Here’s our ultimate guide to saving money when buying on eBay.
eBay is a massive marketplace that’s been attracting savvy shoppers on the hunt for new and second-hand bargains for over 20 years now.
You’re probably quite familiar with how it all works, but we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of tips, tricks and tools that you might not have heard of that can help you stop losing auctions, cash in on spelling mistakes and much more to secure an even better bargain.
Find out what others paid
You can easily find out what the going rate is for the item you want on eBay by checking out how similar auctions have played out.
To see this information at a glance you just need to change the advanced search settings to ‘sold listings’ and sort by price.
This will get you a list of auctions and the winning bids, which will show what you should be aiming for when making your maximum bid.
Seek out local bargains
Sellers with bulky items like furniture often list their item as ‘collection only’.
These listings are a great way to bag a bargain as they attract less competition from other buyers. I've pretty much kitted out my entire home with this nifty feature and bagged bargains on all sorts from dining room chairs to a desk.
Again you can filter your search to just include ‘collection only’ listings in the advanced search settings.
If you do end up picking up your item, make sure you stay safe. Go with a friend or let people know where you are going and take a mobile phone with you.
Cash in on spelling blunders
Careless sellers sometimes end up posting listings on eBay that contain spelling mistakes.
These misspelled items attract fewer bids as they don’t appear in searches, so many miss out on seeing them.
Using BargainChecker for example I found 422 listings which had misspelled PlayStation. Playsation, Plastation and Playstaion were common goofs.
Exploit other slip ups
Some sellers don’t only make spelling mistakes, they also leave out important details like brand, type of clothing, shoe size or dimensions.
Most buyers will be put off by this and not bother to follow up. But you should contact the seller to find out the missing information.
You should do this directly rather than through the listing. Asking a question through the listing makes it easy for the seller to make it visible to other buyers.
Another sneaky trick is to block sellers who have made mistakes from updating their listing. Sellers aren’t able to make major changes to an auction listing once a bid has been placed, so if it has a low starting price of say 99p it’s worth making a bid to keep the listing under the radar.
I'll admit that it's happened to me as a seller in the past and meant the buyer got some Levi's jean shorts for just 99p, when usually they go for around £20.
Take advantage of overlooked items
A lot of sellers start their auctions at 99p or less in the hope of a bidding war breaking out.
However, this strategy doesn’t always work out and can end with few or no bids.
Websites like Lastminute Auction trawl eBay for auctions scheduled to end within an hour that cost £1 or less, while BayCrazy has a Ending Now! tool which finds auctions ending soon with no or low bids.
You should check the postage and packaging costs when bidding on these bargain items to ensure you are getting a good deal as some sellers try to make gains by charging a bit more.
Use sniping tools to win auctions
If you're tired of losing out on auctions in the final moments there are sniping tools which can help.
These automatically place a bid in the last few seconds before the end of an auction, leaving no time for other buyers to fight back.
The downside to these sites is that you need to hand over your eBay password in order for them to work, which is a pretty major security risk. If you do decide to use them, make sure your password is different to the passwords you use for your other accounts.
Seek out auctions ending late
Another great way to bag a bargain is to take advantage of auctions ending at anti-social hours.
You can use BayCrazy's Night Time Bargain tool to find these listings.
If you’re not a night owl yourself, combine this with a sniping website to bid while you’re snoozing.
Set alerts for your most wanted
If you’re after something quite niche, hard to find or frustratingly expensive, you can set up an alert so that you are notified when the item hits the site or more become available.
You just need to type the name of a product into the search bar and then click ‘follow this search’. Then it’s just a matter of time before someone has a massive clear out and makes your day.
Watch items you want
You can add items to a watch list to see how bidding plays out before making your move.
eBay will send you a reminder before the auction ends so you can make up your mind nearer the time.
Get the app
You can keep track on watched items, items you’re bidding on and make new bids when you’re out and about with the eBay mobile app.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows phones and Blackberry.
Don’t give up on lost auctions
If you’ve been outbid and lost an auction in the final moments, don’t give up.
You can email the seller to remind them that you are willing to buy the item if the sale falls through.
They just need to send a second chance offer through should things go wrong.
My boyfriend had to make use of this feature when he sold his Apple Mac laptop as the buyer didn't make any moves to pay after the auction.
Go a few pence over your max bid
When making a maximum bid on an item, most people go for a round number. But by going a few pence over your limit you improve your chances of winning an auction.
Bidding £30.03 means you’ll outbid the person that has set their limit at £30.00.
Improve your search
eBay searches item titles by default using the keywords you enter, but you can improve the results you get by also searching an item’s description.
You can do this by selecting the advanced search option ‘title and description’ before you do a search or afterwards on the results page, to enhance your search results.
This might be helpful for sellers that have forgotten to use key brand names, sizes or dimensions in the title but have included them in the description.
Take a look at feedback
eBay sellers all have a feedback rating, which you can use as guide as to how trustworthy sellers are.
You should be wary of sellers with zero feedback.
Trawl ‘Buy it now’ listings
If you don’t fancy the hassle of bidding and waiting for an auction to end you can search for the item, you want and filter listings for those that feature a ‘Buy it now’ option.
Ordering the results by most recently listed means you might be able to spot items that have been put up cheaply and bag them before anyone else gets a chance.
Make an offer
Some fixed price ‘Buy it now’ items are listed with a ‘Make offer’ option, which allows buyers to put forward a figure they would be willing to pay, which the seller can decide to go for.
To help you make an educated guess on what a seller is likely to accept you could try Goofbid’s Best Offer History tool.
By entering the seller's username you can see what items they have accepted best offers on and the average discount they give.
It's a great way to bag a bargain. I've used this method in the past to get a £100 Ikea Hemnes desk knocked down to just £40, as the seller was looking for a quick sale.
Haggle for a better price
Even if an item doesn’t have a Best Offer option you can still contact the buyer to see if you can haggle on the price.
This works best on buy-it-now listings and auctions with a high starting price and no bids (listings that have bids can’t be changed).
To contact a seller, you just need to click ‘ask a question’ and make your move. If they agree, ask them to change or add a buy-it-now price on the listing to keep the transaction within eBay.
Look out for delivery charges
You should always factor in the cost of delivery to see if you are really getting a bargain.
To compare listings, you can filter results by 'lowest price and P+P' which will calculate it for you.
Some sellers try to boost their income by charging a bit more than needed for delivery. However, eBay is cracking down on this loophole by introducing new caps and applying fees to postage costs.
Browse ‘other’ categories
eBay says items put into the ‘Other’ category listings tend to receive less bids so they are worth browsing through to see if a bargain can be found.
The category Mobile Phones & Communication > Mobile Phone & PDA Accessories > Other Mobile Phone Accessories for example probably has some gems that could have been listed in Mobile Phones & Communication > Mobile Phone & PDA Accessories.
Watch out for fakes
eBay has a tough policy on selling counterfeit goods. But some knock-offs get through.
Common fakes include Mulberry handbags and Ray-Ban sunglasses.
To avoid wasting money, look at a seller’s feedback and be wary of items that are especially cheap and have a stock photo.
My flatmate was caught out by too good to be true Ugg boots for under £50.
Avoid private deals
Some sellers may suggest doing a deal outside of eBay. But if you comply you’ll have less protection if things go wrong.
Expand your search
You might be able to bag a bargain by searching for items at eBay’s overseas sites.
To include these auctions, select a location on the advanced search options. Or head direct to the international eBay site. Just check the seller will ship worldwide before bidding.
Also check the postage fees and factor in what customs charges you might incur.
Know your rights
When you buy from an eBay ‘business seller’ you have the same basic rights as when you buy from a shop, so your goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of a satisfactory quality. This applies to both new and second-hand items.
With private sellers, buyers have less protection. The only rights that apply under law are that the product should be fairly described (also included in eBay’s buyer protection) and the owner has the right to sell it.
To return an item from an eBay business seller bought via an auction or buy-it-now you’ll have 14 days after the date of delivery to notify the seller and 14 days to send the item back. Read eBay's returns guide for more.
Complain within 30 days
You can make a complaint if you’re unhappy with your purchase up to 30 days after the delivery date.
Read more about this in eBay's Money Back Guarantee.
If an item turns out to be faulty, counterfeit or just never turns up, you’ll be more likely to get a refund.
However, PayPal purchases don’t carry Section 75 protection.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 states that if you pay for an item between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card company is jointly liable with the retailer.
Don’t assume eBay is best
Buying something on eBay doesn’t automatically mean you’re getting a bargain. So you should do your research and compare prices for what you want.
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