Some hints on effective buying and selling at eBay...


Short version

To win, bid the most you are willing to pay, as late as possible. I use AuctionSniper.com to make it easy.


eBay is an auction, but not the familiar kind. Some key differences:

  • The winner does not pay what they bid but rather a small amount (the bid increment) more than the "runner up" bid.
  • The system does not reveal your actual bid but only whatever amount is sufficient to make your bid the highest bid. In other words, if you have bid $100 and someone else bids $10, your bid will be displayed as $10.50.

Bottom line: Here's a simple strategy to win auctions (i.e. outbid all other buyers) while paying the least amount necessary.

  • Determine $MAX, the most you are willing to pay. (I.e. you would regret having been outbid if you bid below $MAX but would be happy you did not pay so much if someone else is willing to pay more.)
  • Bid that amount, once, as late as possible in the auction.

The result of this:

  • As long as your $MAX is more than anyone else's bid, you will win the item.
  • If your $MAX is outbid, you will be sad you didn't win, but happy you didn't pay so much.
  • Because you bid at the very end, nobody will change their bid to beat yours.

To make it simple, experienced buyers use a technique called "sniping". This simply means waiting until the last few seconds of the auction to make their one and only bid. Since that's a very time consuming and stressful task, a number of sniping services are available. Personally, I've found AuctionSniper.com is extremely reliable and low cost (and your first three winning snipes are free!)

Sniping makes eBay buying a much more relaxing and enjoyable process. Enter your data then go on with life. No need to constantly monitor the auction. And if there are several items available that fit your needs, you can create a Bid Group to automate the process of bidding on one after the other until you win one (or more if that's what you need).


Here's an outline of a good selling process, to earn top dollar on your items:

  • Decide what you want to sell
  • Research
    1. Is there a market? (i.e. have there been similar sales recently?)
      • Any with multiple bids?
      • If few sales and almost no bids, perhaps this is not a good item (or time) to sell
    2. Which eBay categories were most popular?
    3. What final selling price range? (Search completed items)
    4. What stands out about the sales that earned more?
      • Did the top earners have a better description, a good photo, a warranty, or ???
      • What keywords are important in the title and/or description?
      • Am I willing to duplicate the "top seller" attributes? (I.e. if they refurbished the unit to clean it up and replace its power cord, or gave a 30 day DOA (not Dead On Arrival) guarantee, would I be willing to do the same?)
      • If I have many to sell: is Bundled or Separate better? (i.e. sell each one separately, or a set of 10?)
      • If I have many to sell: are Single-unit auctions or "dutch" better? (Dutch: 3 sold in one auction, but buyers can bid on 1-3)
  • Prepare the advertisement, using HTML
    1. Category to sell in
    2. Title
    3. Thumbnail photo for listing? (Costs extra)
    4. Body text
    5. Photo(s) -- you must upload them somewhere on the web other than eBay! (Hint: join ICTA and you can upload them in your space on the community photo gallery)
    6. Selling info
      • Minimum price (normally, keep it very low, like $1, to generate lots of bidding activity)
      • One or many?
      • Offer bundled shipping? (i.e. if you have many items to sell, offer to combine shipments to a winning bidder)
  • Upload the ad
  • Activate the auction, typically for the longest time, to allow more notice and bidding activity
  • Track the auction; respond to questions
  • Respond quickly to winner; wait for payment
  • Ship item(s)
  • When the transaction is complete, leave feedback for the buyer