How many times have you bid on a professional car on eBay, only to see it sell for just a little bit more than your bid during the last few seconds of the auction? Here’s a little primer on how to get the most out of eBay.
It shouldn’t take long to figure out that it’s usually better to bid later in the auction–the later, the better. Many eBayers wait until the last few minutes of the auction to bid, leaving no time for lower bidders to be notified and respond with higher bids. This is called sniping, and all it takes is a little nerve and the ability to tell time. Sniping leaves no time to read the auction description carefully or to ask the seller any questions you may have. Make sure you take care of these things long before the end of the auction.
When you’ve found an auction you want to snipe, the first step is to track the auction and make note of its closing date and time. Then all you need to do is return to eBay a few minutes before the auction ends and place your bid. The problem is that many eBay users make a habit of doing this, so you’ll likely have competition. With multiple snipers, the prize often goes to the bidder who can enter a bid closest to the end of the auction. The most effective snipes occur within 10 seconds of the end of the auction, leaving no time for other bidders to even see your bid–not to mention outbid you–before it’s too late. Give yourself about 2 minutes to set up. Start by opening two browser windows (press Ctrl+N to open a second window) and open the auction page in both windows. Move and resize the two browser windows so that they’re side by side on your screen.
Type your maximum bid in one of the windows and click “Place Bid”, but do not confirm your bid on the next page. If necessary, scroll the page so that the Confirm Bid button is visible and not obscured. Then switch to the other window and reload (refresh) the page by pressing Ctrl+R. Reload it again a few seconds later to see any changes to the current price and the time left. Repeat this until there are only a few seconds left in the auction.
If you have a slow connection to the Internet, it will be difficult to reload the page quickly enough to see the status of the auction. Try temporarily turning off images in your browser settings to speed things up. If your connection is exceedingly slow, you’ll probably have to in-crease your sniping margin to 20 to 30 seconds and hope for the best.
When the time is right, switch back to the other window and press the Confirm Bid button to place your bid. Then quickly reload the auction page to make sure your bid was accepted. Assuming you entered a sufficiently large bid, you should be the high bidder for the 7 seconds that remain. If you cut it close enough, nobody else will even know you’ve bid until the auction is over.
Sniping is an effective way to increase your odds of winning an auction while simultaneously lowering the final price you pay. But there are significant drawbacks to sniping that limit its practical usefulness. You have to be in front of your computer, ready to bid, at the exact time the auction ends. It’s nearly impossible to snipe two or more auctions ending at the same time. If your computer crashes or your Internet connection goes down moments before you snipe, you lose. You can easily forget to bid
or even become distracted moments before bidding time.
The solution, of course, is not to simply bid early, then return to the auction after it’s over–you may find that you’ve been outbid by 4 cents. Fortunately, there is a better way. A number of “sniping” services are available that will automatically place a bid for you at a specified time, typically a few minutes or seconds before the end of an auction. Some sniping services are simply stand alone programs that run on your computer, but these suffer some of the same limitations as sniping manually–namely, that your home computer must be turned on and connected to the Internet at the right time. The better services are web-based, like eBay itself, and operate whether or not your computer is powered up. When you use a sniping service, you must share your eBay ID and password so that the software can log in and bid for you. While some sniping services are legitimate, some will undoubtedly use this information unscrupulously. So use caution and do your homework before trusting an unknown service with your eBay login. By far, the best sniping service available is eSnipe. It’s extremely easy to use and very reliable; best of all, it works. Just log in to eSnipe with your eBay user ID and pass-word, and you’re ready to go. To set up a snipe, specify the auction number, the amount to bid, and the buffer time (number of seconds before the end of the auction). eSnipe will bid for you at the specified time, then send you e-mail to let you know whether the snipe was successful. Naturally, if you were outbid or if your bid wasn’t high enough, eSnipe will fail.
There are two drawbacks to using eSnipe. First, it’s not free. New users are granted a free trial period, but thereafter, eSnipe charges 1 percent of the final price of the auction, with a minimum fee of 25 cents and a maxi-mum fee of $10. The fees are pretty small, though, and probably pay for themselves with the money saved by sniping. eSnipe fees are paid by purchasing BidPoints, which are available at a discount if purchased in bulk. The second catch is that eSnipe is not smart. It can’t read your mind or the minds of the other bidders, nor can it make decisions for you. For instance, if you enter a snipe bid of $54.03 and the price at the time of sniping is $53.99, eBay will refuse your bid because of its incremental bidding rule, even though it’s higher than the high-est bid. If you sniped the auction manually, then you’d be able to make the call on the spot and raise your bid by the required 96 cents.
eSnipe offers a Bid Checkup feature, an automated e-mail sent at a specified time before the end of the auction to notify you of any potential problems with your pending snipe, but the real-world usefulness of the feature is limited since you probably won’t be around when it arrives.
Buying anything on eBay should not be a hassle if you know how to do it. Most newcomers don’t understand that veteran bidders know how to be the last bidders on items because they are sitting at their computers right up to the last second of the auction. Also remember that you need to bid the highest amount that you are willing to spend. If the item you seek is worth it to you, be willing to step-up in price if it means getting the item you want.
Reprinted with permission from the September 2010 Issue of the “Professional Car Collector” magazine. The official publication of Professional Cars International. PCI Club Information can be found HERE.