17 eBay buying hacks
Whether you're new to the eBay game or fancy yourself an auction pro – here's a few tricks you can pull to nab goodies at the lowest price possible.
When it comes to buying and selling pre-owned stuff online, eBay remains in a league of its own: Pretty much anything you can imagine you could ever want – there will be someone selling it on eBay.
But of their 170 million users, a large percentage of eBay buyers pay more than necessary on items just because they're not aware of the tricks (of which there are many).
Essentially, if you take the concept of eBay at face value and start bidding on items as soon as they catch your eye, you're pretty much guaranteed to spend way more than you have to.
It really pays off to take your time and know your stuff in this game – and we're here to tell you how it's done!
17 eBay buying hacks
Don't believe the hype
First thing's first! It's worth knowing that eBay sometimes has a tendency to make things look more valuable than they actually are – depending on the hype!
If people start bidding furiously on something for the wrong reasons, it can mislead you into thinking it's worth shelling out big bucks for when it's not.
For example, this ‘piece of excrement' mini went for £6,200 despite being listed as a joke!
You might also remember that when the new plastic fivers were first released they were going for £500+ on eBay if they had the first issue serial numbers printed on them. However, early-print fivers are pretty common now, meaning some unlucky people wasted a fair bit of cash on something worth… well, a fiver.
Use automatic bidding
Ebay is kind enough to have a function that lets you arrange for their system to bid on your behalf, to save you watching items like a hawk.
All you have to do is enter a maximum bid (instead of constantly bidding higher each time someone overtakes your bid), and eBay will automatically outbid anyone that puts cash down by just a penny or two so you remain the highest bidder (up to your maximum amount).
Search for typos
Weirdly, typos and misspellings can really work in your favour if you're looking to bag a bargain. If a seller accidentally types one too many ‘s's in their Playstation listing (i.e. ‘Playsstation'), the result is that it'll show up in less searches – and therefore will have less bidders.
The unfortunate thing (for sellers) is that once an item is listed, you can only make edits before someone bids, so they might not be able to change it once the listing is up – warts and all.
Check the price of sold items
If you're feeling totally stumped trying to work out how high to make your highest bid, a great way to judge your figure is to have a look at the sort of price the same item has sold for recently on the site.
Do this by typing the item name into the search bar, choose ‘Advanced options' and click the ‘Sold listings' under the ‘Search including' header.
This will show you a whole list of similar items that were recently sold on eBay and what they went for. Give it a go now.
Particularly when it comes to larger items like bikes and furniture, a lot of ebay sellers will select the option of only appearing in searches for locals to avoid the hassle of organising delivery.
As this will narrow the amount of bidders, you'll have a better chance of getting the item at a lower price.
To do this, just click the ‘advanced' button next to the search bar and enter your postcode in the ‘locations' section.
Another tip is use the Baycrazy's local item search. Just enter your postcode and it'll throw up everything nearing the end of auction in your local area.
Don't bid too early
It’s easy to get carried away and want to place a bid on something your heart desires as soon as you see it.
However, this can actually work against you – all it will do is result in a bidding war that will end with the item going for a much higher price than it would do had everyone waited until the end of the auction.
Instead, select ‘add to watch list’ so the item will be saved on your account for quick reference, and set a reminder on your phone to come back to it in the last 10 minutes or so of the auction.
Aim for last-minute bidding
The best time to bid is in the last minute to give other bidders less time to beat you to the crunch.
But how about actually searching exclusively for auctions that are on the brink of closing so you can jump in at the last minute without all the waiting around, and hoping no one beats you to it?
Lastminute Auction is a handy lil site that searches for all auctions that are about to close – you can even search by category to find exactly what you're looking for.
Benefit from sellers' mistakes
As well as being able to cash in on sellers' typos, you can also find some serious bargains if they've missed out a vital bit of info that has resulted in minimum bidders.
For example, if someone is selling a Barbour jacket, and post it on eBay as a ‘Waterproof waxed jacket in navy blue', it won't show up in anyone's searches looking for a Barbour.
Website No Bids have a handy tool to check for auctions that are minutes away from ending but still have no bidders (normally due to forgetting a key word or something similar). Give it a bash!
Become an eBay sniper
Sure, nobody likes that guy who comes in and beats you to the crunch at the very last minute, but let’s face it – if you can’t beat 'em, you might as well join 'em!
The name given to people who pull this stunt is an eBay ‘sniper', and it's become so common nowadays that it's not even seen as cheating anymore.
You can use a tool for this, but they’re not always 100% effective so could let you down on a purchase you had your heart set on. They also aren't totally secure and as they'll need your eBay login deets, make sure you go with a reputable site.
Also note that whilst sniper tools are ‘free' they take a 1% fee if you win your auction… so they're not really free, are they?
Create alerts for searches
A simple but effective time-saving trick! You can choose to follow searches by clicking ‘follow this search’ at the top of the listings, just below the search bar after your keywords entered.
This will obviously work better for slightly more niche products, so the more specific you can be about that specific item you have in mind, the better.
Otherwise you'll get bombarded with notifications every single time someone lists a paid of UGG boots (which is a lot more often than you think).
Contact sellers to haggle
As eBay is an auctioning service, you wouldn't think there would be any haggling involved, but this definitely isn't the case.
A lot of sellers include a ‘make offer’ option as well as bidding, and similarly a lot of sellers who use the ‘buy it now' label will also consider best offers. This is the perfect opportunity to jump in there and show off your best haggling skills.
You can get an idea of how low to go with your haggle by doing some research into how far below the ‘buy it now' price the seller has gone in the past.
To do this, copy and paste the username of the seller into Goofbid's best offers history tool. This will show the history of best offer items they've sold and what price they settled on. Sneaky!
Watch out for postage price hikes
Often sellers will try to do the sneaky and make a bit extra cash by bumping up the postage costs.
There are no official guidelines for sellers on what to charge for postage, so it's worth doing your homework a bit to see what sort of cost you should be looking at – Royal Mail's price finder is the best place to start.
Don’t be scared to challenge a seller if you think their postage prices are too high.
Look for night-time auction endings
If a seller accidentally sets an auction to end in the middle of the night, this will normally result in the item going for less as it will have fewer last-minute bidders (as less people are willing to sit up through the night with their finger on the button!).
Baycrazy have a night-time search tool that can look specifically for auctions that are due to end in the middle of the night, so you have a better chance of getting a good price. The best part is, you don't even need to pull yourself out of bed, as you'll already have your sniper tools at the ready (see tip X)!
Avoid bidding in round numbers
Think of it this way – if both you and another bidder are looking to put in a bid at £10, if you add an extra penny and go for £10.01, your bid will beat theirs.
In case you’re worried they’ll be thinking the same, just go a few pence higher!
The main rule is – bidding in round numbers will almost always leave you missing out, so try to go for the oddest figures you can think of (e.g. £21.74 instead of £20.00).
Watch out for reserve prices
Credit: Tanya Hart – FlickrIf a seller is worried about not getting enough for their item, they’ll whack what’s called a ‘reserve price’ on it, meaning if the bids don’t meet that price, there won’t be a sale.
The difficulty is that you’ll only find out if there’s a reserve price if you make a bid and are told the reserve hasn’t been met.
If there’s still time before the auction ends, it’s worth reaching out and asking what that reserve price is. Then, if you’re the only person bidding above that reserve, you’ll get it for the reserve price instead of what you bid, so less than what you budgeted for.
Shop globally (sometimes)
Whilst opting for UK sellers when buying your eBay goods will be your cheapest option in most cases, it's always worth double checking to see if you can snag a super-cheap deal with an international seller.
It might sound crazy, but sometimes even when the international postage costs are included, you can still buy an item cheaper across the water.
This is particularly the case for smaller items coming from Asia – if they're small, light and can be delivered in an envelope through a letterbox, you're not likely to have to pay customs charges either.
Know your rights!
The issue of consumer rights gets a bit complicated on eBay due to the fact you’ll sometimes be buying from a business and sometimes a personal seller.
In the case of buying from a business with an eBay account, your full CCR (Consumer Contracts Regulations) will apply, which is the Consumer Rights Act equivalent for online purchases – more on this stuff here.
If you’re buying from a person, you won’t be protected by the Consumer Rights Act, but eBay do tend to favour buyers over sellers in disputes, so if you’re not happy – try reaching out to customer services.
Now you've mastered eBay bargaining, are you sure you're getting the best price on your Amazon hauls? We've got a few tricks up our sleeve on that one, too!