Although there are now a lot of alternatives, eBay is still one of the largest online marketplaces out there. And you can score some fantastic deals if you know how to search and bid correctly.
These 10 tips will help you optimize your searching and bidding on eBay to save you a lot of money on the items you’re looking for. Check them out and share your favorite tips in the comments below!
If you’re new to eBay, you may want to check out eBay Shopping 101 before getting into these tips. You should also read up on other online shopping tips if you’re keen to save money.
The first step in becoming an eBay buying master is to make sure that you’re finding the deals you want. There are a lot of great deals out there, but you’ll have to do some digging to find them. Using advanced search is the best tool in your arsenal for this purpose. Hit the Advanced link next to the search box to get started.
Here, you’ll see the sorts of things you’d expect: a search field, search terms to exclude (which is good if you’re looking for something very specific), the option to include searching descriptions as well as titles (do this!), different buying formats, and so on. Use as many of these options as you need to find the exact listings you’re looking for.
Some of the most useful options in the advanced search are “Search including title and description”, “Condition”, “Listings ending within [time]”, “Best offer”, and “Free shipping”. Which ones you select will depend on how specific you want your search to be.
One more quick search tip has to do with categories: when you search for an item, eBay automatically selects and searches a specific category. When I searched for Fury of Dracula, a board game, eBay selected “Board games > Contemporary manufacture.” Be sure to set this drop-down to “All categories” to find items that have been listed in the wrong category, as they might have better prices.
Checking for Typos
This is a classic eBay tip: some people have really bad spelling or don’t check their spelling before posting, and they end up posting an item with a typo. eBay’s search isn’t as sophisticated as Google’s, which recognizes lots of misspellings, so you’ll need to make sure that you try to seek out those errors and capitalize on them.
There are a number of tools that will help you do this: BargainChecker, TypoHound, FatFingers, and many others are available. Just open up one of these sites, type your query, and it will search eBay for possible misspellings of your term.
If you’re familiar with search engine operators, you can use similar strategies when searching from eBay. When you click on the search button in FatFingers, you can see exactly what it searched for: fantays flight, fantasy fligh, fantasy fight, antasy flight. You can use the same strategies manually. This search came up with a lot of results, indicating that this is an important tactic to use.
If you see an item with an atrocious spelling error, you may want to bid on it immediately, as the seller won’t be able to make any changes to the item once it’s received a bid. This will lock in the spelling error and make it harder for competing bidders to find.
Look for Best Offers Posts
As mentioned in the advanced search tips above, you can search for Best Offers posts, which means the seller is willing to accept the best offer on the product. This is usually for a Buy It Now item, many of which are posted with prices that are far higher than anyone will pay on eBay. If you look for these and make offers, you might get lucky and save some money.
This is especially true if the post has been live for a long time, suggesting that no one has wanted to pay the set price. Make an offer and see if you can convince the seller to part with their item for less!
Take Advantage of Notifications
There are a number of services that will alert you when an item matching a specific search term comes up on eBay. By using a site like StuffAlert (pictured below), ItemAlarm, or even IFTTT to get new post alerts, you can nab some really great deals before anyone else has the chance to get them. Set up notifications for items you’re looking for, and let an app do the hard work!
Most people don’t have the luxury of watching eBay all day to see when when they need to put a bid in to snipe an auction away from other bidders. You can use eBay’s built-in tools to receive email or IM notifications (from My eBay > Account > Communication Preferences), but there are a number of other tools that give you more options. Unfortunately, eBay’s IM notifications only work with AOL and Yahoo! accounts.
Instead, you can try using a third-party notifier app, like Auction Sensor (which has a pretty bad interface) or uBuyFirst (Windows only). If neither of these work for you, you may want to set up something using IFTTT or Google Calendar reminders. If you have any other good tips for getting notifications, leave them in the comments below!
A semi-controversial, though absolutely essential, eBay practice is called “sniping“: putting in a bid at the last second of the auction so other interested bidders don’t have the opportunity to outbid you and drive the price up. Getting the timing down on this is really difficult; if you’re too early or too late, it won’t work. Which is why there are a number of services that will help you do it.
Gixen and AuctionStealer are two free popular options — sign in with your eBay username and password, enter the item that you want to bid on and your maximum bid, and they’ll put it in right before the end of the auction, saving you the stress of trying to time it correctly. It’s a really simple idea, and these services are good at what they do!
Of course, entering your eBay credentials to a third-party site is a bit of a risk, especially if you have payment information stored in your account. It’s a better idea to open a second account that doesn’t have any saved payment information or a password shared with your other accounts to use one of these tools. Plenty of people have used their primary account names, and it’s probably safe, but why take the risk?
Check Late-Night Auctions
Good sellers on eBay know when to post their auctions so that the highest number of bidders possible will be online when the auction finishes — this is usually on weekday evenings.
But someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing might post a late-night auction that ends at midnight or 1:00 a.m., and that can be costly. With fewer people awake to snipe or outbid you, there’s a good chance that you can grab a good deal on these auctions.
Watch for High Opening Bids
If you’re looking to score a great deal on an item, it makes sense to look for really low opening bids, just in case you can capitalize. But the opposite strategy can also be a good one. It seems counterintuitive, but high opening bids could save you some money by scaring off other deal hunters.
For example, if someone posts an item that they think will sell for at least $100 with an opening bid of $75, and you bid $75, it’s possible that not many other people will stop by the auction, because the opening bid is too high. If you win, you save $25.
Bid with Weird Cents
It didn’t take long for people to realize that bidding an extra cent or two could win them an auction cheaply: if you bid $45, and I bid $45.02, I’ll win and not have to pay much more. Keep using this strategy, but choose lots of different cents values: $0.56, $0.92, $0.49, and anything else you can think of. You never know when it might pay off! You can also look at the bidding history of other bidders on your current auction to see if they use this strategy and plan accordingly.
Don’t Rely on Photos
Only looking at items with photos is an inclination that many of us have — if the seller posts a picture of an item, you know what kind of shape it’s in and you know it’s what you’re looking for. But only looking at posts with images might make you miss a good deal; if you read the description of an item and the condition is reported as like new, it might be worth taking a chance on the item even if it doesn’t have a picture proving that it’s in great shape.
Be Patient and Detached
This is possibly the most important tip to keep in mind while you’re shopping on eBay. The online auction system is designed to take advantage of your emotions and cause you to bid more than you want to. Countdowns, notifications, and bidding wars all get you excited and ready to fork over more than you had originally planned. It’s crucial to not get caught up in the excitement.
Instead, realize that patience will save you a lot more in the long run. Don’t get into a bidding war — instead, start a new search for the same product for which you can take advantage of a misspelling or a miscategorization. You might have to wait a week or two, but it could save you a lot of money, especially if you shop eBay regularly. Stay disciplined, and you’ll be much better off for it!
Your Best eBay Shopping Tips
These ten tips will help you find what you’re looking for and save a lot of money when you’re shopping on eBay, but there are plenty of other strategies out there.
How do you find that you get the best deals on eBay? Do you use specific apps or search strategies? How do you go about bidding? Share your best tips below!
Image credits: throwing money by ra2studio via Shutterstock, frankie’s via Shutterstock.com