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eSnipe: How to win more on eBay

Rosalind Kent
by Lovemoney Staff Rosalind Kent on 14 September 2012  |  Comments 14 comments

If you are looking to increase your success when bidding on eBay, take a look at the options below and see if one suits you!

eSnipe: How to win more on eBay

If you regularly use eBay you will be well aware that there are some great bargains to be had and it can be exciting when you find something you really want.

Now all you have to do is win it. Easy, right?

Not always! eBay uses an auction bidding system. This means that you could lose out during the last few seconds of the auction if someone bids higher – or faster - than you.

Why did you lose out?

You might blame your reaction times for the loss, or curse your slow internet provider, but the chances are you have not been beaten by some quick-fingered bargain hunter. The winner may well have employed some slightly more devious tactics to secure their prize.

Common methods of winning

1. Incremental bidding

This is the most common method of bidding on eBay. You place your initial bid, then keep an eye on the price as it rises, bidding again if you are outbid. Simple, but time consuming.

You risk getting involved in a bidding war and you are also in danger of losing the auction in the last few moments to someone more determined than you!

2. Forcing

You place a bid that is so high, no-one will want to try and beat you. For example, the normal price of an item is £20. You bid £100 and end up winning for £30. This may well guarantee that you win the auction, but could mean you end up paying rather more than you would like!

3. Manual Sniping

The bidder simply waits until the final seconds of the auction, then places their bid, not giving other bidders time to respond. The downsides of this are that you have to be sitting poised over your computer, be quick off the mark, avoid any mis-typing and hope your internet connection doesn’t fail you.

You also won’t be the only one doing this if the item is in demand, and unless you have the fastest fingers you could still lose out!

4. Automated Sniping

To minimize your chances of disappointment take a look at the possibility of automated sniping.

You can either invest in some sniping software or sign up to one of the many sniping websites around at the moment. These tools will automatically bid for you, at any time of the day or night without you having to be there. They will place your bid in the last possible second so that other bidders will simply not have time to react.

Sniping Software

The software is not usually free so you have to be a fairly prolific eBay user in order to get your money’s worth. Your PC needs to be on when the auction closes and you need to have a decent internet connection or there will still a possibility you might be beaten to your item by someone with a better connection.  

Also, you won’t be the only person using the software, so depending on how high you are willing to go, you could still lose out to a higher bidder at the last second.

If you fancy trying the software look at an option like Auction Sentry. You currently get a free 10 day trial then pay $4.95 a month thereafter. Satisfy yourself that the software is trusted as you don’t want to infect your computer with spyware and adware. Also, you will need to provide your eBay username and password, so make sure you know who you are dealing with.

Sniping Websites

An alternative is to try a sniping website. These operate whether your computer is on or off, some are free and those that aren’t usually offer a free trial. Websites that you pay for will often bid seconds closer to the auction finish time, giving you a much better chance of winning – or so they claim!

The best known site is probably eSnipe.

There are, of course, negatives. These sites are not terribly flexible, you can’t cancel a bid once you have submitted it, and you can still face the risk of losing the auction due to errors on the website’s server, incorrect bids and – of course – other snipers signed up to similar websites. This all means that there is a risk of paying to join a sniping website, and STILL losing the auction. 

Table of sniping sites



Free trial?


25 cents for items up to US$24.99, 1% of for items up to US$1,000 and a maximum of $10 thereafter.

eSnipe is free for a trial period.

Auction Sniper

1% of the final auction price, with a minimum of 25 cents and a maximum of $9.95 per won auction.

No charge for the first 3 auctions.

Auction Stealer

Basic package is FREE, but for increased functionality Priority Account costs $8.99

Basic package is free.

1 month for $7.99 or 1 year for $49.99 OR buy 10 snipes for $19.99,
25 snipes for $36.99

Free 15 day trial

Membership plans from $5 per month

Free – limited to 5 snipes per week, per user.


FREE. Searches for mis-spelled items as well.


The bottom line is that you will not be the only sniper if the item is popular. The only way to definitely win an auction is to be the highest bidder. So, for that must-have item consider spending the money you might have spent on sniping by using the ‘forcing’ method. You might end up paying more than you would like, but you stand little chance of losing your item!

More articles on ebay:

Can you still make money on eBay

The taxman is watching your eBay account

How to avoid being scammed on eBay 

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Comments (14)

  • thelsdj
    Love rating 1
    thelsdj said

    There is an inaccuracy in this post. Most sniping sites, eSnipe included, DO allow you to cancel a bid once it is submitted. Up til 5 minutes before the auction ends usually. Or did you mean after the auction was over? Because even a direct bid on eBay doesn't allow that.

    Report on 15 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • rsharp
    Love rating 11
    rsharp said

    Goofbay has various tools, including one that checks the amount a seller has accepted on 'best offer' listings. Useful if they have multiple items available and you want to know what to offer.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • marshman
    Love rating 1
    marshman said

    Another inaccuracy is that with eSnipe, if you don't win the auction you don't get charged the fee - you only pay if you win. And as "thelsdj" said they are flexible - you can cancel or change your bid upto a few minutes before the end of the auction. I've used it for literally years (at least 6) and never had a problem.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Abigail Thornton
    Love rating 11
    Abigail Thornton said

    What a wonderfully weird world we live in!! We've reached the point where we're setting computers to bid for us? That only works if you are bidding against a human who is bidding 'incrementally'. The game resets as everyone starts doing the same - except you've got a new industry feeding on the bidding frenzy.

    'Speed' has nothing to do with winning an item - unless you put yourself in the irrational position of not putting the amount you are prepared to pay as your highest bid until after your previous bid has been eclipsed.

    I understand that you can try to 'game' the bidding system - but that only works if everyone else is doing the same thing. It's surely better to decide in plenty of time what you're prepared to pay and leave it alone to play out.

    I did this once when bidding on a very rare CD. I decided that I was prepared to pay 'a lot' for it so put in a "forced" bid. It was based in the USA, so I set my alarm and ended-up sitting at my computer at 2.30 AM. There was a bidding frenzy in the last three minutes which took the price from about $15 to $160 - they ran-out of time. I won what I wanted: 'Mercurious Pools' by Kyuss.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • AndyP
    Love rating 26
    AndyP said

    What's wrong with just bidding what you're prepared to pay?

    I've been sniped hundreds of times. OK - the sniper is prepared to pay more than me, fair play to them. They could have bid days earlier; I still wouldn't have outbid them, because I'd already bid my maximum amount. Sniping achieved them nothing except having to sit at their PC waiting for the last second of the auction (or, give their account details to an automated sniping third party) and running the risk of their bid failing due to their connection slowing at the critical time.

    Since when is "winning" the auction more important than just paying the price you want to pay?

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  4 loves
  • rojbalc
    Love rating 10
    rojbalc said

    @AndyP - Yes, that's what everyone should do. In an ideal world everyone would have one bid, they'd bid the highest amount they're willing to pay, and the winner would be the person who bids the most. And then nobody is disappointed because nobody paid more than they wanted to.

    However, it seems to me that a lot of people don't understand that the amount the auction winner pays isn't (necessarily) their highest bid, but rather the highest bid of the 2nd highest bidder plus the automatic increment. So they are scared of bidding a high amount, as they think they'll have to pay it, which leads to incremental bidding as described above.

    The logical way to avoid people incremental-bidding against you is to bid so late that there isn't time to react to your bid, hence the strategy would be to sit in front of the computer waiting for the final seconds, fingers crossed that your internet connection doesn't die at the critical moment. Or sniping.

    Sure, there are quite a lot of people doing this nowadays, so it tends towards the ideal world scenario mentioned above... Jolly good, I say.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Nikgee
    Love rating 25
    Nikgee said

    Sort of takes the fun out of ebay doesn't it?

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Dampflok
    Love rating 24
    Dampflok said

    I used to use Auction Sentry. Enter my maximum bid and let it get on with it. I usually made sure I was by the computer (which had to be on to do the bid) and would pay immediately. I gave up on it when I found most of my purchases were Buy it now.

    Whatever you do, don't start bidding early. I have watched people upping their bids with several days to go to the point that the winner ends up being a loser by having to pay too much. CM

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • msknight
    Love rating 31
    msknight said

    I've used Auction Sniper for about six or seven years.

    Some of my auctions for Japanese goods were ending at 4am, plus sometimes with little sleep I would get caught up in a bidding war ending up spending more than I'd want on an item purely because I was emotionally caught up in the bidding process.

    Auction Sniping means I set up the bid with the maximum I'm comfortable paying and if I win, I win and if I loose then someone wanted it more than I did and .. there'll be another day, another item anyway. Plus I get a good nights sleep in to the bargain. Bonus.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jolizmul
    Love rating 1
    jolizmul said

    I've used Bidnapper for years. I'm very satisfied with it, nearly always win - unless my bid is not high enough - I set a maximum before the auction - if the price is higher than that, it's too high for me. I find it very flexible, too. Surprised it's not mentioned above.

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • krustallos
    Love rating 45
    krustallos said

    @AndyP - the trouble with simply bidding what you want to pay is that if you bid early it drives up the perceived value and desirability of the item you're bidding for and is more likely to start a bidding war. This is why I try and leave it as late as possible to bid. However I'm very disciplined about setting a maximum price for myself and not getting caught up in a bidding frenzy. I didn't actually know there was software to do this for me and will definitely investigate.

    The best way to get bargains on e-bay though is to be patient. There will almost always be another whatever-it-is advertised shortly, so the best strategy is to bid low and often (although this does sometimes mean you end up with two of what you wanted and have to resell one).

    Report on 16 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • lh66
    Love rating 0
    lh66 said

    I've tried auction sniping tools for eBay like and and they work really well. Just recently I was able to win an auction on eBay with one of these.

    Report on 20 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Patricia Franks
    Love rating 0
    Patricia Franks said

    There is a flaw in the "forcing" argument. It works if you are the only person using this method, but if someone else has had the same idea you could end up paying far more than the item is worth or than you really thought you were going to have to pay. That is one method I would never use!

    Sniping works for me. There is a psychology to bidding. If you pay attention, you can often second guess just how much people are willing to bid as a maximum, decide how badly you want the item, and snipe accordingly. That way you never end up paying more than the item is worth to you.

    Report on 22 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • expatwendy
    Love rating 0
    expatwendy said

    Using sniping tools only works so far ... if you put in the maximum you are willing to spend, hours before the auction ends, then if you win, great, if you didnt then the cost outweighed what you are willing to spend. I've had emails from other bidders (when ebay allowed this) stating it 'wasnt fair, as they'd lost the auction by pennies or a pound'. What they couldnt see is that i'd won the auction £30 cheaper than I was prepared to pay ... if they'd have put that extra pound in I'd still have won.

    The only thing sniping tools do is force you to think what your willing to pay upfront. I can do this myself without needing help from a tool.

    If I lose, well then the cost was more than I was willing to pay. Simples!

    Report on 24 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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