How to find (some) bargains on eBay

Many people buy and sell things on eBay. It used to be a great way to get bargains on used stuff. Now there are so many professional sellers mixed in with many impulsive buyers that cause many eBay prices to be higher than what you would pay in a regular store or at other websites. There are still ways to get bargains, and here are a few ideas.

Search through complete auctions. To do this, first do a regular search for the item of interest, and then in the left column, a couple of screens down, under the "Search Options" heading, click on "Completed Listings". You will have to sign in. Then you can see that the prices highlighted in green are the ones that did sell and the prices in red are the ones that didn't sell. Get an idea of the average price and look at the ones that sold for a small price.
Search for common misspellings of the article you are interested in. For example, if you are looking for a BlackBerry, you might want to look for a BlackBarry, a BlakBerry, a BlacBerry, or a BlackBery. These items will attract fewer buyers, since not as many people will find them when searching, and you might get a lower price.
Despite what eBay claims, bidding towards the end of the auction is more likely to get you a lower price, since you are less likely to get in bidding wars with the early bidders, since the early bidders may not be monitoring the auction as it ends.
Don't forget the shipping in the cost of the item. While it is less severe than it used to be, some sellers will try to make a significant profit on shipping charges.
Look for used items and people with relatively low ratings. You want the seller to have a high *percentage* of positive ratings, but if the seller has tens of thousands of ratings, that means that the seller is an eBay professional and is likely going to make a handy profit from the sale, rather than an individual who is probably looking to clear some stuff out of the house and make a buck.
Look for auctions that have photos of the actual item in question and not generic stock photos. These auctions are more likely to be individual sellers and not from large professional sellers.

  • Always do a reality check to make sure the seller is legitimate. If something seems fishy, it probably is. Ask a local friend who has more experience buying online if you are unsure about a particular sale. Report suspicious activity to eBay.

Copyright 2009 by Michael Nehring