How to Win an eBay Auction: Tips for Last Minute Bidding
How to Win eBay Bids
There are two theories for successful bidding on eBay:
- 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 all the other bidders, then you'll win that eBay auction.
- Snipe it! "Auction Sniping" is the term used 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. 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 incrementally, gradually increasing their bids as they sit there and figure out just how badly they want the item.
Sometimes someone will put in a 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—but 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.
Bidding early basically tips your hand by indicating your interest in an item. By bidding early, you indicate to other browsers that an item has value. Simply due to human psychology, showing interest in an item can spark interest in other bidders who might otherwise have remained neutral over the particular item's desirability and therefore passed it by.
Snipe and Win for the Best Price
What is a snipe bid?
A "snipe" is a winning bid that takes place in the last minute or so of an auction. The bidder's intention is to leave no time for reactionary bids from other bidders. The only way to snipe effectively is to do it manually. That is the only way I do them.
Is snipe bidding ethical?
Generally, 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 encourage sniping. It is a savvy bidding process for bargain buyers, but sellers hate it because they might have gotten more money for their item if other bidders had had time to respond. In this way, the eBay system favors the buyer over the seller. The system also protects buyers from unscrupulous sellers who use shill bidding (fake bids) to drive up their prices.
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.
When sniping doesn't work:
However, the current eBay bidding system is no disadvantage to a serious early bidder who has entered a maximum bid that's more than any other bidders'. If his maximum beats mine, even if I swoop in at the last minute, he will still win the auction.
How to Snipe on eBay
- Never place an early 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. Ideally, your first bid will be during the last minute of the auction.
- 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!
- Choose your maximum bid wisely. I've lost 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 snipe, 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 win the bid as long as no one else is willing to pay more. I still kick myself for losing auctions that I really would have happily paid another $10 for simply because I was pussy-footing around with the bid amounts.
- Be Logged Into eBay. I missed a bid once because I wasn't logged in like I thought and had to enter my password again before I could move to the bid screen. Make sure you are logged into your eBay account. Have the auction open on your browser.
- Refresh the page. At about two minutes before the auction ends, start refreshing the page to ensure the data is up-to-date.
- Bid During the Last Minute. I normally enter a snipe bid 50 seconds 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 tricky. If you place your maximum bid up front, it should be unnecessary to place another one. Even if another sniper comes in, you'll take it if your bid is higher.
How Long Should You Wait to Place a Bid on eBay?
The moment you see "50 seconds," place your bid. I have also successfully placed bids during the last 30 to 20 seconds of the auction, but that makes me sweat.