eBay Buying Tips

StufAlert’s top ten ebay buying tips

We want your experience of buying on ebay to be as stress free and enjoyable as possible and hopefully will result in you getting a great bargain.

Here are our top ten tips for ebay buyers. If you are a seasoned ebay-er they may not be news to you but for others they may just save a few dollars in these credit crunch times.

Our top 10 tips in no order of priority, because they are all #1’s are : -

1. Do your research and get to know the market

Start by watching auctions selling the item you are looking for. Use 'My Found Stuff' to help you.

Do some research outside of ebay. The internet market is huge and you may find what you are looking for at various other websites, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target and many others that have online shopping. If you are looking for hard to find items like, antiques, rare books, coins or stamps, there are many publications and online resources that can help you. Armed with this information decide your bidding strategy.

2. The devil is in the detail

Make sure you read carefully and thoroughly the item description. Caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ applies putting the onus on you to be satisfied you are buying what you think you’re bidding for.

Pay close attention to

  • Condition information - Ask yourself for every auction item - Is it new? Is it broken and is that okay? Is it reconditioned or is it being sold ‘as is’. When a Seller uses the term ‘as is’ in the ebay auction description, assume the worst. The item can be broken or seriously flawed in some way. ‘As is’ means that if you win the auction, you keep it no matter what the condition. The Seller will not accept its return just because you’re not happy with it. Fergus recommends caution when bidding on ‘as is’ auctions. That said there was the lucky ebay buyer who found $26,000 in safe that was locked shut!
  •  The Seller’s shipping policy - Is a flat rate or handling fee being charged for shipping? Are these fees excessive? Where is the Seller located? If the Seller is located overseas? Shipping costs can add considerably to the price of the item. Buyers may also be liable for any import duties, the Sellers will normally refer to this in their listing.
  •  Payment methods accepted by the Seller Do they require money orders or personal checks?

Remember - if you don’t ask you will never know. It is common place in the ebay community to ask Seller’s questions and a genuine Seller will only be too happy to help.

3. Have a bidding strategy

Armed with your research have a plan for bidding. Ask yourself do you need the item quickly? Is the item a must have collectible, do you need to win the auction or is getting a bargain more important to you?

An important fact to remember if you are making a maximum bid and someone else has made the same bid first they will win. 

Formulate your bid in whole amounts plus a couple of cents. For example if you are thinking about setting a maximum bid of $50, make it $50.01 or $50.02 etc.. You will be surprised how often this clinches the auction!

Fergus’s advises getting your maximum bid in early. Don’t get emotional when bidding. The majority of items you will look for on eBay are in plentiful supply.

Do your research, set your bidding strategy and make sure you have done your homework on the Seller. It is not a failure if you don’t win an Auction, there will mostly likely be another one on ebay.

4. Review the Seller’s feedback rating

It is really important to look into the feedback of your potential Seller including their recent transaction feedback.

Whilst the huge majority of ebay Sellers are good honest citizens, there may be some that are less reputable. When reviewing Seller history contact ebay-ers that were recent buyers from that Seller; most folks are obliging in providing genuine comments.

Bear that in mind when evaluating Sellers with a few negative posts that there are always differences of opinion before passing judgment on a Seller. Honest feedback is key to the ebay Community. To find out more visit the ebay feedback Forum located at the ‘Community’ tab.

5. Auction end dates and times

Some of the best bargains can be grabbed during the day when most folks are at work. Many employers look dimly on using work PC/Internet for personal reasons. Chances are that if the Seller has got an end time during the day there may not be too many people sitting there watching. So there is an opportunity to bag a bargain if you do your research right  about what you want to pay and get your maximum bid in early.

Auctions that end at evenings and weekends may attract more bidders which can increase competition and the amount paid for an item. Again if your research is thorough you will be able to see this based on similar items you have watched.

6. Shill bidders

Although it may be difficult to detect and even harder to prove, you need to be aware that there are some unscrupulous Sellers who are using shill bidders.

A shill bidder is an eBay user who is working with the Seller to drive up the price of the auction. The shill bidder may even be the Seller himself bidding under a different ebay name. The Seller knows that he will make a loss unless the price is bid up; so he uses a shill buyer.

The only way of detecting the presence of shill bidding is by reviewing the bid history for items sold by a particular Seller. If it appears that the same buyer bids on that Sellers’ auctions repeatedly, but infrequently wins those auctions, shill bidding might be indicated. This is difficult to prove so if you suspect that a Seller is using a shill, the best thing you can do is avoid that Seller in the future.

7. Buy it Now or Auction

If the Seller has offered the option of using ‘Buy it Now’; and you want the item quickly with no competition, and you’re not necessarily interested in paying the lowest price possible, ‘Buy it Now’ may be the best strategy for you.

Do not be put off by items that are offered as ‘Buy it Now’, as you can still get bargain by using this option where an auction is likely to be competitive and push up the price above the Buy it Now offer!

A great additional feature associated with the ‘Buy it Now’ option is ‘or Best Offer’. With the right research you might be able to get 10% to 15% off an item and perhaps more.

8. Payment options

PayPal is great option because it is easy to use, free for Buyers, and secure. No need to write a check, or prepare and stamp an envelope or disclose your credit card details.

PayPal sends payment electronically to the Seller who pays the commission for the PayPal payment. Many Sellers like it and use it because it’s convenient to receive payment. They don’t have to make a trip to the bank to cash checks or money orders.

Also PayPal is that it is extremely secure. Although you can use your credit card to top up your PayPal account balance, the individual eBay Seller never receives your credit card number and so you are protected from unscrupulous individuals. A Seller can never take payment from your PayPal account without your knowledge - you must make a conscious effort to send it.

9. Item descriptions ‘Keywords’

Spelling can be a problem. It can be as simple as US (English) verses UK (English) versions of the same word such as collectible versus collectable. In a similar vein a motorcycle could be referred to as a motorbike and ‘gas’ verses ‘petrol’. In instances like these you may need to search using the alternative words.

Misspelt or misspelled words are another problem! They can come about through typing errors, genuine bad spelling or the incorrect spelling of a brand name. Bear all this in mind when putting in your keyword search.

10. Searching ebay for hours

Avoid the hundreds of hours trawling ebay and use our great StuffAlert - the ebay search and alert service. Find it at StuffAlert Search. It is easy to use and a hassle free way to find exactly what you're looking for on ebay. Why not have a go?