Revealed: The hidden secrets of eBay auctions

Auction website eBay might look simple, but, says Martin Lewis, there is a whole world of hidden tricks and shortcuts to help make your bidding experience better.

Auction website eBay might look simple, but, says Martin Lewis, there is a whole world of hidden tricks and shortcuts to help make your bidding experience better.

3
Have your say

The ubiquitous giant online auction site eBay may seem a relatively simple beast. Yet beneath the shiny shop front there are a host of hidden secrets enabling you to pay less.

It all stems from the fact eBay’s a mammoth marketplace with millions of goods and hordes of buyers competing for the same items.

It’s all too easy to get sucked into bidding wars, with your finger quivering on the mouse, and then just overpaying at the last minute. 

Yet a host of hidden tools and websites allow you to hone in on hidden uber-deals overlooked by rival bidders. Here are my top eBay buyers’ tricks…


Exploit spelling mistakes

Typos and errors on eBay are incredibly common. Of course, that means fewer people searching for things, so the prices you get are rock bottom. A host of mistake spotters, such as www.fatfingers.co.uk , www.goofbid.com and www.bargainchecker.com, trawl eBay for all possible spelling mistake combinations which have lower prices. While we’re on it, if you’re selling, remember to use a spell check. 


Find collection only bargains near you

From designer sofas to skis and scooters, sellers often specify items are ‘collection only’. This means fewer competing bidders and serious local bargains.

Yet you can’t search for this on eBay, but if you go to my eBay Local Deals Mapper tool www.moneysavingexpert.com/localebay it finds these bargains for you and maps how close they are. There’s also an Android and iPhone app version.
Results can be powerful, such as this from my site user Jen1985: “Had been looking for a double buggy, but most ended up selling for around £40. I found one via the Local Deals tool and ended up winning it for £1.24!”


Bag no-bid 99p items

Often sellers start auctions at 99p or less, hoping a tug of war will break out between buyers. Many items go unspotted, and stay at these super-low prices. It’s possible to scour eBay just for these with 99p spotter www.lastminute-auction.com

Double-check delivery charges, as some sellers hope to recoup costs by charging a little extra. Though eBay’s now set maximum delivery charges for many categories.


Do you need it?

Before I go too much further with this, just a quick word of warning about not getting carried away with bargains. It’s worth following my money mantras before you spend cash. 

If you’re skint, first ask yourself “do I need it? Can I afford it? Have I checked whether it’s available cheaper elsewhere?” If the answer to any of those is no, don’t buy it. 
If you’re not skint ask yourself “will I use it? Is it worth it? Have I checked whether it’s available cheaper elsewhere?” Again, if the answer to any is no, don’t buy it.


Buy stolen goods on the cheap 

Well, nearly, but great headline, you must admit. This one isn’t actually eBay, but is worth checking – it’s all legal via police auction site www.bumblebeeauctions.co.uk. Forces in England and Wales use this eBay-style site to sell lost property or goods seized from criminals when they can’t find the rightful owner. It’s cracking for bicycles, among other things – for example a high-spec Specialized bike went for £50 (similar ones were £200 on eBay). Most larger items need to be collected in person from local police stations. Some smaller items can be delivered, though check postage prices before buying.


Find auctions closing in the dead of night

Listings that finish at anti-social times often get fewer bids (a warning for sellers there too). Pick a time slot and a www.baycrazy.com’s Night Time Bargain Searcher cruises for these vampiric bargains.

If you don’t fancy burning the midnight oil, combine this trick with auto-bidding tools below, which can bid on your behalf while you’re deep in the land of nod.


Build Amazon 75 per cent+ bargain basements

Of course, eBay isn’t the only fruit. Amazon’s range and selection is huge, and therefore it is impossible for everyone to see everything. Yet there’s a trick you can use to manipulate its URLs (web addresses) to build section pages organised purely by the biggest discounts, for example, beauty discounted by more than 75 per cent or TVs by 25 per cent.  
You can do this by carefully reconstructing its links with a bit of savvy. Easier, I’ve built a tool that does it for you – just go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/amazon, put in what you’re looking for and how big a discount you want and it builds the page instantly.


Be an eBay sniper... 

Spotted something you want to buy on eBay? Bid too early and rival buyers bid back, forcing the price upwards. Sniping tools auto-bid for you in the last 10 seconds to seal cheaper deals. Top free auction snipers include Goofbid.com and www.gixen.com.
A word of warning though – you need to give sniping sites your eBay password for them to work, which is a security concern. If you do sign up, never use the same password as you do for other accounts, such as banks or email.


Don’t assume it’s cheapest just because it’s on eBay

Never assume it’s a bargain until you’ve checked prices elsewhere first. Use shopbots (shopping robots), that whizz to scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest price. My MegaShopBot.com tool auto-searches the best of these for each category.