Insider Tips for Buying on eBay

The thrill of eBay is finding great deals while outbidding the competition. To be successful, you need to do more than just watch the auction. You need to dig deep into the bag tricks used by big bidders. Check out these eBay secrets to save money and win using advanced search tools, in-depth research techniques, and tricky bidding.

Find Hidden Deals

Search Tools

Sellers who post incomplete or partial descriptions will see fewer visitors. Use that to your advantage to bid low. Using eBay’s advanced search tools, put a parenthesis around keywords separated by commas to pull up more listings. For example – (notebook, laptop, computer) would return all listings containing the words notebook or laptop or computer.
If you are getting too many results, use a minus sign in front of a word to exclude those returns. You can also search eBay Stores if you only want to see sellers that specialize or have a lot of inventory.

Bad Spellers

Sellers aren’t required to know how to spell, and eBay’s search engine doesn’t pull up similar words. That means poorly spelled listings don’t get many views or bids. Take advantage of this loophole by using a misspelling search tool to find listings and get great deals. Try out these sites:
Fat Fingers – search in multiple countries
Typo Dealz – for advanced searches
Typobay – easy single search

Buy Local

Working with sellers in your community can save you money, especially if they list the ‘pickup only’ option. You will be competing with fewer bidders and avoid shipping charges. If the seller is not in your community, but still require ‘pickup’, research the cost of having someone else pick it up and ship it to you.

Unwanted Gifts

Sellers often post items they don’t want, and really don’t know how to list them properly or know much they could get for them. That gives savvy buyers an edge. BayCrazy offers a search for unwanted gifts to help you find bargains.


Research the Listing

Read the listing details carefully, including the description, warranties, shipping policies and payment options. You can bid lower if there are flaws, but don’t make any assumptions. Ask the seller questions and make a special note when the auction ends so you can enter last minute bids.

Research the Value

Compare prices with similarly sold items by doing an advanced search using the completed listings option. You can also do a Google search or look at other online marketplaces to see how much the item is worth. This will help you determine the maximum you should bid and keep you from overpaying when the auction gets heated.

Research the Seller

Read the seller’s Feedback Profile by clicking the number in the parentheses next to the seller’s user ID. Members who have at least ten ratings get a feedback star. While you may be taking more risks buying from someone with a lower rating, you could also get a better deal since many bidders will shy away from people with negative ratings.

Bidding Techniques

Best Offers

Get an idea of how low you can go by viewing the seller’s history. Seeing how much they accepted for previous Best Offers can help you save money, especially if they sell repeated items. On the seller’s profile, simply click on ‘Items for Sale’, then ‘Completed Items’. Sellers can make this private, but many never get around to it.


Ask the seller a question about their product to start a conversation. Then, ask if they will consider taking a lower bid. You may also consider asking them what their Reserve price is, if they have one. It can’t hurt and could save you a lot of money. To make sure the conversation stays private, contact them through their profile – not the listing page.

Watch the Clock

eBay traffic peaks on Sunday nights in the U.S., which means more people bidding on the same items. Instead, look for auctions that end at odd hours, or when people are likely to be heading to and from work. You can find off-hour bids using a search engine like BayCrazy.

Buy It Now

You can find great deals on items, if you know what they are looking for and how much the item usually costs. This is best for things that you have personal knowledge about and are pretty sure the value of the item exceeds the Buy It Now price.

Win the Auction

Automatic Bidding

You can set up an automatic bidding system through eBay that will automatically top anyone’s bid until you hit your limit. Keep in mind, other bidders could use the same process, pushing the bids higher than needed.

Sniping Websites

Sniping is when buyers swoop in and enter a bid with just seconds to spare. You can do it manually by opening two browser windows in the minutes before an auction ends – one to watch the bidding, the other to make a final bid. One trick is to bid an off number that will throw off other bids. For example: instead of bidding $15.00, bid $15.27. There are many tricks to sniping, so do some research before you try it out.

Automatic Snipes

You can also download a service that will automatically bid for you in the final seconds of an auction. Esnipe gives you a free trial period, after that it charges 1% of the final price. Goofbid is a free site based in the UK that accepts donations for similar services. Whichever site you use, make sure there is no spyware on the download as you are giving out your eBay username and password.


eBay also offers mobile apps to help you make bids anytime from your cell phone. They can help you stay on top of hot auctions and keep up with bids manually.

After the Sale

Complete the Transaction

You’ll want to send your payment as soon as the auction ends. Starting in April 2013, you must pay the winning bid within two days or the seller could open an unpaid item case. Additional new rules state that Buy It Now or Best Offer auctions will remain open to new bids until the buyer actually makes a payment.


If you have problems with your purchased item or it is never delivered, you can take advantage of eBay’s Buyer Protection Policy. You’ll need to contact the seller through the Resolution Center to start the process so eBay can get involved and refund your money.


Beware of sellers who ask for checks or money orders to purchase items as it may be part of a bigger scam. PayPal is the safest route because it comes with consumer protections. Another warning, never send money to a seller outside eBay, especially if they request you contact them before bidding or sent the payment through Western Union.

If You Lose an Auction

Second Chance

If you lose an auction, consider writing a personal note to the seller. Let them know you are still interested in the item if the first buyer falls through or if they have similar items for sale. If the wining bid falls through, the seller may also send you a Second Chance Offer to buy the item, but it will be for your last bid. This may be an opportunity for you to negotiate lower.

Other Options

eBay may not always be the cheapest option or your only option. There are many online marketplaces where you can find comparable items at low prices. Avoid wasting time searching individual sites by using the PricePirates website to see price comparisons between eBay, Amazon and other sites on

Go Global

To see more options, check out eBay International’s biggest sites based in USA, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Spain. You can get great deals, just make sure you fully understand how the item will work in your country. Pay attention to things like power requirements, video usage, shipping charges and customs duties.