- Find “best offer” listings and know how to get offers accepted. Many fixed price sellers are willing to accept offers from buyers that are below the asking price. It’s easy to identify these listings and make an offer, but it can seem difficult at times to get sellers to accept. The trick is not to low-ball the seller, but rather to offer a price that is only a 5-10 percent lower than their asking price. That way they won’t be tempted to reject on your offer out of hand or to sit on it and wait to see if a better offer comes in.
- Find “hidden” auction format listings that no-one else has discovered. Though fixed price listings dominate these days, there are still an awful lot of auction format item listings on eBay. If you can find perfectly good listings that nobody else is bidding on, you’ll be able to win them for a song. The trick is to look for common misspellings, common misidentifications, or to change your search methods to find listings ending at strange times when no-one is likely to bid on them at the last moment.
- Be willing to buy used from independent sellers. Though eBay has increasingly become a place for retail-style shopping, it was originally a haven for independent sellers of used and refurbished goods, and there are still lots of good deals to be found when you use words like “used” or “refurbished” in your search or select used or refurbished goods using product finders. Though many shoppers hesitate to buy used, it’s often a perfectly safe alternative—and an environmentally friendly one at that, since it prevents goods from ending up in landfills before their time. If you’re really worried about non-new goods, buy refurbished and then purchase a third-party warranty to cover your purchase.
- Don’t rule out international sellers. Many shoppers worry about items shipped halfway around the world, or about buying from sellers that don’t natively speak their language. International shipping, however, isn’t nearly as unusual or as slow as it used to be, and these days many non-native English speakers are eBay power sellers. Don’t immediately rule out a great item at a great price just because it comes from Hong Kong or Eastern Europe. If the seller’s feedback checks out, you may find that the price is right, the item arrives faster than you thought possible (less than a week from the pacific rim is not uncommon), and your satisfaction matches that of other customers.
- Move beyond “best match” searches. Did you know that when you search eBay these days, by default eBay doesn’t show you the best priced items? It’s true. Instead, eBay’s best match system shows you sellers that eBay would prefer you use based on their performance. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there are also perfectly good sellers that aren’t easily found in the best match search results. When you’re shopping for price, have eBay show you the cheapest items in your search by selecting “Price + Shipping: lowest first” from the “Sort by” drop-down list near the beginning of your search results.
- Search other eBay venues, too. Don’t limit yourself to the main eBay website, since eBay’s current search system may not always show you items matching your search that are listed on other parts of eBay like eBay Stores or Kijiji. Instead, go to these links directly and search for the item you’d like to purchase. If you find a better deal there than you do on the main eBay website, you could save yourself a bundle.
- Be patient if you’re not in a hurry. Waiting isn’t always easy in today’s instant gratification world, but if you’re looking for a specific item at a specific price and have time to spare, set your jaw and be patient. Listings come and go on eBay to the tune of millions a day, and if you know the market for the kinds of goods you’re seeking, you can often get the price you’re targeting just by waiting for the right opportunity. Check in every few days, search skillfully, and make use of watch lists and notifications to help you to find the item you want at the price you want to pay.
Though these techniques may seem simple, you’d be surprised at the amount of money you can save by being just a little bit smarter and more meticulous about your shopping on eBay. You won’t always cut your price by half, but you may routinely be able to save 5 or 10 percent—and in this economy, that can make all the difference.