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How to Buy on eBay

Help yourself win that must-have item with these tips.


  • Step 1: Register and browse Create an account. Browse the categories to familiarize yourself with the site, especially if you don’t have a specific item in mind.
  • Step 2: Search for specific items If you know what you want, start searching by using broad terms and synonyms to yield the most results. Add quotes around your search terms or qualifiers, such as a specific color or size, to narrow the field. You can also post on the 'Want It Now' page, where sellers can see what you’re looking for and contact you if they have it.
  • TIP: Items are often misspelled; try searching for an item with some common misspellings.
  • Step 3: Check out the post Carefully read the item’s description and make sure it matches the posted photo. Factor in shipping and insurance costs, which can increase the price considerably. Ask the seller any questions before the auction closes.
  • TIP: Watch out for tricky wording: something that’s described as 'like' a brand-name item isn’t the brand-name item. Also, look out for qualifiers before the word new: 'like new,' 'almost new' – even 'not new.'
  • Step 4: Research your item Comparison shop online and offline. Auctioned items often don’t come with warranties or customer service, and a seller might offer a higher starting bid than the item’s cost elsewhere.
  • Step 5: Research the seller Read the feedback from buyers. If the seller has received a lot of negative comments, stay away. The more successful transactions a seller as completed, the more confidence you should have in them.
  • Step 6: Place your bid Type in your bid. eBay will notify you if another buyer outbids you, so you can rebid. You can also use eBay’s automatic bidding service, which allows you to enter the maximum amount you’re willing to spend. Your bid automatically increases against others until your max is reached; eBay will email you if someone outbids your maximum.
  • TIP: Don’t round off bids. Bidding 10 dollars and one cent will keep you ahead of the buyer who maxed out at 10.
  • Step 7: Log on at the end Bidding usually picks up significantly toward the end of the auction. 'Sniping' is the term for the flurry of last-second bids, which usually happen within the last 30 seconds of an auction, leaving other bidders no time to counterbid. Start monitoring your auction a few minutes before it ends, even if you are using automatic bidding.
  • Step 8: Prepare to snipe There’s no rule against it, so if you want to ensure you win your auction, try sniping. Open the auction page in two browser windows, side by side. Type your maximum bid in the window on the left and click 'place bid,' but don’t confirm your bid on the next page. Switch to the window on the right.
  • Step 9: Snipe! Refresh the page in the window on the right every few seconds to see changes to the current price and the time left. When there are 15 seconds remaining, switch to the left window. Click 'confirm bid.' Reload the auction page to make sure your bid was accepted. If you do it right, nobody will even know you bid until the auction is already over.
  • TIP: Automatic sniping services are available for a fee. Type 'auto auction sniping' into a search engine to find one.
  • Step 10: Pay for your item Once you’ve won an item, always pay using a reliable, traceable service. Do not deal with sellers who demand cash only.
  • Step 11: Inspect your item When you receive your item, inspect it carefully. Contact the seller through eBay’s resolution center to resolve any issues. If it’s good to go, it’s time to make your friends jealous of your new toy!
  • FACT: The first item ever auctioned on eBay was a broken laser pointer. It was meant as a test run, but a collector of broken laser pointers actually bought it!

You Will Need

  • A computer with internet access
  • Money
  • Patience

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