A Cheapskate’s Guide to Landing the Best Deal on Ebay

by Nindo Mom on February 23, 2011

1. Set Your Buying Goals

Decide exactly what you want to buy. Then, decide if there are any variations of the product that you’re willing to buy as a second choice. Why is this necessary? Because to get the best value on Ebay, you need to buy what you want. Sounds obvious, right? But think about what usually happens when we go to the grocery store without a list–we overbuy. We buy too much, we buy the wrong things, we pay too much–and we’re usually disgusted with ourselves after the fact.

The answer: make an Ebay shopping list–and stick to it.

2. Do Your Research

Check to see what your target item sells for in stores.

Next, check online to see what your target item is selling for on the Internet. The fastest way to do this, in my experience, is using Google’s shopping search–just go to Google’s homepage, enter  your target item in the search field, then hit enter. At this point, simply go to the list of terms on the far left hand side of the page and click on “Shopping.” What you’ll be left with is a list of shopping results.

Google’s shopping search will generally get you an excellent selection of results–but often, it’s not all-inclusive and may miss a number of top retailers. To get a more inclusive picture, search the big retailer’s websites directly. Remember–the sites you want to check should be for the stores where you’d expect to find your item sold. (It doesn’t make sense to check for a pair of ladies shoes at Toys R Us, for example.) And remember–store websites frequently offer a wider selection of products than their physical, brick and mortar counterparts.

Check Ebay’s Completed Auction/Listing Prices

This is the best way to find out what your target item sold for in the last two weeks. To find out the final purchase price of the item in question:

1. Go to Ebay’s website and sign in.

2. Click on the word “Advanced” displayed in blue right next to the search button.

3. In the search field–which is identified by the worlds “enter keyword or item number”–enter the prominent keywords for the item you want to buy.

4. Scroll down the page until you see the heading “Search Including,” then find the term “completed listings” underneath it. Check off the box for “completed listings”–and ONLY that box.

5. Go back up to the box where you entered your item keywords, then click on the blue SEARCH button to the right of the keyword box.

You’ll come up with a list of results for items whose auctions have ended within the last two weeks. Any item listed in red did not sell; any item listed in green DID sell–so the green ones are what you want to look at. I always aim to pay no more than the lowest winning bid price in the last two weeks.

When reviewing the winning bid prices, be sure to note the shipping and handling charges for the item. Some sellers may list items at almost unbelievably low prices, then charge $300 for shipping. (Yes, I’ve seen it happen. An Xbox 360 sold for 1 penny, then the shipping was $300.)

3. Decide How Much You Are Willing to Pay

After all the research, decide the maximum amount you are willing to pay for your item, including shipping–and stick to it! It’s just too easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment and bid much higher than you planned–and then, you’re gonna be ticked off at yourself. So don’t do it!


Factors to Consider – What May Affect the Final Prices for Items

Item Location

If you’re looking for an item manufactured exclusively overseas and it’s not available in your home country, then don’t be surprised if you end up having to order it from overseas. International shipping can be VERY EXPENSIVE, so always check the item’s shipping cost to your location BEFORE you bid. Also, be aware that you, as the buyer, will be responsible for any import or customs fees your country may charge you when your order overseas items.

Time of Year

Close to the holidays, prices–and demand–will be higher for certain categories of items. This is especially true with items such as electronics and toys–especially hot-selling toys that may be short supply in retail stores.

As the weather starts to change, you can expect prices for used and new clothing for the upcoming season to go up. Sales will probably remain higher on these items until the next season approaches.

Bidding at the Right Time – Bid Late, Not Early

You can keep track of any auctions for items that interest you with your “add to watch list” feature in Ebay. But hold off on any actual bidding until about 2 minutes before the auction ends. Bidding earlier than this only forces the item’s final price higher as other Ebay buyers bid against each other. Bid late, and there’s less time for bidders to “duke it out.”

There are services out there that will bid automatically for you at whatever time you choose. But I generally don’t bother with these–mainly because I don’t like to pay for something I can do myself. But I suppose if you’re more of a set-it-and-forget-it kind of Ebay shopper, this service might be right up your alley. Just remember that, if you have to pay a bidding service, it has the effect of increasing the cost of the items you buy.

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