39 responses

  1. Ashley @ Money Talks

    I used to sell a lot of stuff on ebay and the odd finishing times is a good trick. As a seller, I would go out of my way to have everything ending at the “good” times.

    The misspelling tip is a good one too. I’ve heard of people who just buy misspelled items and then resell them correctly spelled. Although, it can work against you too, if the item is commonly misspelled then it might sell higher as a misspelling. Crazy!

    • Money Cactus

      Thanks for the feedback Ashley, I figured it would work in reverse the way you described as well. Interesting to hear that people make money with misspelt items as well, but it does make sense.

  2. John | Married (with Debt)

    Thanks for the tip on Sunday eBay traffic. I’ve been doing a little selling there and this will help me know when to time the auction expiration.

    • Money Cactus

      Hope it works for you John, let me know if you see a difference.

  3. Barb Friedberg

    This was fascinating. i’ve only bought a few items on ebay, and never through the auction process!!! i liked the tips.

  4. Van Beek @ Stock Trend Investing

    Good tips. I didn’t realizing the issue around when auctions end. That is also important to take into account when putting something up for sale from overseas, when you are in a different time zone.

    • Money Cactus

      Very true, if you are looking to sell many of these tips should work just as well in reverse.

  5. MoneyforCollegePro

    I love buying on Ebay. I love the thrill of the chase, and I love winning! Real auctions are much more fun, but virtual Ebay auctions can be fun too. I love bid sniping and I love winning something for a great deal. Good tips in your article!

    • Shaun

      That sniping can be really addictive can’t it? It is dangerously exciting and you really need to be solid on your ceiling price. Lots of fun though!

    • Ari

      Sniping a bid in the last few seconds is really rude and fairly unethical if you have not placed a bid previously.

      I buy and sale on Ebay enough to be very familiar with practices. I consider it ethical behaviour to place a bid as soon as I find an item I am serious about buying, and after that initial bid I think sniping is necessary to win. But refusing to bid at all until the last second is inconsiderate to others. You need to let people know there is other interest in an item.

      • Val

        I disagree that sniping in the last few seconds is rude and unethical if you haven’t already placed a bid. If there’s an item I want, the last thing I want to do is alert other potential bidders that there is interest by placing an early bid. It’s just human nature to think that if someone else will pay a certain amount for something, you just might be willing to pay a little more.

        People often look to others to let them know whether something is “good” or worth their money. (Look at all the sites that let people review their purchases for the benefit of others, such as amazon.com.) The very fact that there is even one bid signifies that an item is desirable to at least one other person and perhaps deserving of other bidders’ attention and money. However, an item with no bids can be perceived as overpriced or otherwise undesirable and lead other bidders to pass it by in favor of something “better.”

        Also, bidders often get emotionally attached to an item if someone else is bidding and will keep on increasing their bids until they’re bidding more than an item is reasonably worth, just to keep someone else from winning the auction. If you don’t believe this, check out the bid history for auctions where several bids have been placed. You’ll often find that at least two bidders have started low and increased their bid by a dollar or two at a time, trying to outbid each other, until the auction ends at an amount greater than the item is worth. Sniping keeps those “emotional bidders” at bay and keeps the final price lower for the winner.

        My goal is to get the items that I want at the lowest price possible. I use a sniping program for every item I’m interested in, and win the auction much more often than not. I’m a polite person and do my best to treat others well in my everyday life. However, it’s not my duty to politely notify everyone else on eBay that I intend to win an auction by placing an early bid, thereby potentially driving up the price and/or attracting “emotional bidders.” I’m not going to put my own best interests second to those of a random stranger who might decide they’re interested in an item I want.

      • Money Cactus

        Thanks for you comments Ari and Val,

        Signalling your intent to bid is a nice courtesy, but it sounds like Ari plans to snipe at the end of the day. those 3rd party services are open to everyone, so ultimately it is still a matter of highest bid wins. you could still outbid others if you bid early, you just have to be prepared to pay more than they are.

  6. Roshawn @ Watson Inc

    Great job highlighting how to bid on Ebay. the one time that I purchased something for myself on Ebay, the seller never sent my item, and I had to get a refund. fortunately, it was not difficult to obtain. Helpful post.

  7. Shaun

    Thanks Roshawn. Shame you had such a bad experience, but unfortunately there are others with similar stories too. As you experienced, the support by eBay isn’t too bad if this happens, so it gives me a certain level of comfort buying there. Hope you try again and have a better experience next time!

  8. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

    Great tips MC – I havent bought anything off of ebay for quite a few years but I know that it can be pretty addicting. Everything I bought from there was a pretty good deal, but I just feel like when I want something, I either need it right then or can wait forever, so I dont usually look towards ebay. Maybe I should start.

    • Shaun

      Hey Jeff,

      It can be a hassle waiting for the things you want, so I don’t get everything on eBay. There are some things that I was more than happy to wait for due to the saving though, lately these have included a digital camera and a laptop – eBay is great for tech items!

  9. RobertP

    “Look for odd finishing times”

    Finishing times don’t matter as much these days, because eBay now shows search results in “the best match” order by default, rather than by ending time, like they used to. Just another way for them to screw the smaller sellers.

    “Bid late”

    Better yet, use a sniping service such as Bidball.com to bid for you.

    Just remember that regardless of when your bid is placed, it still has to be the highest to win. EXCEPT, when 2 bids are the same or there isn’t enough difference between them to meet ebay’s minimum bid increment. In that case, the 1st one in wins.

    So, if people were completely rational, the best strategy would be to bid on an item the second it is listed. I’d stick with the sniping strategy.

    (Automated) sniping is a convenience for people that want to avoid drawing early attention to an auction item, ‘nibbling’ bidders (bidders who have no max in mind, bidding the minimun increment over and over until they’re the high bid), and competitive emotional bidders and bidding wars that come with them, all of which normally result in a higher final price. If you have the time, you can do it manually.

    If for whatever reason you do not like the idea of sniping, decide on your absolute maximum bid, and place it. If you win, great. If you lose, the winner paid too much as far as you are concerned. Bid once.

    Make sure you’re eligible to bid on an item before scheduling a snipe (or doing it manually), so that your bid will be accepted. As long as you live in a country that the seller ships to, you don’t have many (or any, I think as little as two within the past six months can get you blocked) unpaid strikes lately, and you have enough positive feedback, you should be ok. If you have a problem with one of those things, you could contact the seller and ask them to accept your bid, as long as you know early enough.

    A couple more benefits of sniping:

    1. Sniping is actually a way of combatting shill bidding – when the seller or his buddy bids on the item until they’re the high bid, and know your max, then retract their bid, and use yet another account to bid on the item, bidding just below your max. You don’t give the shiller time to retract their bid in order to leave you as the high bidder, close to your max. You can’t do much about a shill bidder letting their bid ride to the end of the auction, if it just raises but doesn’t exceed yours.

    Also, look out for 2nd chance offers, as they would be a reason for the shiller to let their shill bid ride, you may want to decline any and look for a different seller with the same item. Unless of course, the price seems ok with you, even though possible artificially jacked up.

    2. You can just cancel a snipe with as little as five minutes left (I guess depending on which service or software you use) in an auction, if you change your mind about bidding on an item, and your bid won’t be placed. If you place a bid on ebay and then retract it (not a seller’s or ebay’s favorite thing), you can be blocked from bidding on other auctions after doing this a few times, not sure what that # is.

    Here’s a couple links to pages for eBay bid increments:




    “A tactic that can work quite well, but requires more effort on your part is to look for items that are miss-spelt or are assigned to the wrong categories.”

    Try an ebay misspelling search site like Typojoe.com to hopefully find some deals with items that have main keywords misspelled in the title. Other interested buyers might never see them.

    A couple more eBay buying/saving ideas:

    If you send the seller a question about an item, find another of their listings, and send the question from that item page, rather than from the one that you actually want. This will add a little bit of work for the seller, if they want to add the question/answer to the item description page that you are actually interested in. Maybe they won’t bother, and maybe any potential bidders/buyers would not bother to send the seller the question themselves, rather just looking for another one.

    If there is a particular item that you are looking for, and especially if it is relatively rare on eBay, use a site like Ebuyersedge.com to set up a saved ebay search. You’d get an e-mail whenever a match is listed. Great for “Buy It Now”s priced right. You can use the price, category, exclude Word, etc. filters to narrow down the list of results that you receive in the e-mails.

    • Shaun

      Great info Robert, thanks so much for contributing this.

  10. Pam at MoneyTrailen

    I have only purchased a few things from ebay but have been very pleased with the products. I will bookmark these tips for future reference!

    • Shaun

      Hope the tips help Pam, I think it can be a great way to get the things you want for less. Let me know how you go.

  11. Marianne

    Great tips- most people just focus on how to sell on Ebay. We use Ebay to our advantage in both instances. We often buy stuff used (or new at a great price) on Ebay and then re-sell the item on Ebay when we are done with it. Often when we buy items used we are able to sell it for about the same amount we paid for it. I blogged about how I sell stuff here: http://www.preservingpennies.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-we-earn-extra-money-selling-our.html

  12. Bryan at Pinch that Penny!

    I second the trying to find newer sellers idea. You are increasing your own risk, but frequently these auctions will go for much less than sales with more established sellers.

    • Money Cactus

      Everyone has to start at the beginning don’t they? Most people are pretty honest, but there are some crooks around that spoil thing for everyone. I find it helps to contact the seller and get a bit of a ‘feel’ for them too.

  13. mbhunter

    These are great tips, especially waiting to bid until the end. Why give the auction more exposure?

  14. Paul @ The Frugal Toad

    I’ve bought a few items on ebay and have had no problems. Interesting tip about bidding on the misspelled items!

    • Money Cactus

      It can really work in your favour if you are willing to look around. Sometimes it happens by accident when you are looking in other categories too, so worth remembering.

  15. Dannielle @ Odd Cents

    My bf usually bids at the last minute. I remembered one time we were trying to get some desert rose seeds for my aunt and he got a heaping set at really good prices. He avoided all bidding wars. What I don’t like is when sellers have the items priced cheaply, but the shipping is ridiculous.

  16. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals

    Do you know that I’ve NEVER bid on anything on eBay? Thanks to you (and the advice from your readers in their follow-up comments), I’ve learned a lot – and may have to give it a try!

    • Money Cactus

      Hey Elizabeth, I hope that this does give you a bit of confidence to have a go. Start with something small and try using Paypal to pay for your purchase to add some extra safety. Good luck!

  17. Simple Finance Blog

    I especially like your tip #3 – once again proving that timing is, indeed, everything.

  18. JonathanN

    Great article , I am so glad that I have visited your site.I was looking for this information.

  19. Brett

    Wow, there are some great tips here. The market for some products is so saturated these days that you can often get total bargains on eBay.

  20. zimbrul

    I should give this article to my wife…

  21. Carrie Smith

    I’ve been a huge eBay seller/buyer for over 6 years now! This is a fantastic guide and I even learned a few things. Bidding late and buying from newer sellers are some of the best tips for getting really good deals. I try to find items from sellers that only have 1 of that item and is barely used, instead of buying from a small business/company that has multiple items. I’ve gotten some really fantastic deals that way!

  22. alanc230

    I’ve bought quite a few items on eBay, and generally been satisfied with the auction process. I did get sniped once, by someone who swooped in and bid with only seconds to go. Hadn’t heard that idea of looking for misspelt items though. I might try it.

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