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12 Tricks Expert eBay Shoppers Use to Get the Best Deals

Step outside your online shopping comfort zone and unlock a world of savings.

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When it comes to fast-paced deal hunting online, we have eBay to thank for setting the standard. Known for its competitive auctions and quick turnaround times, this diverse marketplace is filled with millions of different vendors offering no shortage of unique deals and products that can’t be found anywhere else.

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Above all else, eBay rewards skill and gumption. When you learn the tricks of the trade, you have a much higher chance of securing auctions and negotiating prices effectively. Here are a few solid tips to consider next time you shop at eBay:

1. Try Auction Hunting Tools

woman using laptop on ebay
Credit: iStock.com/hocus-focus

Third-party tools like Lastminute Auction and No Bids are invaluable assets for those days where you aren’t looking for anything in particular but know that you want it at a rock bottom price. Lastminute Auction scans eBay auctions that are going to expire in the next hour, only showing items that currently cost $1 or less. No Bids offers a similar service, except for auctions that currently have no bids. If you are a seller, these sites are also great places to get a sense of what is (and isn’t) selling.

2. Get Creative With Spelling and Terminology

A gently used MacBook Pro from last year is sure to have plenty of interested buyers, but no one is looking for a gently used “MacBook Pre” — chances are, no one even knows that it’s there. You can use a search tool like Fat Fingers or No Bids’ Misspelled Listings if you want to try your luck at finding an item that has been listed incorrectly. Simply enter the correct spelling and these sites will crawl through eBay using a bank of common typos. Chances are, you’ll make your seller’s day once they realize why no one has been interested in their MacBook Pre.

Shop for Computers on eBay

It’s also worth remembering not everyone describes things the same way. As such, it never hurts to try a few variants on the product you’re looking for. While searching for a certain “hardcover” book might yield no results, searching for the same book + “hardback” might bring up a whole different set of listings.

3. It Never Hurts to Haggle

woman on phone
Credit: eBay

Buy It Now is much more hassle-free than playing the auction game, but you are less likely to lock in an unusually low price. If you see something that you really want but don’t want to pay the full asking price, you have nothing to lose by politely messaging the seller with a slightly lower offer price. The worst thing they can do is say no, after all. If you’re feeling self-conscious, don’t forget—sellers have the added incentive of a guaranteed sale and (hopefully) a good rating.

4. Turn On Price Alerts

On Slickdeals, you can set a Deal Alert on a specific item with a set price range that you’re willing to pay. eBay offers a similar function with its “Save this search” button, which can be found under the search bar on the results page. You can double your returns by setting alerts for several variations on the same query, ensuring that you never miss out. This is especially useful for limited releases and hot-ticket items that come and go quickly. Don’t forget to turn on notifications and email updates!

5. Look for Bundle Deals

seller boxing for ebay
Credit: eBay

Plenty of eBay merchants offer buy one, get one free deals and percent-off discounts when you purchase several items from their storefront. Small purchases like cables, books and clothing can add up if you buy a bunch of them all at once, so you can stack up some serious savings by bundling your order. Similar to haggling on Buy it Now items, you can always try your luck at messaging the seller for a bundle discount.

Shop Bundle Deals on Ebay

6. Keep an Eye Out for Refurbished Goods

When it comes to refurbished electronics, eBay is one of the most reliable places to go if you’re looking for a solid deal. In addition to open-box and refurb products, you can even buy salvaged goods and replacement parts if you want to try your hand at building or repairing something on your own. Some major electronics vendors like Newegg and SweetWater have eBay web stores, which is a solid place to find trustworthy refurbished items. If you’re not sure, always look for a “Certified Refurbished” tag on the product page. In any case, you should always look closely at the seller’s return policy.

Shop eBay’s Store Hub

7. Download the eBay App

eBay app
Credit: eBay

Shop on the go and streamline your deal-hunting experience by downloading the free eBay app. The marketplace offers app-only promotions, price alert push notifications and a simple interface perfect for all of your buying and selling needs. Don’t forget about one of the app’s best perks – the Barcode Scanner. Nothing stings quite like paying too much in-store and seeing the exact same thing for half the price online, right? Next time you’re shopping at a retail store like Target or Kohl’s, use the Barcode Scanner to make sure you can’t find the same item for less on eBay. If it ends up being cheaper, you can fire off your order then and there.

Download the eBay app

8. Enable Email Updates

As frustrating as a clogged inbox can be, it’s worth turning on email updates from eBay in your communication settings. eBay sends 20% off coupon codes every so often, which are usually meant for a specific category or vendor. These coupons can’t always be used sitewide, but they are catered to your shopping habits. Aside from the coupon perks, the eBay mailing list is a great place to find personalized picks.

Customize your eBay email notifications

9. Try a New Shopping Strategy

man using ipad looking at ebay
Credit: iStock.com/hocus-focus

Bidding is the best way to find unbeatable deals on eBay since your success and final price are tethered to what other people end up doing (or not doing fast enough). Conversely, you might lose an auction because someone sniped it at the last second. Choosing “Buy it Now” is ideal for eBay newbies and anyone buying items at a set price. It might be easier, but it’s not always cheaper.

Both of these strategies have their advantages and disadvantages, so why would you consistently choose one over the other? Get comfortable with both approaches and you’ll have better odds at getting the lowest price.

10. Save on Shipping by Shopping Local

Do you want to combine the ecstasy of scoring an unbelievable deal with the instant gratification of shopping in-store? Using the “Item Location” tab, try filtering your search results to only show items that are available for local pickup. Chances are, some local sellers are just trying to clear out the garage and aren’t “playing the eBay game” where they jack up prices and oversell the “rarity” of their household junk. This means savings for you, on top of not having to pay for shipping.

11. Don’t Be Afraid to Snipe

ebay products
Credit: eBay

It hurts when you plan an entire future with your brand new TV or exercise bike, just for someone to snipe it out from under you at the last second. The best way to recover from this grief? Getting good at doing the same. It might not be nice, but that is how you play the game and save the most money. According to experienced buyers and sellers, the sweet spot for securing a deal lands somewhere between 30 and 15 seconds before the auction expires. Set a final price slightly higher than the current asking price, enter it ahead of time and get ready to win. It’s never a bad idea to fire slightly early to give yourself time to make a second offer, but you might run the price up higher than desired.

Use sniping tools like Gixen at your own risk; frankly, we don’t recommend it. Its automated processes can clinch auctions faster than any human, but they typically require access to the personal information stored in your account.

12. Free Shipping Isn’t Always Cheapest

Adding the “Free Shipping” search filter seems like a no-brainer, but that’s because it’s almost too easy. Sellers might be compensating for shipping fees by adding them to the price, plus you might be missing out on cheaper items that have a small shipping fee. It’s important to look at the vendor’s location, carrier and total cost of shipping before you complete your order.

More to consider:

Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any product before you apply.

Oliver Pretl-Drummond

Oliver Pretl-Drummond is a copywriter, memoirist and Scorpio living in Baltimore, MD. Primed by years of recreational research spirals, they've helped Slickdeals document hundreds of arcane store policies and hidden coupon tricks for the greater good of deal hunters everywhere. They spend their days seeking and sharing killer deals on budget travel, sound systems, home goods and tech. By night, their free time is reserved for making bass music while consuming exotic caffeinated beverages with their partner and growing family of yucca plants.

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