Buying Online Auctions

eBay and other Online Auction Bidding Tips

Congratulations! You found an item online that you want to buy on an online auction! You may feel excited, wanting not only the item, a low, price but also to win. Online auctions are a great resource to find items for amazing prices but be sure to follow these tips and tricks to stay focused and make good choices buying at online auctions.

Rewards in Research

It is important that you know about the item you are bidding on so that you are paying a reasonable value compared to the quality of the item. For antiques and art know when the item was made, by who, and where. If these aspects aren’t in the item description or not proven with photographs and receipts inquire the seller for more information. Double check that all the facts line up with your research, and that the item truly is what the seller is describing.

The photographs should be of the exact item being sold, not a generic image of that brand or item from an online photo. This will decrease your chances of getting a counterfeit good. Another thing to note is the item’s measurements. Ask yourself if it fit where you want to place it? How about through your front door?

Online Auctions are not the only option

Remember that online auctions may not be the best place to buy that item. Many people assume they are getting the best prices, but be sure to check that you are in fact bidding below the retail price. It is also a good idea to search for other listings and other online auction sites to see if similar items are selling for similar prices. Prices too low could be a sign that the item is counterfeit or potentially invite high bidding competition resulting in a bidding war or a sniping bid. To understand more about the bidding strategies described here, continue reading below.

Check for additional charges

Make sure you understand all additional charges such as commission, delivery, and usage fees. Contact the site and/or seller if you have any question or concerns about charges. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the payment terms and accepted methods of payment. In addition, be sure that the shipment details are properly outlined and enforced by the site. If possible, see if the seller has any reviews before finalizing the purchase.


Bidding Strategy for Success

Most importantly, set your limits. Your competitive nature could get you in a bad situation. Furthermore, it’s important to make sure you have a maximum bid in mind so that you don’t get carried away in the adrenaline pumping sopping experience.

Many online auctions allow you to set a maximum bid. This method will force you to do your research so that you set a price relative the quality and actual worth of the item while also considering your own wallet before getting heated in the moment.

Proxy Bidding

Some auction sites, including eBay, allow users to proxy bid, meaning the site will bid for you. The site will bid in increments only enough to ensure you hold the winning bid. However, the site will stop once you have hit your maximum bid limit. This is a great technique since no one else knows what your maximum bid is, therefore the seller cannot keep bidding just enough to force the proxy to bid again. Unfortunate, there are occasions where you may have lost by a few dollars over your maximum bid. So, if you do use this strategy, be sure to check the auction around the closing time to see just how much the current winning bid is above your maximum bid. At this point, you can consider if it is worth it to bid higher.


If many people are bidding in an auction, it can start a frenzy as more people see and become intrigued and inevitably bid as well. Bidding wars actually increase competition and the price can spiral out of control. Moreover, you don’t want to start this crazy by bidding too low early on in the auction. Waiting until the end of the auction, allows you to bid closer to the end time so that there is less time for others to bid above you and continue to raise the price.

In the same sense, if you see that the price is set much lower than the actual value of the item, the seller may be trying to incite a competitive bidding spree to raise the price dramatically. However, you can avoid this issue by showing competitors that you are a serious bidder. If you bid high above the starting price, closer to the actual value of the item, competition will be scared off, believing that you will easily outbid them do to your aggressive approach. Moreover, the potential bidding frenzy can be stopped before it even starts. Keeping low bidders looking for a low-ball price out of the auction.


Sniping is when a bidder waits for the last few seconds of the auction to bid. Even though the sniper’s bid barley increases the price, and can easily be outbid, there is not enough time for the competition to respond. It is important to note that a few online auction sites don’t have hard closing times on the auctions to avoid sniping bids. In this case the auction time is extended a few minutes after a bid is made within the last few seconds of the auction.

However, sniping can be a risky tactic. Any issues with Wi-Fi, the browser, or pop-ups could cause you to lose the bid because you missed the small window of opportunity to snipe. Plus, this is a well-known strategy. Therefore if the price is abnormally low, many others will be bid sniping as well, causing high competition near the end of auctions.


On the other hand, instead of waiting unnoticed for the end of the auction, a squatter bids continuously and constantly throughout the auction. This gives off a signal to other bidders to stay away, anything they bid will be outbid. This works well when there are many different auctions for essentially the same item. Why bid in an auction for this computer, if I can bid in a different auction for the exact same computer, but there is no squatter. If you are going to squat an auction, make sure it is known that any competition will be outbid. Bid high intimately to discourage other competitors from bidding.


The common bidder thinks in round numbers. Moreover, people will tend to bid in round numbers as well. An easy way to outbid these round number bids is to include decimals. If you believe the item is worth about $100 and your competitor bids exactly $100, you can bid $102.56. You will win by only $2.56. Keep in mind you may not be the only bidder using the decimals strategy. So instead of adding on only a penny, adding a dollar and a penny may be more worth your effort, while still minimizing extra costs. Note this only works for proxy, maximum bidding because other bidders cannot see the exact amount you have bet, otherwise, they could easily outbid you with just a penny.

Buy it Now

The Buy it Now option, is a function the seller chooses to allow. It is a price set by the seller that allows buyers to buy the item without having to bid. This mitigates the risk of a bidding war surpassing your maximum offer. However, once a bid is made for the item this option typically disappears. Therefore, this option typically doesn’t last long. To take advantage of the but it now option on eBay, you can opt to have eBay notify you via email of any listings that match your search criteria, so that you have the opportunity to use the Buy it Now option before someone else make a bid.

Bid Nibbling

Bid nibbling is a strategy that involves continuously and consistently outbidding the top bid by a small increment. The strategy wards off competition of low ball and less serious bidders hoping to win an item with a crazy low price. The small increments will ensure that you pay only what you need to pay, increasing your chances of winning the item under its market value. Unfortunately, this method takes time and constant attention in order to win.

Low-ball bidding (not recommended)

Low-ball bidding will result in a bad reputation, and very few, if any, winning items. The idea behind this strategy is that many items of high value are listed at low starting prices. Many people falsely think they can bid at the starting value and win the item, but this rarely results in a purchase. To be “successful,” the buyer will need to low ball bid on numerous items, around 100 or more auctions, for a chance to win with a low-ball bid. In fact, many sellers will even reject your bid, and possibly rate you poorly.

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