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How To Buy On Ebay And Get the Best Deal

Published 10/25/07 (Modified 3/22/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I'm a frequent eBay buyer and former seller. I've learned a few tricks to get the best deals when buying through eBay auctions. Getting the best deal does take a little extra research but the savings are worth it!

1) Run eBay Searches Using Different Keyword Combinations

The example I'm going to use to demonstrate my eBay buying tricks will be from my experience in buying Smartrip metro cards. These are the magnetic debit cards that people living in the Washington D.C. area use to take the subway. The card can hold upwards to $300 at a time and like gift cards, there is an eBay market for people looking to buy them at a discount.

When running searches for the metro cards, I use a wide variety of keywords such as Smartrip, SmartCheck, D.C. Metro cards, D.C. subway cards, and Smart Trip. People frequently advertise their products on eBay using different names. Try punching in spelling errors like "dimond" rather than "diamond". You won't believe how many sellers frequently misspell their ads, thereby limiting the number of available buyers bidding on their auction. Less bidding competition gives the smart eBay buyer a greater chance of getting a great deal. It's really not all that difficult to profit from ebay typo bargains.

You can also create a favorite saved batch search for several keywords. At the eBay search prompt, select "Advanced Search", enter you keywords and remember to click on the box that indicates "Save This Search to eBay". If you want to create a search that will automatically look for several keywords, just enclose them in parentheses and separate them with commas without the space in between. After clicking search, you will have the option of saving it.

2) Contact the Seller Directly To Make An Offer

This one is a bit more controversial, but I'm providing it just for alternative information. You may or may not get into some trouble with this one.

Rather than starting out by bidding for a product, I contact the seller directly and send him a suggestive proposal, hinting that I may be interested in offering a certain amount of money which will also include the cost of shipping. I also indicate that I can pay as soon as possible via Paypal since prompt payment is attractive to sellers.

I've gotten the best deals by contacting the seller directly. I used to frequently negotiate deals of paying $160 for a $300 Smartrip metro card and saved a lot of money by doing this.

For this method to work, it's very important that you make sure the seller is trustworthy so check to see that the seller has ample reviews (the more the better but at least 50).

I note again that this method has been suggested to be a likely technical violation of eBay's policies. I have yet to see them enforce this matter however and I've been doing this for over 8 years.

3) Scout Out How Much Other Winning Buyers Bid To Win the Item

The great thing about eBay is that there is a lot of auction history information for buyers and sellers to research. Oftentimes sellers will run more than one auction for the same type of item and might even have sold several units already. All of this historical information is available.

I like to search through my target seller and check out the reviews left by people who have bid and won similar items to see what the fair final bidding price would be. Sometimes I like to contact other buyers just to see if the product was as advertised.

4) Bid on eBay Auctions At the Very Last Second

If you are a seasoned eBay buyer, you know that the greatest bidding activity occurs in the last few minutes of any auction. If you are looking at an eBay auction that still has hours before expiration, you should know that you are not looking at anything close to it's final fair market value. The closer to expiration the truer the market value. By waiting till the last moment you will ensure that you don't get into a bidding battle with another determined bidder. Just remember to bid a fair value or you might get outbid by someone else's higher proxy offer.

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8 Responses to “How To Buy On Ebay And Get the Best Deal” 

  1. Joseph says:

    Tip #2, to directly contact the seller, is a direct violation of eBay's terms and can get you in hot water with eBay (including account termination) if the seller reports your approach to eBay or if they otherwise get wind of your offer (i.e. by monitoring your communications with the seller.)

    And the seller can get into the same trouble with eBay if he accepts your approach.

  2. Raymond says:

    Hi Joseph - Yeah I knew I'd get comments on that point. :)
    I guess it would be like me advising people how to watch out for speed traps when driving above the speed limit. I'm not necessarily advocating the practice, I'm just writing about my past experiences and the various techniques people use. I'll also note that I've never met an eBay seller who turned down an offer for policy reasons before, but that's probably because I don't do it on a massive scale. I haven't done it in a while either so I'm not sure if eBay has been cracking down harder recently.

  3. TMM says:

    As far as the typos go, you can also use fatfingers.com to generate common typos for the item.

    I've gotten some great deals on vintage Pyrex bowls this way.

  4. Raymond says:

    Now were they Pirex or Pierex bowls? :)

  5. TMM says:

    I believe they were Pryex. Such an easy mistake to make, but it saves a ton of money.

  6. Exjackly says:

    How about the unpopular tip of putting in your maximum bid early? E-bay will do proxy bids for you until somebody else exceeds your maximum bid. By getting your bid in early, you will win any ties.

    The other advantage is that you will not be tempted to exceed your 'maximum' in an effort to win the item.

    Yes, there is a possibility that people will try to run up your bid - but as long as you have truly put in your maximum, you do not have to ever worry about paying more than a fair price.

  7. Raymond says:

    I've got to disagree with you on that one. Ebay is all about snagging deals. If you're not willing to wait till the last moment to snipe in your winning bid, you might as well make the buy at a regular online store where prices are consistent.

    I've bid too early before too. I usually end up having to keep jacking up my bids to compete with someone else's higher maximum bid. That's bad because it ultimately raises the price because too many people are competing.

  8. shadox says:

    good tips! I especially liked the one about the typos. I will be sure to try it next time I bid on anything.

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