It seems like every time I find that perfect eyeshadow or lipstick color, it’s discontinued by the end of the year. Luckily, when I’m on the hunt for a specific item that I can’t find anywhere else—I can head over to eBay. I’ve found all kinds of deals and one-of-a-kind items there, but eBay is also a place where you have to be cautious of sellers and what you’re buying—plus finding specific things you need can be a hassle. Over the years, however, I’ve accumulated a ton of tips that can help you in all your future eBay endeavors.

1. Know your item

Recently, I had my eyes set on a new purse, but I was sketched out about ordering it through eBay. There are so many fakes out there, especially for name brands like Dooney & Bourke. Here’s how to avoid buying counterfeit items on eBay:

  • Do your research: Make sure you know the real deal. I searched Google for “real vs. fake Dooney & Bourke” and a full checklist of what I should look for showed up! After receiving the item, if you want to double check an item’s authenticity then you might consider comparing the item to one in-store or to photos on the actual brand name’s website.
  • Avoid stock photos: Listings that have stock photos are likely to be fakes. You can check if the seller’s photo on eBay is stock or a fake by copying and pasting (or saving and uploading) the image into Google images. If the photo pops up all over the place then you might consider finding a different seller for that item. Don’t hesitate to contact the seller for additional (and original) photos if you have any concern.
  • Pay extra attention to the product description: Even if the photo looks fabulous, make sure to spend extra time on reading the product description so that you’re fully aware of the item’s condition. Sellers can be tricky—again it’s best to contact the seller so that you know the item is in ideal condition.
  • Pay with PayPal: Just to safeguard yourself, make sure to always use PayPal at checkout, and make sure that your item is guarded by eBay Buyer Protection. If you do this—then no matter what type of item you end up with—broken, the wrong color or fake—you can still get your money back.

2. Find an item with less bidders

If an item has less bidders—that means less competition which means your chances of winning will increase dramatically! This is how it works.

  • Misspell what you’re looking for: Yes, that’s right! Misspell what you’re interested in and you’ll get results that will have less bidders (due to the seller’s misspelling). In order to get more narrowed search results with fewer bidders make sure to use sites like Typohound, Typobay and my personal favorite—FatFingers to help you along the way. Just type in the word you want to find misspelled and click the “view on eBay” link. My results for “Anthropologie” went from 92,000 to 1400 results. Those 1400 results are the items that will receive less bid activity because fewer people will find them.


3. Change how you search

Making sure your search is specific will always help you get the best results possible, but how you go about typing into the search bar is equally as important! Here is what you need to know.

Quotations: These will show exact results for the phrase, with nothing eliminated between the quotation marks. Here are some examples:

  • “Quilt” Comforter returns listings that have the exact words Quilt and Comforter in the title in any order.

  • “Quilt Comforter” returns listings that have these 2 words in the title in this specific order.

Parenthesis with commas: This is best if you’re searching for two things, or you want to show more than one wording option like this:

  • (Quilt, Comforter) returns listings that contain either the word Quilt or Comforter in the title.

Minus sign: If I’m searching for a quilted duvet that’s new, but I keep used duvets in my results then I would want to exclude “used” from my search. Here is how you exclude something from your search:

  • Quilted Comforter -used returns listings that have Quilted Comforter in the title and do not have used in the title.

Use a combination: For the best results make sure to use a combination of these search methods. Your search might look as crazy as this:

4. Always be on top of your item

Sellers want you to bid early, but by doing this you’re increasing the chances that you won’t pay the lowest possible price. You might think this is the best way to win an item (especially if you’re at work or away from a computer all day) but it’s best to just “watch” the item and bid at the last possible moment. Even with a busy schedule, it’s still possible to juggle winning that “to die for” item with these tips.

  • Use automatic bidding: On eBay you can add your “Max Bid” which is what your eBay account will bid up to for you while you’re away. This is great in case you can’t be at your computer all day!
  • Use a sniping tool: These come as downloadable software and in website format. These function the same way eBay’s automatic bidding does, except they wait to bid for you until the last 10 seconds (depending on the software). These will help you get the lowest price possible. Various tools you might consider are Auction Sniper, AuctionStealer and JBidwatcher. 
  • Watch items for email alerts: If you click “watch” on the items you’re interested in then eBay will automatically send you a reminder email when an item you want is ending soon.
  • Use the app: The app gives you the option, not only to shop, but to get push notifications sent to your phone when an item is ending, when you’ve won an item, and you can also have push notification turned off during certain hours—I mean, who wants their phone going off at 2AM?


eBay: The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Winning