How to buy items for less on eBay

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 6, 2013
Updated • Mar 26, 2019
ebay tips
via XKCD

I have started to browse the eBay marketplace again recently, as I'm in search of a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) for my nephew for Christmas. It is one of those locations where you can still buy the system, and the selection that is on offer is quite good as well.

It is quite an expensive item if you consider the system's age and most auctions jump over the €80 mark even if it is just the console and a game or two. That's not even taking into account mint condition systems that are in high demand, and systems with a lot of games or rare games, which sell for an insane amount of money.

Side note: it is interesting to note that the system sells for a lot less on eBay in the US.

Anyway, I'd like to share some tips on how to buy items on eBay for less money. While I cannot guarantee that this will work for all item types at all times, it did work for me splendidly.

Buy items on eBay for less

The first thing you need to do is make sure what you want to buy and for how much. I know, it sounds silly at first, but it is entirely possible to get carried away during an auction and go over your budget as a consequence.

In my case, I wanted a working SNES with two controllers minimum, all connection cables, and at least a couple of classic games such as Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart or the Donkey Kong Series. For that, I wanted to pay less than €90 including shipping, preferably a lot less than that.

1. Items with missing information

Some sellers do not spend time setting auctions up. What this means is that the auction title is not well crafted, that photos do not show the items or some items clearly, or that the description is not helpful to determine what is being sold.

The headline or title of the auction is probably the most important part of it. It is competing against all other headlines on eBay that are displayed in the auction list view, and if a seller selects a generic title like "SNES" then it is likely that buyers will prefer to look at auctions that use titles such as "Fully working SNES with 4 games and 2 controllers" as it is more descriptive.

The same can be said for the description of the item. If the photo is bad, and believe me many are, you depend on the auction description to find out what is included in the deal.

I have seen my fair share of bad photos that you could not use to identify all games sold with a system, and descriptions that did not mention them either.

Many buyers will ignore those auctions. That's great for us as it reduces the number of competing buyers. If you are in the same situation, write a short message to the seller asking for detailed information about the item. Not a lot of buyers will do so so that it is more likely that you will get the item for a better price.

Typos fall into this category as well. If the title states NES, but the photo shows a SNES system, then you can be almost certain that it is a typo. Again, contact the seller for clarification.

There are third-party search services out there like Typobay that help you find typos.

2. Time is on your side

The end of an auction depends on the time it was set up most of the time, with most auctions ending at appropriate times throughout the day. There are some auctions on the other hand that end at times that limit the number of available bidders.

If an auction ends at 3 in the morning, or at seven on a Sunday morning, you can be almost certain that there won't be that many bidders bidding against you.

You have two options to deal with those auctions: Either be there when they end or be the last bidder to make a bid for them before everyone is going to bed or away.

While there is no guarantee that someone won't set the alarm for 2:45 to get up and bid for that auction, it is fair to say that this is usually not the case.

The best period for that is the night, for obvious reasons, while others such as early morning are also quite ok. The usual working hours or the afternoon are usually very busy, with eBay users bidding from home, work or using mobile apps.

 3. The search

If you only look in the actual category of the item you are interested in, you may miss some opportunities. First, items are sometimes filed in the wrong category, and if you do not use the search to find those, you will never notice them.

Second, sometimes items are sold in bulk. If someone sells two different types of items in a single auction, then the lot may not be listed in the category that you are browsing.

Use the search to find items you are looking for, and make sure you use different search terms. In my case, I searched for SNES, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and variations thereof.

You can combine searches using the following structure: ("SNES", "Super Nintendo", "Super Nintendo Entertainment System")

4. Shipping fee

It is important to include the shipping fee in your calculation. Some sellers use the shipping fee to increase the money they make on items artificially. Update: eBay limits shipping fees on many items to limit abuse of the system (it affects the bottom line of the marketplace as shipping costs are not added to the item price when eBay calculates its fee).

Make sure you know the standard shipping rates and compare them to the seller's shipping rate so that you know if this is the case here or not.

Sometimes, items are offered for less with a buy it now price but the shipping and handling moves it into the region of a regular overall item price or even above it.

5. Location

item location

If you buy local, you can save shipping and handling altogether. The best way to only display local listings is to limit them while you are browsing the results.

Click on the More refinements link in eBay's left sidebar, switch to the Item location, check within and select a radius that you are comfortable with.

You need to make sure that the seller accepts that you pick up the item if you are the bidder. If you cannot find any information about it, contact the seller to make sure.

5. Third-party services

Services such as Last Minute Auction list items that are for sale on eBay that are priced below the $1 mark. The site comes with a search so that you can search for items that you are interested in.

While the chance is low that you will find high priced items here, you may find other related items on offer that you may be interested in.

6. Sniping

Sniping refers to making last second bids on items that you are interested in. The software is being used for that, as they do not face the same restrictions that users on eBay face (loading times, having to click, enter the amount and so on).

What makes sniper software interesting is that they usually allow you to group items of the same kind to bid on each item until one auction is won.

This also takes care of any time-related issues. As long as the computer is running the sniper software is running on, you can be sure that bids will be made.

There are also services on the Internet that you can register to, but they require you to pass on your eBay username and password which is not something that should be done considering all the harm that can be done with it.

7. Buy it now with suggest a price (best offer)

make offer

If going head to head against dozens of other bidders is not to your liking, you may want to browse the buy it now listings on eBay instead. While the items listed here are usually priced near what auctions fetch or above that, you may be able to spot some that are underpriced.

These listings go quickly usually, and it is important that you read the title and description carefully before you are making the plunge.

Even better if the listing includes a price suggestion option or best offer option. You may make an offer that is below the listed price to save on the auction. While you should not expect to get an item for half the price, you may get it for 10% or so less than the listed price.

8. Favorite Sellers

If you regularly buy on eBay, you may deal with the same seller over and over again. If you favorite the seller, you can keep taps on new items in a better fashion. This is crucial for buy it now items but also for auctions.

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How to buy items for less on eBay
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How to buy items for less on eBay
I'd like to share some tips on how to buy items on eBay for less money. While I cannot guarantee that this will work for all item types at all times, it did work for me splendidly.
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

  10. Anonymous said on September 28, 2023 at 8:19 am

    When will you put an end to the mess in the comments?

  11. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 9:36 am

    Ghacks comments have been broken for too long. What article did you see this comment on? Reply below. If we get to 20 different articles we should all stop using the site in protest.

    I posted this on [] so please reply if you see it on a different article.

    1. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  12. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  13. Mystique said on September 28, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    Article Title: Reddit enforces user activity tracking on site to push advertising revenue
    Article URL:

    No surprises here. This is just the beginning really. I cannot see a valid reason as to why anyone would continue to use the platform anymore when there are enough alternatives fill that void.

  14. justputthispostanywhere said on September 29, 2023 at 3:59 am

    I’m not sure if there is a point in commenting given that comments seem to appear under random posts now, but I’ll try… this comment is for

    My temporary “solution”, if you can call it that, is to use a VPN (Mullvad in my case) to sign up for and access Reddit via a European connection. I’m doing that with pretty much everything now, at least until the rest of the world catches up with GDPR. I don’t think GDPR is a magical privacy solution but it’s at least a first step.

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