on his boat. The problem is for these to fit on my boat I’ll have to make some modifications to the boat which will remove some of its character and history.

    I’ve found plenty of cheaper ones that would fit perfectly but a lot are the dodgy type. The Renogy 200W panels are absolutely perfect in size and I was about to order off them but read a heap of bad reviews about Renogy. I do know that people usually only give a review if it’s bad tho…

    I see you bought two of these and say they put out the right amount of power! Can you confirm this is a brand you’d trust? I also have a Renogy battery monitor which seems fine.

    Cheers guys!

    This is awesome to find your blog just in time!

  2. Hi Martin,

    You’re welcome. Our contact us page has contact details


  3. very helpful like additional info. do you have contact means

  4. Hey Neil,

    That is very helpful, and I’m not surprised nothing on eBay comes close. It seems like they are pushing the advertising friendship more and more each day too

    Cheers, and all the best

  5. An even more simple calc is based on a fairly well accepted notion of 1000W / sq metre x Efficienct%. So a 250W panel that is purported to be 35% efficient would have to have 1 sqM of PV CELLs, which is not the dimensions of the panel, byt the PV cell area.
    NOTHING on Ebay comes even close.
    This in itself is not a problem if you know before buying that the 400W panel advertised can only be 250W even if the efficiency coefficient IS correct and $ for $ that stacks up against other 250W panels.

  6. Hey Rob,

    Same old story, and I’m truly sorry to hear you’ve also been ripped off. The sellers can be awfully sly about it, but I always go down the route of size and efficiency results in a mathematical result that cannot be faked.

    Our new 200W Renogy panels deliver 200W (and even more) when the conditions are great, so it is absolutely possible.

    Take care

  7. Hey Steve,

    That is absolutely shocking. Did you purchase it through Paypal? I always do it that way these days (still through a credit card) as you get their buyer protection. You can lodge a dispute with them (and you can with eBay too), and hopefully you have some more luck.

    All the best

  8. I purchased a couple of flexible ATEM “250 watt” panels from a well known Ebay store.

    I felt they were not charging the van as well as the rated output indicated. So I got a solar panel tester (EY800).

    In Full sun on panel was putting out 83 watts and the other 110 watts… not even close to the rated 250 Watts.

    At the same time my old 150 watt rated panel was putting out around 120 watts or so …

    When I contacted the seller I got the usual that the angle of the panel etc affects the power. This is true, but put in full sun the panels should be putting out something at least close to the rated power. .. So the panels work.. but the output is nothing like the advertised output

    So yes, I was ripped off.

  9. I purchased a MOBI 135ah LIFEPO4 battery from eBay MOBI OUTDOOR auto-market. It only has a capacity of 29ah. I tested it myself and then took it to Battery world and they verified the result. The eBay seller won’t honor the 2-year warranty and it’s only a few months old, so now I’m stuck with it. So be careful what you buy on eBay and avoid MOBI OUTDOOR auto-market because they don’t even respond to warranty claims.

  10. Hey Max,

    I can see why you’re upset; its super frustrating. You could report them to the ACCC – they are supposed to jump on these things, but not sure how they’d go about it being on eBay

    All the best mate

  11. I’ve definitely been ripped off so how can I go about having them prosecuted if they’re fraudulently selling these things on Ebay? I have found 4 sellers who are actually the same person and advertising Name Brands, but they aren’t! They all have one letter missing from the proper brand names. I want to see them in jail so who do I go to? Cheers

  12. Hey Jackie,

    Sorry to hear you got bitten; its becoming more and more common, and they are even more falsely advertised than before.

    It really makes me angry, and I wish there was more I could do about it.

    Good luck with the dispute!

  13. Jackie Dines says:

    I am so glad I found this article. Bit of a newbie here and just received two 300w panels from ebay. First thing I did was put the mulitmeter on and with full sun could only get 4.99 amps
    So yea given I needed 15 ish amps way out of range. The size of the panel is 930 x 540 so works out .50 and makes it about 80watts. Worst thing is that you are paying for the 300w panel, well cheap chinese panel, which is fine, I have had one for over 10 years, happy that it may not come up to the exact rated specs, but this is obviously a low watt panel being advertised as a high watt panel. I am now in negotiations with the seller. Now that ebay are offering money back, I will only give the seller ONE chance to make me an offer, after that I will be going for money back. If he/she offers me a refund that makes the panels the same cost as buying a 100watt panel then I will accept that and then go out and buy a brand name panel to complete my setup. Cheers and again many thanks for sharing your knowledge. This sort of stuff is just not on. It is one thing to understand the cheap chinese stuff will not last as long and you get what you pay for but in this case I did not get what I paid for at all.

  14. Hey Teri,

    You’d be right! You can’t even get 2000W panels to my knowledge!

    All the best

  15. Hey Andrew,

    Yep, a multimeter works great if you can get the panel in your hands. Unfortunately its often a bit late by that time, but totally agree with using Paypal; they are great for disputes.

    Victron make really good gear; you’ll be pleased with it.

    All the best

  16. Andrew Martinez says:

    Hi, great article & I took have been through the dodgy eBay solar panel thing. Rather than all the maths, I found the easiest way to check a panel is to check it’s short circuit current with a simple multimeter. Yes, conditions can vary but if you test it side by side with a known panel then you have accounted for the relevant conditions. Also, only pay through PayPal as it’s easier to get your money back & sometimes get to keep the underrated panel as well. I have also just moved to Victron 100/30 solar controller before I saw your article so it’s great to see that I’m on the right track. Keep up the great work.

  17. Thanks all! I’ve learnt that the 1m2 panel on Amazon for $1420:
    “Rated power: 2000W
    Product size: (2 panels x) 1160*530*25mm
    Module efficiency: 20.3%”
    seems to have added an extra zero to the wattage!
    Thanks again

  18. Hey Damian,

    I can’t believe nothing can be done to stop the false advertising. You are probably one of thousands who’ve been caught up in this, and it really sucks.

    A good result for you though; often the sellers are extremely unhelpful when you go back to them.

    All the best mate

  19. Damian Heagney says:

    Im another victim, but at least im getting a refund. Have recently upgrqded to lithium batteries and saw some of the cheaper panels, didnt do much research but saw a bi dold rated at 360W…. when it arrived, i knew i was in trouble. My old 200w unit (which has degraded a bit) beat it by 25W connected to my old mppt. Sent the seller a fairly blunt message and he offered a refund straight away.