This month, I bought a new iPad 2 for $280 on eBay, more as a result of searching and planning than luck. A long time ago, I learned the dangers of shopping on eBay for the first time. It can be suck a wonderland of interesting things that you can buy right now and if you’re not careful, you can spend hours shopping on the site. Then there’s those of us who know what they want and want it right away. I don’t know how many times I’ve run to the local electronics store and paid more because I was unwilling to wait to play with some new gadget. If you’re smart about it, you can get more, spend less, and enjoy eBay savings like a pro with a few simple tips.
Free Shipping – When you have a long list of items after searching, check the Free Shipping box on the left side. This will limit auctions to those that do not charge you to ship your item out. Doing this can save money on shipping in general, but it also weeds out unscrupulous sellers who like to list an item for a low amount like a dollar and then charge $50 for shipping.
Sort and Filter – Believe it or not, you can get some incredible deals on eBay, but you often have to be quick or lucky. At the top of the search results, you’ll find a “Sort by:” select box with sorting options. I almost always sort by “Price + Shipping – Lowest First”. Additionally, I’ll make use of the “Buy It Now” tab at the top. Combined, they show me the cheapest items that I’m not in danger of being outbid on. If you don’t have time to watch auctions and re-bid, this is the way to go.
Snipe It – If you know what you’re willing to pay (total including shipping) for your item, you’re ready to snipe an auction. This just means you’re going to swoop in at the last second and steal the high bid. For those unable to sit and watch the auction when it’s closing, there are sites like eSnipe that will do the work for you. You (or eSnipe) will wait until the last 5-10 seconds and toss in the high bid. Why not bid your max price early? Some people don’t know their bidding limits and will just bid you up.
Know Your Limit – Knowing your limit isn’t just about how much money you can afford to spend, but also, what it’s worth to you per item. When I was iPad shopping, I had searched all the sales and corporate discounts and the best I could do on an iPad 2 was $389 new. I really wanted to spend $250 to $300 (ideally $250) and I put countless iPads in my watch list. As sad as it was to watch each end without bidding, I eventually got what I wanted in my price range because I knew my limits and stuck to them. Don’t let eagerness make you pay more.
Loss Leaders – Loss leaders are items stores sell at a loss to get you in the door in hopes that you’ll buy a lot more. A great example of this is Black Friday deals. eBay appears to have some of these, too. Often, I find little items for under a dollar with free shipping that I’m convinced are loss leaders to get you to watch the seller for more. I usually buy the loss leader item and watch for similar items from the same seller. The latest for me was an international power adapter for 15 cents shipped. Can’t beat that.
Feedback and Fine Print – All the tips above are great, but what looks like a good deal could turn into a nightmare if you get a bad seller or one whose account has been compromised. If the deal looks way too good to be true (like a new iPad for $10), check for any recent negative feedback and look at the fine print. You’ll find a box of cards that is really just the empty box, an iPad lookalike from China, or maybe an iPhone 5 for $200 but it requires a 2 year contract. Your savings is earned by paying attention.
With the tips above and a little patience, you can buy more for your money and spend less on the things you need. I’m certain that there’s other tips and tricks others have found, too. If you have your own that I’ve missed, please share in the comments and tell us what your best eBay deal was.