7 Secrets to Scoring the Best Price When Buying on eBay


Everybody loves a good online bargain, and eBay is one of those places where you can find great deals...or you could be totally ripped off. Here are the secrets to getting the best price on eBay. (See also: 5 Things You Can Resell on eBay That Still Make Money)

1. Search for Misspelled Items

You know what you want: a Tiffany's silver bracelet. Like everybody else you're going to type "tiffany silver bracelet" in the search box and start browsing sellers. The problem with this approach is that you may get in bidding wars with other people because you're looking where everybody is looking.

Instead, start your search with misspelled variations from your desired item. For example, "tifany silver bracelet," "tifanny silver bracelet," or "tiffanny silver bracelet." If you are stumped for misspelling ideas, use an eBay typo search generator. Focusing on misspelled items is like hiding your item at a store before the sale — there will be fewer people finding it or entering bids on it.

2. Search for Items at Night

Another way to minimize your competition is to do your shopping at night. eBay is a site available around the world, so while it may still be a couple of hours before bedtime for you, others may be sound asleep.

Take advantage of your time zone and filter those items by "ending soonest." You may be able to get away with closing on bids while the competition is sleeping. A variation of this technique is to do searches during business hours. Just don't let the boss catch you.

3. Buy From Sellers With 20-49 Ratings

The more stars a seller has, the better. However, even those amazing sellers had to start somewhere. As an eBay seller with over 210 ratings, I can tell you that eBay does a good job at continuously motivating us to get to 50 stars. Any seller that has between 10 to 49 stars has a yellow star. Once a seller reaches 50 ratings, the star changes to blue.

While this may sound trivial, it is a big deal for a seller. "Going blue" is a big boost for position of items on search results and a major way to provide confidence to buyers. Sellers with 20 to 49 ratings work harder for buyer business and are more willing to accommodate your requests, such as asking for a discount or negotiating shipping charges. Just make sure to be polite when contacting them. Nobody likes a rude customer.

The longer that you stick with an eBay seller on the journey to the 50 ratings marks, the more perks the seller may provide you.

4. Check Price at Amazon

It is not unusual for eBay sellers to either sell at Amazon or keep a close eye of similar items at Amazon. If you are able to find the exact same item on Amazon, contact the buyer, provide the URL, and ask if the seller would be willing to match the price. Just make sure that you are comparing "apples to apples," and that the total price, including shipping, is indeed lower.

This strategy is a good one because you are showing the seller that you're ready to buy. Few sellers can resist closing on a sale. After all, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Even if the seller cannot match the price, they may be able to knock off a couple dollars off.

5. Negotiate Shipping

Lowering shipping charges is easier than actual price. There are two main ways to do it. First, when planning to buy several items from a buyer, ask about discounted shipping for multiple items. This is a surefire way to bring costs down.

Second, if you are willing to wait longer, then ask for cheaper shipping alternatives. For example, when buying books, CDs, VHS tapes, DVDs, or other forms of media accepted by USPS, the buyer could use USPS Media Mail. When buying big, yet very light items, a seller could use Parcel Select Lightweight.

Unless you have dealt with the seller in the past, it is not recommended that you accept shipping without tracking. While you could potentially save even more without it, the lack of tracking could cause headaches for both parties if things don't go as planned.

6. Don't Forget About Your Coupon Codes

You'd be surprised at the number of buyers that forget to use their eBay Bucks. Because the eBay Bucks coupon codes are issued every quarter, people often forget about them. On top of that, sometimes the codes are not automatically applied to purchases.

Before completing a purchase, check if you have an available code from the eBay Bucks section of "My eBay," copy it, and enter it in the "Coupons, gift cards or certificates" promotional box at the bottom of your checkout page.

Another place to check for additional promo codes are the "From eBay" message inbox and the drop down menu labeled "My eBay" at the upper right corner when viewing the site on your desktop.

7. Read Return Policies

You pay for what you get. So, don't pay for a headache! Some sellers might be willing to negotiate with you when dealing with used items, but they may be quick to say "no returns, no exceptions." Sometimes they may not say anything at all and assume that you have read their policies listed on the product page.

Before clicking on the pay button, read the seller's policies in detail. If you're not comfortable with what you just read (e.g. "buyer pays for shipping in case of return or exchange," "there is a 20% restocking fee," "all sales final"), then it may not be worth your time to deal with this seller at all. Remember that the hidden cost of any transaction is the opportunity cost, and in the case of an eBay purchase it is the cost of return, exchange, or refund. (See also: How a T-Shirt Equals a Taco)

What are other ways to get the best price on eBay?

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Guest's picture

Couple of comments from an eBay seller - if you want to negotiate a discount, even on shipping, do it before you bid, not after. Trying to negotiate terms after is a violation of the eBay's TOS, and will likely get you blocked at least by that seller. Second, no experienced seller will ship anything of non-trivial value without a tracking number, its the only way to protect themselves from scammers, they also have to upload the tracking into eBay's system.

Finally, on eBay, there is no such thing as no returns, (except for items sold as "needs repair / for parts"), all sales are covered by eBay's Money Back Guarantee, though you may have to pay return shipping.

Guest's picture

Thank you, Guest. Good to know!

Damian Davila's picture

@Guest Yes, you're right in that negotiations need to happen before the bid. That is really the ideal scenario.

Regarding the no-tracking shipping, some sellers do actually ship without tracking for really small items, such as smartphone screen protectors or cheap headphones. I have dealt with two on a regular basis that have over 20,000 ratings and they do on this on a regular basis. It is the only way that they can ship their prices so low.

eBay is a great marketplace because there are several sellers open to negotiations.