Want a bargain? Of course you do. Need to clear all that, ahem, useful-to-someone-else stuff from the garage? Here's how to work the socks off eBay, the world's biggest auction site, whether you're buying, selling, or just hunting for a great deal.
Buying and selling on eBay is a dark art. Get it right and it’s the best way to get rid of stuff, as well as somewhere to save some money off high street prices.
Get it wrong and you can get lumbered with buyers looking to manipulate the system for undue refunds, or end up embroiled in a product-returns system that’ll make you wish you’d just headed to PC World.
Here are some top eBay tips and tricks to help you get the best deal, whether you’re buying or selling.
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1) Local deals are often super-hot
Part of what makes eBay great is the convenience factor. It has stuff you won’t even find on Amazon, and quite a lot of it can be on your doorstep in a day or two. You can snag some mega-bargains if you trade away some of that special sauce, though.
We’re talking about local collection deals: bargain central. Money Saving Expert has even made a local deals app that lets you sift through eBay’s nearby wares to find a hot deal. This is a great way to buy bigger bits of tech, like TVs, if you can stomach the faff of having to pick it up yourself.
2) Look for misnamed items
The classic tip for eBay bargain hunters is to look for listings that have fallen foul of a keyboard fumble: a typo. Unlike your phone, eBay doesn’t have a super-aggressive autocorrect function because you’re not exactly going to find many product names in the dictionary.
That means it’s ripe for misspellings. But which misspellings? This is the tricky bit: what to search for. The best bet is to search for product names without the manufacturer, in case that part has been misspelt, or to try the name with one letter switched over to the adjacent key.
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3) Don’t bid until the very end
When you think about it, there’s not much point in bidding until the very last moment. Get into a bidding war two days before the end of an auction and your rival is only going to get more invested in owning that Hello Kitty TV you think would look great in the spare bedroom.
It’s a good policy not to bid until right at the end of the auction, letting you get one over on any novice bidders. The idea is to make your bid so late that bidders don’t have time to re-bid. So make sure you’re logged in, make sure you have a good connection and have your maximum bid in mind beforehand.(Image credit)
4) Snipe auctions automatically
Manually placing bids right at the end of auctions is either exciting or incredibly stressful, depending on your disposition. It can also lead to you either over-bidding or fumbling a bid if you don’t keep your cool. You can actually get online tools to automatically bid for you, though.
Sites like Gixen will place bids for you in the very last second of an auction: it’s a real pro-level tool. You may have heard this called 'sniping', and unless getting your hands dirty with the bidding process is part of the fun, sniping is really the only way to buy auction goods on eBay. Sniping apps are freely available too. Myibidder is another one of our favourites. (Image credit)
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5) Know your rights
eBay is no longer the Wild West market stall of the internet that it once was. However, you still need to make sure you know what you’re getting.
For example, just because an item is described as new, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a manufacturer warranty with it. Also, read the listing carefully to see whether accessories are included or not. If in doubt, ask the seller.
However, unless you’re flat-out at fault because you didn’t bother to look at the description, you’re covered. Pay with PayPal, and use the eBay Resolution Centre, and you’ll lose nothing but the time you put into the purchase.
6) Beware the grey import
If you see a popular piece of tech – an iPad Air 2, say – selling at an unusually good price even though it’s new, it may well be a ‘grey import’. These are products imported from outside the EU, so you’ll often find there’s a US or EU plug in the box instead of a normal one.
This doesn’t mean it’s a fake, or that you’re being conned. However, you do need to check out the manufacturer warranty conditions online. If that product doesn’t have a ‘worldwide’ warranty, you’re left relying on whatever warranty the seller offers. If any. And even if the seller has a 10,000 positive feedback rating, that doesn’t necessarily mean its warranty service is much cop.
That feedback is usually left a few days after an auction, not six months down the line when something has gone horribly wrong. (Image credit)
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7) Selling? Buy It Now works best for niche items
Sellers beware: there are few more annoying things than seeing an item worth £250 sell for 99p. This is a real possibility if you list something very niche as an auction without a reserve. Unless your listing finds a ‘critical mass’ of interested bidders, it’ll go nowhere.
You might want to think about listing items like this as Buy It Now purchases, which can be listed on eBay for up to 30 days. This gives your potential buyers much longer to find your actual item, and fall in love with the idea of owning the thing.
This is a good strategy for any niche tech brands that just aren’t searched for as often as, say, Samsung, as well as things like collectibles. Now that eBay offers a lot of free listing opportunities as standard, there’s not much to lose if you have the time to play with.
8) Check out Anyvan for giganto items
If you don’t own a gigantic estate car, it can seem like your dreams of snagging that bargain-tastic buyer-collects treadmill are over. However, don’t decide you need to get with the masses and take out a gym membership to use every other month.
Anyvan is a great service for bigger eBay purchases. You detail your courier needs on the site, then 'man with a van' types bid for your custom, generally ending up with a pretty favourable rate unless you’re looking to lug a sofa literally from one end of the country to another.
User reviews let you thoroughly vet these couriers too, and most offer full insurance. There’s also an Anyvan app. (Image credit)
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9) Save searches and members for your faves
If you’re looking for something that’s going to cost you big-time, there’s a good chance you’ll be searching eBay for ages. Before bed. During your commute. On the toilet.
You can save a bit of time by saving searches in the eBay app, so you don’t have to type out the same terms over and over again. The app will even send you updates when new items appear under that term, if you fancy. To do this, just make a search in the mobile app, then press the ‘Follow’ button that’ll appear in the results page.
10) You can customise your app alert tones
Leave the eBay app to do its thing and it’ll bleat out some very recognisable tones when you get any notifications. There’s a 'buying' one and a 'selling' one.
If you don’t fancy any of your eBay-loving co-workers asking exactly what you’re buying or selling as soon as the app pipes up, you can customise these tones. There’s a whole bunch of the things in the app. Just go to Settings > Notifications > Customise Sound.
You can also set ‘Quiet Times’ here if you don’t want the app to start chirping as you’re trying to go to bed. Night-time eBaying is the enemy of beauty sleep. (Image credit)
11) eBay deals: the modern-day high street sale
If you’re an eBay cynic, someone who thinks it’s rammed full of dodgy sellers and sub-market, stall-soiled goods, it’s time for a re-visit. eBay Deals is where you’ll find the latest special offers from some of eBay’s biggest sellers. These include high street shops like Argos.
It’s all new gear, too; not just whatever these shops have found down the back of the sofa. eBay Deals was part of an attempt to clean up the eBay image back in the old days, and purchases come with guarantees just as they would in a shop. It’s like buying on the high street without the faff.
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12) You can scan barcodes in the app
Fancy a bit of cheeky high street eBay price checking? You don’t have to tap away in the search bar while the HMV store manager looks on disapprovingly.
Instead, you can just scan a barcode using the camera within the eBay mobile app and it’ll show the listings for that item in a second. All you have to do is tap the search button, then the barcode-like icon to the right of the search bar.
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Got any super-useful eBay tips? Let us know in the comments below.