Robert writes on how to save money online and make the most of your budget.
How to Save Money on Ebay - Pro Tips
Ebay is a great place to find almost anything you want. It can also be a good place to save money but it is easy to overspend or miss out on the best deal.
The trick is to know how eBay operates and how you can use its features to your advantage to get the best possible quality and price on the things you want. The tips and tactics presented here will work on some items and not on other kinds of auctions or sales listings. It is important to know which ones to use and when.
EBay has two basic types of listings: items for sale at auction and items for sale at a fixed price. Within those two broad categories are subtypes which incorporate some characteristics of both. For example, some auction listings have a “buy it now” option that allows a buyer to bypass the entire auction and buy the item for a fixed price. These tips deal with all the different types of Ebay listings, and if you apply these shopping tactics you will save money on Ebay.
1. Never Make the First Bid
If you want to buy an item that is listed at auction you should never make the first bid, especially if the auction still has several days to go. It is a rookie mistake to make the first bid. Sellers tempt potential buyers by offering the item at auction for a ridiculously low price such as one penny or one dollar even though the item is clearly worth a lot more. They know it will never sell for that. But they set the starting bid to entice you. The goal is to get you to bid and create a buzz or excitement around the listing. The more people bid the more in demand the item will seem which will in turn generate more bids and drive up the price. There is no point in being the first one to bid a penny or dollar when the close of the auction is still days away because all it guarantees is that someone will come along and outbid you. Instead we should wait until close to the very last minute to make the maximum bid that you are willing to pay for the item. If the other bidders have already driven up the price beyond what you want to pay, then walk away. Most items are not unique and another one just like it will come along.
2. Never Bid More Than You Are Prepared to Pay
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of beating and wanting to win. It is also easy to think that you are so close to getting the item that getting a few more dollars won’t hurt. In fact one of the fallacies that gets buyers to bid more than they want to or more than the item is worth, is the notion of “I have already bid 10 times” and I may as well make another bid because I’m so close, or the fallacy that you can’t let the other bidder when so you have to outbid him. This only drives up the price and in a worst-case scenario you end up grossly overpay for something that in the end you may not even want. When deciding to bid on an auction you should evaluate what the item is worth objectively and what it is worth to you and then pick a maximum amount that you are willing to pay for it and never ever go beyond that amount even if you get caught in a bidding war against another potential buyer.
3. Most Items Are Not Unique
EBay started out as a place where people sold used items such as books and unique product that would otherwise be difficult to find. Nowadays that aspect of the site has been eclipsed by sellers in Asia, mainly China, selling thousands of mass-produced products.
It is not uncommon to find 10 or more sellers selling exactly the same thing with the same pictures, the same product descriptions but at wildly different prices. There are some strategic reasons as to why they may be selling the same thing at different prices such as showing up at different spots in the search results. But for the most part prices are set by what people are willing to pay. The plastic widget from China has no intrinsic value and there is nothing to say that it should sell for $10 or $20. Some sellers try to catch you into buying it for $20 even though if you look carefully on the site you might find the same thing selling for $10.
If you are looking for a specific item and find it in the search results you should take the title and search that item again to see what comes up. You will be surprised to find that in most cases the same item comes up multiple times in the search listings, at different prices and the first listing you found may not be the cheapest.
4. Ebay May Not Have the Best Price
Many of the sellers on eBay are actually drop shippers. The take your order and then have the item shipped to you from China. In order for them to make money they have to sell it to you for more than what they paid their Chinese supplier. Chances are that you can find the item more cheaply by simply googling the name of the item to see where else you could buy it. You may be surprised to find, as I often have, that the same thing is available on sites such as aliexpress.com.
For example I was looking for a tray to sprout wheatgrass. The same item was selling for $16 on eBay and $12 on AliExpress. However, despite the difference in price I ended up buying it from eBay because of the following reason.
5. Price Isn't Everything
Although you may be able to find the same item cheaper on sites such as AliExpress, eBay has a robust customer service protection program and something goes wrong such as not receiving the product or getting something that does not live up to its advertisement.
Sometimes it is worth paying a little more for the peace of mind. This may seem counterintuitive in an article devoted to getting the best deal on eBay but getting the best deal is not just what you pay upfront but whether you get the item at all and whether you get what you bargained for. Sometimes dealing with a sketchy vendor will end up costing you more money than if you had paid a bit more somewhere else.
6. Sellers Value Their Reputations
On eBay vendors have a reputation based on the reviews that customers give them. Sadly many of these reviews are fake or manipulated. There are sites where you can buy fake reviews and many sellers take advantage of these. Vendors on eBay live in fear of getting negative reviews because they know that if they get too many negative reviews no one will buy from them and their vendor's account will end up being useless.
I have often been able to turn this to my advantage. In some cases I have purchased items that did not live up to my expectation. The quality was poor. Unfortunately I was not able to return them because shipping them back to China it would’ve cost me more than what I paid by them in the first place. So I posted a negative review and within a few days I received an email from the vendor asking me to withdraw or modify my review in exchange for a full refund. In other words they were willing to ignore their terms of sale which required return of the item to get a refund, in exchange for not getting a negative review.
I do not recommend trying to extract refunds or discounts by posting negative reviews. I am encouraging you however to be honest about the item and if it sucked, you should say so. You may just get your money back or a deep discount.
7. Sellers Will Offer Discounts
This is a trick that I discovered by accident but seems to work in a significant percentage of cases. If you are not in a great rush to buy a specific product add it to your “watchlist” and just wait to see what happens. Ebay has a system that notifies vendors when their listing has been added to a watchlist and allows the vendor to communicate with the person who added the item and offer them a discount.
The vendor does not have to do this but if sales have been slow you may get an email through eBay offering a 5 to 12% discount on the item you’re looking at. The discount offer is always time-limited so you will then have to decide whether the item is now worth buying or not. This method requires putting off making a purchase but will frequently result in a nice discount.
8. Make a Counter Offer
Fixed price listings are often not actually fixed-price. You may notice that a listing has a sale price and a button indicating “make an offer.” You can click on the make an offer button and this will put you in touch with the vendor through eBay’s messaging service. You can then offer to buy the item at a price that you propose, which of course will be lower than the original listing. Keep in mind that if the vendor accepts your offer you are legally bound to go ahead with the sale and pay what you proposed. Using this method you can often get a 5 to 12% discount on an item.
Just because a vendor has offered something for sale at a particular price does not mean that that is the right price or that you should pay it. You have nothing to lose if they turn down your offer to buy at a lower price.
9. Make Volume Purchases / Combine Shipping
EBay sellers, particularly overseas vendors, often have multiples of the same item for sale. As an incentive to buy more from them, they will usually offer a stated discount if you buy two or more of the same thing. Of course it is no savings at all to buy more if you do not need more of it. But if you do need it or think you will reasonably needed in the future, it will save you money to buy two or more of the same item at a time.
10. Make Sure You Really Need It
Sometimes the biggest savings is not buying anything.
Sites like eBay and Amazon are designed to tempt us into buying by flooding us with desirable things. You can easily buy too much, spend too much, or buy things you do not need at all simply because the site and its presentation tricked us into thinking that we needed it or that it was worth the money.
Unless you desperately need something the next day, take some time to cool off before you purchase it. When dealing with fixed-price listings or buy it now listings simply add the item to your watchlist or even put it in your shopping cart but do not complete the purchase. Close your browser tab and walk away from eBay for a bit. If you still want the item the next day, then go ahead and complete the purchase. This method will not save you money on a specific item but it may prevent you from wasting your money completely.
11. Manipulate the Search Results
When you search for an item the results are presented in a number of different ways. They can be ranked by relevancy, cost plus shipping from cheapest to highest, or cost plus shipping from highest to lowest. In addition sponsored search results, where a vendor pays for their item to show up at the top of the search results, may show up on top of everything else.
Usually the search results are listed by relevancy and not by best price. As a result the items you see may be selling for more than listings farther down in your search results. Make sure to toggle the search results to select different display methods including asking eBay to show you the best price. In addition be careful not to automatically select one of the sponsored search results without double checking if there are cheaper alternatives. The vendor paying for sponsored placement on top of the search results is trying to grab your attention and distract you from looking further to see if you can get the same item for less; very often you can.
These are the best tips on how to save money like a pro:
- Never Make the First Bid
- Never Pay More Than You Are Prepared to Pay
- Most Items Are Not Unique: You don't have to buy that item and you may find it cheaper from someone else.
- Ebay May Not Have the Best Price. Shop Around.
- Price Isnt Everything. Quality and Trustworthiness Matter.
- Vendors Value Their Reputation. You Have the Power.
- Sellers Will Offer Discounts - If you do things right.
- Make a Counter Offer. The worse they can say is no.
- Volume Purchases
- Make Sure You Really Need It
- Manipulate the Search Results.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 Robert P
The Logician on March 18, 2021:
I’ve noticed when bidding on an item if your bid is outbid because someone has a bid much higher you can know when you bid it up to that person’s top bid without having to out bid him. This works well most of the time because people usually pick a round number as their top bid.
For example, I keep bidding for an item by the usual increments but am outbid immediately every time I place a bid. This is because someone has placed a bid for the most they want to pay and so don’t have to watch it to outbid every bid.
Consequently as soon as I bid I’ve lost to a bid one increment higher than my bid. However, when I get to the top bid the other bidder has in place, usually a number you can match with a bid, I’ll lose but not to a bid one increment higher than mine but to a bid at the same amount I bid. So I know when that happens I have smoked out that top bid without outbidding it and I can sit back and wait. If I don’t want to pay more than what his top was I’ve forced him to pay up fir wasting my time and I can let it go.
It really isn’t fair that ebay allows this to occur because no one bidding should be able to know what a person’s top bid is but usually you can know when you lose the bid at the same price you bid.
Simply put if I bid $48 and l lose to $49 and then I bid $50 and I lose to $50 I know $50 is the highest bid that has been on the book from the start.