How to win an eBay bargain

Maurizio Gambarini/DPA

Ebay is a bargain hunters paradise but unlike traditional shopping you need to master some cunning techniques to track down good deals and win them at a great price.

From clever online tools to tricky bidding techniques, we share the top tips to bag a bargain on the world's top auction site.

The key to finding an eBay bargain is to hunt down items that are unlikely to attract much attention. This leads to fewer bids, which keeps the price low and allows you to swoop in to bag a great deal. Finding these unloved pieces it is not as difficult as it might seem thanks to a host of powerful online tools.
  • Look for local items Sellers of bulky, heavy or fragile items often specify that they must be picked up in person. As buyers have to factor in time and fuel costs, it creates a lack of competition, which keeps prices low. Find these items by sorting your search results by distance - nearest first, or use Localbargainfinder. This clever site allows you to enter your postcode, distance you want to travel and maximum budget, and trawls eBay to find local hidden gems.
  • Look out for poor spelling Mis-spelt item descriptions or those with typos will attract fewer bids because many people don't see them when they search using the correct spelling. Two clever sites to help you track down these listings include Fatfingers and Goofbay.
  • Find no bid items Sellers often start auctions at just 99p hoping to attract attention and fuel a bidding war. This doesn't always happen as many items go undiscovered and remain at this super bargain price. To track down no bid items, visit Lastminute auctions, which scours for eBay auctions that are due to finish within an hour but are still under £1.
  • Sign up for favourites If you are in the market for something that is quite rare or just much cheaper to buy secondhand, set up a saved search to keep up to date with new listing without having to constantly check eBay yourself. When you have searched for the item, click the save this search link and you'll have the option to receive email notifications from eBay when sellers list new items that match your search.
When you have tracked down something you want to buy, the fun part starts with some clever bidding tactics. Have a budget in mind and do some research to find out what final price similar items have sold for to avoid paying over the odds.
  • Don't rush to bid Yes it is tempting, but avoid bidding early. Even with a bid as low as £1.50 for example, it can trigger competing bids from other buyers, which will drive the price up. The best tactic is to sneak in with a cheeky bid in the last few seconds giving no time for others to bid back.
  • Snipe your way in Try out a 'sniping' website such as Goofbay and Bidnip, which automatically bid on your behalf. You will need to sign up, enter the eBay item number and your maximum budget, then just sit back and wait. Goodbay is free, while more reliable charges roughly 35 cents (17p) per auction won. With both sites, beware the potential security risk of sharing your eBay password – it is required for the service to work but it is important to use a different password than for your bank, social media and email accounts.
  • Give a low best offer Where eBay sellers invite 'best offers' there is a cunning trick to discover what previous offers have been accepted. This is useful when business sellers sell multiples of the same item, as opposed to one offs. Tick the 'best offer' box in the advanced search option and search as usual. Once you've found a product that accepts best offers, click to view the sellers other items, then click 'completed items.' This will display all the items that seller has already sold and those that say 'best offer' will indicate the lowest price they have accepted.
  • Arrange your own postage Some sellers try to boost their income by charging high delivery rates. Where postage seems excessive, ask if you can arrange your own.
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