Successfully bidding on eBay requires patience and strategy if you want to get the best value.
You won’t always win every bid, but successful e-Bayers will pick up some healthy bargains if they’re smart.
CHECKLIST BEFORE BIDDING ON EBAY
- Is this what you really want to buy?
- What condition is it in?
- Can the seller be trusted?
- Will the item be posted and what is the cost? Or is it pick-up?
All these things are important not just in determining whether you want to buy something but how much you’re prepared to spend.
Compare the cost of the item if you were to buy it new – and with the associated benefits of refunds and exchanges that often don’t apply to eBay auctions (though many shops DO operate through eBay and offer new products with guarantees, so it really depends.)
Once you think you really do want to bid on something, you need to think about your bidding strategy.
EBAY BIDDING STRATEGIES
There are a number of common strategies that successful eBay bidders use, so it’s good to be aware of them. The evidence seems to point towards sniping as the best of all the strategies, so it’s the one we recommend, but the others are useful too.
The Sniper is perhaps the most obvious and also most commonly practised strategy used in Ebay. It involves waiting until the last minute or seconds before an auction closes before placing your (hopefully) winning bid. The strategy is based on the belief that you can ensure that your interest is not noticed until it’s too late for your competitors to retaliate.
EBay themselves, identify three potential problems with this strategy.
- EBay uses an automatic bid increase system, so if your competitor(s) have already registered a higher auto bid then all you’ll do is drive the price up.
- If by holding back your bids to the last minute, the bid price of the item remains low then you are more likely to attract greater competition.
- You are at the whim of external factors like internet connections or other real-life things (kids, anyone?)
We’re not convinced that these ‘problems’ are serious enough to undermine this strategy.
Why sniping is the best strategy
It works. More often than not, anyway. And it’s backed up by real research.
Back in 2006, a mathematical analysis by researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea ‘proved’ that sniping provided you with the best probability of winning.
The same conclusion was reached in an interesting and detailed article on omniscienceisbliss.org
It’s no wonder that most experienced EBay bidders believe that this is the key to getting bargains on eBay.
The video below from this experienced eBayer explains how it works in practice:
The obvious advantages are that
- You don’t have to be there monitoring the auction and;
- You can’t spend more than what you pre-determined.
Anyone who has bid on any serious off-line auction can attest to how easy it is to go over your pre-determined maximum when caught up in the emotion of an auction.
It’s major downfall is exactly that. Maybe you really WANT that item more than you thought you did. It can be really disappointing to lose an auction by just a few dollars because you set your maximum too low.
Set an auto bid on your desired item at a price below your maximum but at a realistic price that you think the item might sell – typically 80-90% of your maximum price. The idea is to drive the price up early and reduce the amount of competitors. Then snipe with an auto bid up to your maximum with less than 20 seconds to go.
Setting the bid price high early is an exact contradiction of what the Sniper is trying to do. Ironically it is not a strategy that is particulalrly aimed at competing against ‘amateurs’ but is more usually – and successfully – employed against more experienced bidders. Some pros have been outwitted after completely misreading the capability of their competitors using the hybrid strategy.
It rarely, if ever happens – and generally ends up harming potential buyers who may have chosen the “Buy-it-Now” option that is removed after a first bid. However, ethics aside, it’s a low risk / high volume strategy that if it comes off just once could be well worth it.
- DO remember that two cents could make the difference.
Always set your bid at an “odd” amount of cents as most bidders bid in dollar increments or use .25, .50 etc
Using bids like $67.27 is going to help your bid stand out.
- DON’T bid early and high.
Bidding early and high demonstrates just how keen you are for a particular item. Don’t give away an advantage to your competitors by showing your hand. (unless. of course, you’re using The Hybrid Strategy).
- DO wait and watch your auction.
While this is not always possible, it is a far better option. You can put any item on your ‘Watch List’ , and you should be returning to it regularly. This will allow you to snipe at the last minute. If you can’t watch the auction, and are wanting to bid on eBay often, then consider using automated bidding software.
- DON’T panic if you find yourself in a bidding war.
Stick to your strategy. If you bid late and to your maximum there should be no time for a bidding war anyway. And of course you won’t always win, but you should never be tempted to spend more money than you think something is worth either.
- DO remember that coming second can still land you the item.
Although the overwhelming number of deals at EBay go through with no problem, on occasion a winning bidder may back out for whatever reason. In this (admittedly rare) instance, the seller has the option to offer the second place bidder the item through the “personal offer” section.
CAN YOU THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE?
We’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and secrets.
So what are you waiting for? Start bidding on eBay now!