How to bid on eBay Auctions
(And win!)

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It’s not often I get to bid on eBay auctions these days – 80% or more of items on eBay are listed as fixed price listings but every now and again there’s something I want that the sellers lists as an eBay auction and it’s still an amazing rush to bid and win.

Sadly of course, other people often also want the same item so how do you win it and still pay as little as possible? When you bid on eBay Auctions there are some mistakes you can make and also some tactics you can use to make sure that you always win the auction but pay as little as possible. This weekend I bid on an item and did win, but paid perhaps a little more than I should have which makes for a perfect case study of how to bid.

While some people will bid on eBay Auctions early and carry on to make multiple bids, that’s a mistake as it gives your competitor bidders a chance to out bid you and push the price up. A common misconception is that if you bid high you’ll end up over paying, but eBay uses what they call proxy bids to bid on your behalf – they’ll bid as little of your budget as they can to ensure that you win.

Bid on eBay Auctions – The best tactic

The best tactic is to bid late and bid high. Bid the maximum you’d be willing to pay as late as possible.

In the example (bids pictured above) I have to admit I placed my bid too early. I bid with 30 seconds left on the auction and I should have kept my nerve and bid later. What I did correctly was to bid way more than the current bid – I actually bid a maximum of £255.05. It’s always worth adding on a couple of extra pennies. I really didn’t want to pay more than £250, but by adding a fiver it outbid anyone else willing to pay £250 and by adding on 5p and bidding first if someone else bid £255 I’d still have outbid them and won!

Bid on eBay Auctions – The worst tactic

As expected on this eBay auction, I wasn’t the only person that wanted it but all the action happens right at the end of the auction in the closing seconds. With five minutes to go the bidding was sitting at £58 but it rapidly jumped to over £100. Then there was one other serious bidder that really wanted to win. After placing my £255.05 bid they rapidly bid £115, then £120, and finally £125 but then the auction was over and I won the item for £127.00.

Their error was that they desperately tried to increase their bid in the final seconds increasing by £5 per bid. Bidding in this manner is an almost certain way to lose if someone else bids the maximum they are willing to pay. All you are doing is pushing the final price up, but as I placed my bid with just 30 seconds to do they only had time to get three bids in which limited the damage.

It’s quite possible that this bidder would have valued the item at way more than their £125 final bid. The same item is selling brand new for £438.67. By not bidding their maximum straight away they forfeited the time to increase their bid to a level they’d be willing to pay. If they’d done their research they’d have discovered that the last auction for his product sold on eBay was sold for £300 in November.


Sniping is the term given to jumping in on an auction at the last second and placing a bid. You can swoop in and snipe manually or there are a number of automated sniping tools on the market which will bid on your behalf. Automatic snipers will literally bid in the last second leaving no time for a competitor bidder to place another bid, but I always love the excitement of placing the bid myself and knowing that I’ve won rather than a machine.

In this instance, I was willing to bid slightly earlier than I normally would as I desperately wanted to win and didn’t want a last minute slow internet connection to let me down. 30 seconds allowed three more last minute bids to be placed but if you want to eliminate this then try and place your bid in the last 10 seconds or less. eBay is pretty reliable these days and I paid £15 more than I should have by being ultra cautious.

Best strategy to bid on eBay auctions

  • Add the item to you eBay Watch list – eBay will remind you when the item is due to end
  • Use the eBay mobile app – never be away from your computer just as the auction is due to end
  • Bid as late as you dare
  • Don’t show your hand and place a tentative low bid early – other bidders will see you’ve bid and be expecting you to bid again. Low winning bids attract more competition than an item with few early bids.
  • Bid the highest price you’d be willing to pay – do your research and know the item’s value to you. Bid high, bid once, bid late
  • Bid a couple of pennies higher than your maximum – if someone else bids the same you might win by a penny
  • Set your budget and stick to it – don’t get drawn into a last minute bidding war
  • Consider using an automated sniping tool

12 Responses

  1. If eBay want to revive auctions I wish they would bring in a 5 or 10 minute rule that if some bids in the last 10 minutes then more time gets added. I often buy stock at trade auctions and if they are online timed the 10 minute rule applies.
    Auctions for low value items are a waste of time these days on ebay as no one bids on them and the after they have finished get the odd message saying they missed the auction and want it relisting. Why not put the bid in when you see the auction and decide you want it!!

  2. The reason no one goes with auctions anymore on ebay is exactly what you just advised to do.

    The item you want to sell you have an idea of what its worth but putting a reserve is too expensive and allowing it to go too low is not an option.
    Then as no-one steps in early the item goes for peanuts. So people would rather do a buy it now and be done with it.

  3. auctions work, you just need to be realistic and pragmatic
    if your wanting top dollar for a mass produced available anywhere product
    auctions wont work

  4. I just cant be arsed with auctions any more. If I see an item I want and its on an auction I will always look for the same thing on a fixed price listing and invariably you will find it. If its not there I simply dont bother. I’ve wasted far too much time in the past waiting on an auction, bidding at the last second and still losing it, and being disappointed. If its on an auction I do without it and I think a lot of folks these days are the same. They go on ebay to buy, not faff about with auctions. A seller should have the balls to pick a price with an option to accept offers and let buyers choose if the want it or not.

  5. Anyone know a free auction sniping tool?Would save time if we could set that up with our Max bid.

  6. I occassionally do an auction, not often but now and again. It seems that if you start an item off ata realistic price, no one bothers to bid, but start at 99p and all hell breaks lose. I mean who expects a iphone X to go for anything close to 99p?
    I am a last minute bidder, like it or not, it is the only way to get stuff. All this early bidding just pushes up the price… and as at this point im a buyer, i do not want to do that!
    I do like Chris says, i decided at the start my max bid and then i get ready in the last minute. Take it as far as the final conformation click and wait. 5 seconds left? CLICK!
    Of course it sometimes goes wrong…. I lost connection on my mobile once, and another time i simply flapped and botched it! However it is the best way.
    …..Now ‘Best Offers’ , they annouy me. £10 or best offer…. lowest will take is £9.95!


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