Like it or not, eBay is the biggest auction website in Australia and often has some excellent bargains. But it also has loads of competition from other buyers, a not very intuitive search system and oodles of identical products to wade through. Fortunately there are some essential tricks to become an eBay master.
For some, these tips will seem obvious. For others, it will make eBay a whole lot more useful.
Using Advanced Search
By default eBay tries to figure out what you are after, and displays the results. The problem is that the algorithms used can often miss some items, especially if they are lost among many others or are in the wrong categories.
It’s also not very good at showing items that are available to Australia, as well as from Australia.
When searching, eBay automatically picks a category for you. That’s great, but if sellers have used a different category, you could miss the products. While not much of an issue for some items, more obscure sales can be missed.
Searching all categories is as simple as clicking the ‘All’ link under the search. You will end up with more items to wade through, but it can be worth it.
Otherwise, dive into the Advanced options, up next to the Search button. The usual ways to narrow down the field, such as price range, are all available.
More important though are the location options. By default eBay searches Australia, with some international listings thrown in.
Clicking ‘From preferred locations’ and changing it from ‘Australia’ to ‘Worldwide’ searches all items which are available for sale and postage to Australia.
For some searches, this can give 10x or more listing results, many of which are cheaper (including postage) than buying in Australia.
It’s also worth searching item descriptions, which is not turned on by default.
Advanced Search Commands
Just like Google, eBay search can be optimised with a few additions.
Quotation marks around a word or search will only show that exact phrase. EG: “ASUS Laptop”.
A minus sign before a word excludes that term. EG: Laptop -ASUS.
To search for results for either of two words, put them in brackets with a comma between them. EG: Laptop (ASUS,Acer). This searches for laptops with ASUS OR Acer in the title.
By default, eBay expands your searches. For example, searching ASUS Gaming Laptop would return results for all three terms in isolation, as well as combined. Adding a + in front of a term disables searching in isolation. For example, Gaming Laptop +ASUS will search for gaming asus, and laptop asus, but not gaming or laptop by themselves.
eBay is quickly turning into a Buy It Now only marketplace, but there are still actual auctions to be found.
The problem is that the format is geared to get the best price for the seller, not the buyer. With outbid notifications and prompts to try and win an item, eBay can really push the price up.
Of course in an ideal world, everyone would know their maximum price, bid that, and whoever has the highest price would get the item.
Instead, people tend to big amounts under the maximum, or become emotionally involved in the auction and keep increasing their price.
1 minute from the end of the auction, you might be winning, but someone else keeps upping their bid by $10 at a time. Even if you still win, you end up paying a lot more than the amount needed to beat their original bid.
The solution is sniping. You only bid in the last few seconds, so no other potential buyers see your interest, and they have no chance to respond before the auction finishes.
Of course, getting this right is stressful, and if you are too slow or early then someone else could still counter.
Fortunately there are websites available that log in and snipe for you, with a steely fist and no robotic precision.
While many people complain about snipers, the fact is that if you don’t snipe, then you will end up overpaying in many auction.
Our favourite sniping option is Gixen, which is totally free to use. We have never had a missed snipe, but for those who are extra cautious, it’s possible to pay (around $10 for a year) for a backup second snipe server, just in case.
Using Gixen is as simple as logging in with your eBay details and copying in the item number, and entering your bid. Gixen does the rest. Of course for security reasons, it is best done with a secondary account with no linked payment options or shared password.
In eBay you can follow a search to get updates when new items are listed that match your criteria. The idea is good, and it sure beats constantly refreshing the same search manually.
The problem is that it’s woefully slow, and any particularly good buy it now deal will be long sold before you even get a notification.
Fortunately there are a range of alternative options that search eBay for you and give much faster updates about new items.
The better solution is uBuyFirst, which is Windows software that turns your PC into a searching machine. It ranges from free to $49.99 (US) for the pro version.
It can push notifications to your phone too and has a lot of different search criteria options available.
Plenty of sellers manage to misspell the name of items to the point they don’t show up in normal searches.
You can manually check common typos, but there are also a few handy websites that do it for you.
Paying on eBay
Just use Paypal. It has many disadvantages, but almost all of them are for the seller. As a buyer, Paypal gives quite a lot of protection.
Now that the companies are separate, it’s worth noting that you can claim back money for items through eBay OR Paypal, but not both.
While doing it through eBay is fine, there is one very important difference. eBay gives you 45 days to file a dispute, whilst Paypal allows a massive 180 days.
So even if you miss the dispute time period on eBay, you can file through Paypal. The system is a little tedious to use, but works pretty well overall.
It’s also worth paying for items via Paypal with a credit card, as there is no cost to you as a buyer. If there is a problem with the transaction that can’t be resolved through eBay or Paypal, it’s possible to get your bank to issue a charge-back on the card payment.
What are your favourite eBay tips and tricks? Tell us in the comments.