Helpful Tips when buying on eBay

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Why this guide?

This short guide will (hopefully!) provide you with a few tips to make your eBay shopping experience more enjoyable and successful.

What makes me an expert?

I don't tout myself as an expert, but I've bought and sold enough items on eBay to have learnt a few things along the way.  I've been asked to share a few of these hints by friends and family, and thought that you might find it interesting.

The tips....

  1. Set your maximum.

    It sounds obvious, but think of the maximum you want to pay, and enter it as your maximum bid for the item you want.  Your winning price may be less than the maximum you set - eBay is smart enough to bid only the amount needed to win the item, up to your maximum.

  2. Review your email as often as possible.

    If you are outbid on an item, you'll be sent an outbid notice by eBay.  Check your mail as often as practical.  If you really want to stay in touch, consider using the eBay Wireless Alerts to your phone, PDA or pager.  Click here to read more.

  3. Research your item.

    You don't want to be disappointed with your purchase, so it's up to you to make sure you've researched your item before you buy.  As an example, a particular camera may be a great buy on eBay, however if it doesn't have the features you want, then you should look at other models. 

  4. Research the seller's reputation

    In my experience 99.9% of transactions on eBay seem to go smoothly.  Sellers and buyers are almost always genuine, but it's up to you to make sure you are happy with the seller before you bid.  Check the sellers feedback rating.  Go through some of the feedback and read the content. 

    For extra protection you might consider Escrow services.

  5. Research the seller's location

    eBay allows sellers from other countries to list items on the Australian site.  Why not? It provides us with more products and opportunities, and that's good for competition.  Before you bid, check the seller's location, and consider the following:
    • Is the postage to my location shown? If not, ask the seller before bidding.  There's no point getting upset because you found out AFTER you've bought the item that the postage is high.
    • Will the item incur taxes on import? Some expensive items will be subject to duties or GST.  You need to be aware of these things!
    • Can I import the item? Make sure that the item you intend to buy can be legally imported.
    • Will the item work? If the product is main powered, make sure it will work in Australia.
    • What warranty will I have? Consider what will happen if your purchase (especially for electronic devices) stops working or has a fault in 12 months time.  Is the warranty valid here? Can I get it repaired?

  6. Make sure you can pay!

    Again - sounds obvious, however if you intend to bid on an item, be prepared to buy and pay for it.   If you have a budget, then don't go over it!

  7. Open a PayPal account

    PayPal accounts allow you to use your credit cards for payment without providing the details to sellers, and allow you to use your credit card for items where the seller doesn't have credit card facilities. 

    PayPal will also make international transactions so much easier, because PayPal converts the currency for you.  Best of all, it's free for the buyer!

    Of course, you need to check that the seller accepts PayPal!

    Click here to read more.

  8. Do you need to jump right in?

    If you are prepared to wait for a day or so, sometimes it's worth searching for the item you are interested in, and adding it to your watch list.  In this way you can see how much items are being sold for, and you can determine whether your budget is realistic. 

    This will obviously depend on whether the item you are trying to buy is unique, or plentiful.  If your desired purchase is a once in a lifetime car or collectable, then you may need to act quickly.

  9. REALLY Search for what you want.

    Many folks will search for an item using the excellent eBay search facility.  That's a great start, but consider the following:
    • Did you also search on the item description?
    • Did you think about punctuation? For example "Rip Curl" and "RipCurl" will produce different results
    • Did you search "Worldwide"? Sometimes the item you want can be bought from another country
    • To narrow large search results, and to get exactly what you are looking for, try using the "Finders" which appear on the left in certain categories.

  10. Check the Postage Charges

    Many sellers will include the postage or delivery charges in their listing.  Consider the these charges when setting your budget.  Postage charges can vary between sellers for the same item, and will make a difference to the end price you pay for the item.

    If postage charges are not listed, then ask the seller for an estimate before you bid.

  11. Try "Buy It Now"

    If you want that item now, then look at listings which allow you to "Buy It Now".  Some sellers also offer Express Post, so look for the "Get It Fast" logo.  When browsing categories or searching items, you can display "All Results", "Auctions" or "Buy It Now".  Look the the tabs across the  top of your search results.

  12. Ask the Seller a Question

    If you are not sure about any aspect of the sale, you should as the seller a question.  Most sellers will be happy to respond to a genuine enquiry - after all, you are a potential buyer!  How to ask the seller

I hope this helps make your eBay experience more enjoyable! Happy bidding!

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