How to Win an eBay auction - Tips for Last Minute Bidding

Updated on January 27, 2018

There are two theories to successful bidding on Ebay:

1. Enter your maximum bid at any time during the auction and allow proxy bidding to manage your bids. If you are willing to spend more than some other bidder is willing to spend, then you'll win that Ebay auction.

2. Snipe it! Auction Sniping is the term used for to describe swooping in at the last possible moment and making your first and only bid just as the auction is ending.

Both of these bid methods will work if you are the maximum bidder, but only one of them will get you the item at the best possible price and that, my friends, is sniping. So let me explain why.

Bid Early, Pay More

If you decide to use proxy bidding to manage your Ebay bids, you will generally wind up paying more for the item if there is anyone else interested in winning that item.

The reason why is most people bid incremently, gradually increasing their bids as they sit there and figure out just how badly they want the item. Sometimes someone will put in an incremental bid slightly higher than your current visible bid just to test how badly you want an item.

For example, if I come along during an auction and see that someone already has a bid on something I want, I will normally bid a dollar more than what they have showing just to see if that person is using proxy bidding.

Early bidding always encourages nibblers, people who don't generally care one way or the other if they want that item, but if they can get it at a good price they'll take it, so they'll bid just to see how serious you are. If they see that you are, then they may wander off and never come back to that auction at all, they've just driven up your bid and therefore the final cost of your item. Sometimes someone will place a bid just to have one in there because they liked the item when they saw it, but they won't follow up on it. They've just driven up your bid.

Using proxy bidding basically tips your hand early by indicating interest in an item. By indicating your interest, you indicate to other browsers that an item has value. Just due to our psychology,your interest in an item can spark interest in another bidder who might have otherwise remained neutral over the particular item's desirability and therefore passed it by.

Snipe and Win for the Best Price

A Snipe is bidding the takes place in the last minute or so of an auction. The intention is to leave no time for a reactionary bid from another bidder. A true snipe bid will usually be handled by automated software during the last 20 seconds or so of an auction, but generally Ebay sellers refer to "sniping" as any bid that takes place within the final minute of the auction and they can easily be achieve manually. That is the only way I do them.

Ebay sellers hate sniping and some like to go so far as to call it unethical, a patently ridiculous notion since Ebay's system is designed to allow sniping. It is a savvy bidding process for bargain buyers. Ebay sellers hate it because it works and it favors the buyer over the seller. Ebay sellers hate it because it also protects buyers from unscrupulous sellers who use shill bidding to drive up the price on a proxy bid. It is also no disadvantage to a serious early proxy bidder who has entered his maximum bid. If his maximum beats mine, even if I swoop in at the last minute, he will still win the auction.

A sniper's goal is to win the auction at the lowest possible price. A seller's goal is to sell the item at the highest possible price. Naturally these two goals are mutually exclusive, but this does not make my goal, to pay less, unfair or unethical.

How to Snipe on Ebay

1. Never place an early proxy bid. If you cannot be around for the auction's close and you don't want to use 3rd-party services to snipe for you (I never use them), then at least wait until the final day of the auction before placing your proxy bid. Leave it as late as possible.

2. Put the item into your watchlist and make sure you actually watch it. If If I really want something on Ebay, I don't just rely on email notices to remind me that there's an auction I need to keep an eye on. I'll actually set an alarm on my cellphone to remind me to get my butt back to Ebay.

3. Decide your Maximum Bid I've nibbled away at some auctions during the last minute because I was still dithering over what I was really willing to pay and ended up losing the auction to another sniper. If you're going to snip, it's usually a good idea to just bid the maximum price you are really willing to pay for it. This will ensure that you will WIN THE BID as long as no one else is willing to pay more. I could kick myself for losing auctions that I really would have easily paid another $10 for simply because I was pussy-footing around with the bid amounts.

4. Be Logged into Ebay I missed a bid once because I wasn't logged in like I thought and had to enter my password before moving to the bid screen. Make sure you are logged into your Ebay account. Have the auction open on your browser.

5. Bid During the Last Minute I normally will enter a snipe bid at the 50 second mark before the auction ends. This gives my fingers enough time to fumble around on the keyboard. I'm a touch typist, but sometimes those number keys are trickly. At about two minutes before the auction ends, start refreshing the page. The moment you see "50 seconds" place your bid. If you place your maximum bid once, it should be unnecessary to place another one. Even if another sniper comes in with an automated bid, you'll take it if your bid is higher. I have also successfully placed bids during the last 30-20 seconds in the auction, but that makes me sweat. If there are already bids on an auction, then I may place a small incremental bid earlier than the one minute mark to see if the current high bidder has a proxy in place. If they don't, I always bid again with my real bid anyway.


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    • profile image

      Steve 4 years ago

      I have to agree with Telecaster's comment above. I'm a smart buyer, and unfortunately have to resort to sniping to prevent "bidding fever". However, 4 times out of 5, there's always someone who places their proxy maximum bid clearly much higher than me, and probably 10x the actual value of the item. 4 times out 5, they'll probably never have to pay that, but the sane victim is trumped by only a $1 increment.

      My point is that I feel the system is inherently unfair. I'm not one to complain, but items I've often really wanted have been snapped in the dying seconds by someone who's proxy's are in the thousands. I usually snipe (without software) in the last 3 seconds, but usually fail cos of these "risk-takers". Although it's a risky strategy for these "forced-bidders", they seldom run across each other it seems.

      And why am I complaining and not doing the same? Cos I believe that fair and sane shopping trumps the low-lives who live to make petty bargains at the expense of honest customers.

    • profile image

      Telecaster 5 years ago

      There are no such things as silly questions Kuku!

      The answer to your query is, indeed, one increment higher than the last person's highest bid ~ but..... a word of caution.

      What if your opponent had also pitched his/her bid at something 'outrageously high'?

      One of you will end up paying an outrageously high price.

      However, your idea of outrageously high may be someone else's market value. Your outrageously high amount suddenly isn't so outrageous after all. It's rather subjective.

      Yes, if you sniped at a Million Dollars for a pair of jeans chances are you will win the auction at, say, $5 above the highest bidder. But what if (and if it can happen, it will) another person, for a laugh, had a proxy bid running at $900,000?

      Oh dear......

      If there is any such thing as a golden rule on ebay its "Only Bid What You Can Afford and Want to Pay for an Item"

    • profile image

      kukuinut 5 years ago

      this may seem like a very silly question but here it goes...if you enter an outrageously high number for your max bid in the snipping process that you are sure no one else would have put would you still have to pay that amount or do you just pay an increment higher than the last persons highest bid?

    • Raivis331 profile image

      Raivis 5 years ago from Latvia

      Great tips.

      I will definitely use them.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Sniping makes for some heart-pounding action. It's pretty nerve wracking on the seller's part too. My husband had an item for sale that was bid up to $770, which was much less than he thought it was worth, right up until the very end. When it ended the winning bid was $1600! I thought he would have a heart attack. Great advice, but sometimes it takes nerves of steel.

    • RolyRetro profile image

      RolyRetro 5 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

      I use the Auctionsniper site, you can import all of your watched items and set a maximum price, and how many seconds before the end you want to place your bid. Works a treat and you never end up over bidding in a panic at the end. If you are buying a commodity item, you can bid on a group of similar lots, and the system will keep bidding until you win one of them!

      Much better than sitting by a computer for hours sweating on that last minute bid...

    • profile image

      Telecaster 6 years ago

      Interesting advice and comments and I suspect the Proxy v Snipe debate will carry on for ever!

      There is another dimension to all this, often overlooked by writers when they champion their favourite on-line auction strategy. To put it as simply as possible, the tactics to use (Proxy or Snipe) are relative to the Providence and Market Value of the item.

      For example, a pair of socks for a fiver is best Sniped-for in the hope of picking up a bargain at the last minute and the adrenaline flow does get the blood racing!

      However, a £500 collectible with a known market value should be bid for via Proxy, and early. The sniper will argue against me on this but my counter is that at the end of the day both the sniper and the proxy bidder will have done their research and are simply bidding against each other and the higher bid, no matter WHEN it was placed, wins.

      The Proxy bid does have two significant advantages over the sniper on high ticket items, though.

      1) The Sniper will of course know a proxy is running and will have tested for it, but he still has to best-guess the Proxy-max and could fall foul of his own tactics by sniping only to be sniped back by the proxy with even less time to respond, or more likely, no time to respond!

      2) The early bid by the proxy out-trumps a same-bid by the sniper AND even a close-higher snipe if the snipe does not meet the next increment, which on higher priced items is going to be £5 or even £10 a pop.

      And yes, ok... I hear the argument about bidding early just allows tinkers to nudge an early bid up and up, but I do believe that is going to happen anyway, whether you are involved or not. If if it doesn't then how many times have we seen items suddenly declared 'no longer available' because an irritated seller pulls it when there is no early activity.

      Bidding a serious max early is also fun as there is an element of 'here I am, catch me if you can' as you watch the auction unfold.

      So you see, there is a place for both types of bidding.

      In closing, I would also like to add that proxy bidding is fairer to sellers and lets face it, without them there would be no eBay!

    • theinfoplanet profile image

      theinfoplanet 6 years ago from The Planet of Information

      Wow, I personally never have used Ebay, but auctions seem like an art! Great work, now if I ever really want something on Ebay I will know how to get it!

    • profile image

      samuel 6 years ago

      I have managed to place a bid on the last 10 seconds through my phone app, it makes it easier and quicker. Great advice A**********

    • profile image

      bob 6 years ago

      I never use snipeing. Sometimes, its better to wait until last minute. Some sellers might go the extra mile. Have friends are relatives bid on the same item. Driving the price up. This is called shill biding. This not allowed on ebay. Some bidders get a little carried away with auction. Driving the price up. More than what the item is worth! I love the buy it now option!

    • RedSturtz profile image

      RedSturtz 6 years ago from A land far far away....

      I have to admit that when faced with an item I think I may not be able to easily win I use an online sniping program - there are some good free ones and it almost guarantees you to get the item at the lowest cost possible.

      However I've been hearing more lately that people who shop on eBay are more and more inclined to buy items that have the "buy it now option". So maybe if this trend continues, auctioned items will be easier to buy!

    • profile image

      rAcHAEl WAlkEr 6 years ago

      Great advice! Im currently on Ebay and theres 4 days till the auction ends. il deffo use these tips cuz im rubbish with Ebay most the time! i haven't won many auctions! :-(

    • BMG profile image

      BMG 6 years ago from timor laste

      great tips...very useful to resolve ebay problem...thanks for sharing....

    • profile image

      Exmoor 6 years ago

      Great article, but a little note. Sniping (doesn't matter which auction site: Howrse is similar to eBay I imagine) doesn't work for those on dial-up because by the time you 'swoop' in, the auction is probably going to end, no matter how much time you allow for the page to load. Grrrooowwwwllll...

    • profile image

      kims3003 6 years ago

      very well done hub with great information. Very Nice work!

    • TERRYTIBBS profile image

      TERRYTIBBS 6 years ago from Milton Keynes, U.K

      The only problem with watching an item with the intention of sniping right at the end is that sometimes sellers end the auction early and you can miss out on an item you really wanted. This is usually because 1) The seller gets impatient and worried if their item is not making as much money as they expect for it. and 2) Another buyer makes an offer to the seller to end the auction early for a guarenteed sum of money and due to the reasons detailed in "1)" the seller accepts. So another thing you can do if you really want an item is message the seller yourself and make an offer. If the seller accepts your offer then great, you have your item! And if they reject it and tell you they will let the auction run then you can just wait and snipe!

    • Linda Tadlock profile image

      Linda Tadlock 6 years ago from Atlanta

      I've never tried selling or buying on Ebay before but it's good to know more on bidding. Great hub.

    • bryanps profile image

      bryanps 7 years ago from Australia

      those are really sound advice. I love your last point. bid during the last minute. That's when the mad frenzy of bids just keep coming..usually

    • profile image

      mallory 7 years ago

      ive never been on ebay before should i use this techingue to?????????????????????

    • profile image

      usubmariner 7 years ago

      If you bid a higher amount of money in the last 10 seconds how come that you don't pay the exact amount of money you bid but ending up paying less as a winning bidder which is really a good deal?

    • Jasnav profile image

      Jasnav 7 years ago

      Great info! Will definitely try it out next time I'm around on ebay.

    • profile image

      Andy 7 years ago

      Personally, as a seller sometimes, I'm on the sellers side.

      If you want the item I feel you should put in a genuine, what its worth maximum bid, if you don't get it tough, you wouldn't have paid more anyway, if you do great, you wanted it and the seller gets a decent price for his/her item. EVERYBODY wins.

    • profile image 7 years ago from bear, de, 19701

      Hello embitca,

      Thanks for tips, I got solution of Ebay problem.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Boston

      Franks, that's always the problem with Ebay. "I just gotta have it!"

    • luxembourgkid profile image

      luxembourgkid 7 years ago from Luxembourg, Europe

      nice tips to remember :)

    • profile image

      KLeichester 7 years ago

      Very nice indeed. Interesting and useful for me.

    • matthewjason profile image

      matthewjason 7 years ago

      nice informative stuff!

      I dont use ebay but i will definitely try these steps and use to buy something on ebay.

      Thank you so much for this information!GREAT idea to buy something in less price .thanx once agin great hub!


    • Joy56 profile image

      Joy56 7 years ago

      wow, the things you learn on hubpages, e.bay is great if you know how to work it your advantage.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Boston

      MacGruber, I'm sure there is some shill bidding that takes place, but most savvy Ebay bidders always bid last minute manually or use a sniping program to do it for them.

    • profile image

      MacGruber 7 years ago

      I was suspecting the sellers were doing a last second bid using a different I.P because they were unhappy with the current price of 99 cents. Guess that was just far-fetched.

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Great advice! Many people are intimidated by eBay when they are new, so this is the perfect tool to help them out.

    • kartbahnfan profile image

      kartbahnfan 7 years ago from Dusiburg, Germany

      hm, that's probably nothing for me, good introduction for newbiews though!

    • profile image

      Dave The Dog 7 years ago

      Good TUT - May i add that if you open the same auction page in the backgraoud (NEW WINDOW) the place then side by side use one window to click place bid - enter you maximum bid You are WILLING to pay here and leave it where it says CONFIRM BID. Now with the other window just watch the time tick down and wait until about 6 seconds or so before the auction ends and grap a win at the last possible min. If you have a slower connection just be carefull to not leave it too late for the page to send data back to the server! hope this help every one get good wins!

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      you can also use programs such as auction sniper to do the bidding for you. When I was using Ebay regularly I won tons of auctions using it.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Boston

      Jack, great idea!

    • profile image

      Jack 7 years ago

      Yeah another thing you can do is add some cents to it incase someone bids the same amout. Should help.

    • profile image

      Carl 8 years ago

      Yea you are totally right. I've lost items before because i was either not logged in lol or because my reminder on my phone would come up and i will snooze it for an extra 4 mins and forgot about it. I also loose all the time because i was to cheap to bring my maximum bid 10 bucks extra like you said and then at then end i would realize the person beat me by a .50 cent to a dollar. My strategy is similar to your actually but the only difference is i use a time to keep up with the bid clock. I will leave the bid page on in the browser with my maximum bid and just leave it sit there while i monitor it in my other computer and see what the bids are and, it sort of give me and estimate of how much extra to add to win. 10 second left on the clock, I will just submit. Most seller would send me messages saying i was wrong for doing so but honestly who wants to pay extra.

    • cym profile image

      cym 8 years ago from Europe

      That's how I do it, win an ebay auction, exactly how you describe it, starting at around 50 seconds before it ends. I thought that was the only way how you can win an auction. All the auctions where I put a bid earlier, a few days or so before the end of the auction, I always lost the auction. The only ones which I won, were the ones where I placed my bid in the last minute. But I still have the feeling that I often paid way too much for the item, despite bidding in the last minute. I guess I usually put in a bid which is much higher than the current bid, because I want to be sure that I will win the item. And then in the last minute the highest bid of the other bidder is revealed, because my bid will automatically be 50 cents more. And sometimes that is higher than I expected...

    • joblot profile image

      joblot 9 years ago from Ringwood

      Great sensible advice! Especially sticking in your maximum bid near the end rather than nibbling.