Despite having about 169 million users worldwide as of 2017, I still constantly meet people that don’t know or trust eBay enough to use it! I’ve been using eBay literally since their inception, as a buyer and a seller, and I’ve encountered pretty much every issue that can arise.

As someone with Top Rated status, over 1,500 positive feedback at 100%, and over 1,000 items listed for sale, I feel confident in my ability to help others use eBay more effectively. I’m writing this guide to buying on eBay so that people can better understand how awesome and fun buying from eBay can be if you just follow a few helpful tips!

1) Buy-It-Now VS. Auction Style

Many people still assume that eBay is just an auction site for random (usually used) items that they have to constantly watch and bid on at the last second. In fact, much of eBay is now official stores/retailers and high-rated users that sell thousands of new and used items. You can shop on eBay just like you do on Amazon or any other major site, with the ability to filter and see only the items you want to see, including items that you can buy immediately and not have to bid on. First, let’s break down the difference between auctions and buy-it-now listings.

“BIN” (Buy It Now):

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The item(s) is listed at a fixed price and you can buy it immediately without waiting for the listing to end. The price won’t change unless the seller manually raises it or applies a sale, and the listing usually won’t be taken down unless the item is sold or the available quantity hits zero. You may also see an option in BIN listings to “Make an Offer”. This means you can submit your best offer to the seller and they can accept, decline or make a counter offer, meaning you can often get an item for less than it’s listed for!


Traditional style auction where a single item is listed for 3-10 days and will automatically end when the timer hits zero, even if it has no bids. Any number of buyers can place bids at any time, and the price will incrementally increase depending on what each person bids.

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Which Should I Choose?

There are pros and cons to both styles of listings, and it’s helpful to figure out what kind of buyer you are before choosing one over the other. For example, if I need something quickly, maybe as a gift for a certain occasion, I may look only at BIN listings so I can buy and pay for the item that moment and have it shipped right away. Also, if I’m shopping for a common retail product like a shirt or toy that hundreds of people are selling, I may look at only BIN listings and filter by “lowest price” because there’s a good chance someone is already offering the item at the lowest market price to beat all other seller’s prices, and there’s no need for me to wait for a cheaper one!


On the other hand, perhaps the item I want is a unique or rare and has only a few people selling it, or I’m in no hurry. In this case, I may look at auction style listings to try and get a lower price. Auction style is more unpredictable because you have no idea what price it will end at, which means an item may sell for way less or way more than you expect! You’ll have to watch the item (click the “watch” button to add it to your watch list) and see in the last few minutes how many bids it has and what the price is at, and then choose if you want to bid.

2) Be Patient And Find The Best Deals

If you’re not in a huge rush to buy your item(s), you can often get some amazing deals if you know how to look for them and wait for the best listings. Here’s a few things you can do:


Use the “Watch” button to save a listing and see if the seller lowers the price with a sale. You’ll also receive random e-mails letting you know that an item you’ve been watching has been re-listed or lowered in price!

Follow Seller:

Use the “Follow Seller” button to get notifications whenever one of your favorite sellers lists new items.

Save Search:

Use the “Save Search” feature to follow a search word or phrase and get notified when we a new item is listed that matches your criteria. This way you can be one of the first people to have a chance to grab a new item that’s listed at a good price. (This is my favorite way to find new listings for rare, or expensive items I’ve been trying to buy for a long time!)

Search for your item without too many filters if you don’t quickly find it at a good price. For example, I may look for an item in all styles of listings in all categories if it seems hard to track down. Someone may list a rare Super Mario Bros. shirt under the “Video Game Collectibles” category, which I won’t see if I have only items in the “Men’s Clothing” category showing.

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3) Pay attention to shipping dates and locations.

Although I’ve had many great experiences buying from other countries, one mistake many people unwittingly make is accidentally ordering items from overseas (usually China) without realizing it, and get upset when the item takes 3-4 weeks to arrives and/or turns out to be a cheaper version or knock-off of the item. You should pay attention to the part of the listing that states how long the handling and shipping times are, and the location where it’s shipping from. If you’re in a hurry to get an item fast, you can filter your search to only include items that ship from within the country you live in, and look for items with 1-2 day handling and priority shipping options.

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Often times the same item will be available for a fraction of the usual price, and it’s tempting to impulse buy it, but be sure to check that it’s not being shipped from Asia. This goes especially for clothing and toys, because these are common items that are re-printed or unofficially reproduced in China, and the size and quality of the items usually suffer to keep costs down for them.

4) Buy from a trusted seller

While there’s always going to be some bad seeds out there selling low quality items, making mistakes or ignoring messages, it’s pretty easy to spot the good sellers from the bad ones. Here’s a few points to consider:

Feedback Ratings:

Feedback ratings. Every eBay user has a feedback rating, and sellers especially have detailed info that you can scrutinize to help decide if they are worth buying from. Check and see how many stars they have on average for their customer service rating, and read a bunch of their feedback comments to see what other buyers have said about the seller. Be sure to filter them “as seller” so you only see the feedback they received for selling items. ?

Negative Feedback:

Don’t assume negative feedback makes a bad seller! Ebay in many ways is a numbers game. The more items a seller lists, the more items they’ll sell and the more chances buyers have to leave feedback. Just like with any major retailer, honest mistakes happen sometimes. A item may be damaged or lost in shipping, shipped late due to bad weather or holidays, or the seller may just accident overlook something when describing the item in their listing. While there are instances where a seller is truly unprofessional or unresponsive and deserves a negative feedback, often times buyers are hasty to leave feedback before even contacting the seller and giving them a chance to explain or correct the issue.

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I’ve even seen many times a negative feedback for a seller but the actual feedback comment is totally positive! They just happened to accidentally check off “negative” or “neutral” instead of “positive”. Usually sellers are happy to address concerns and will work with you to fix any issue, especially to keep their ratings in good standing. If a seller has a few negative feedback, but has exponentially more positives and/or sells thousands of items and their rating is still above 98% or so, I would still consider them a good seller and worth buying from!

5) Take advantage of “eBay bucks” & promotions

Just like other major retailers, eBay tries to come up with fun ways to make your buying experience better!

After a quick and free sign up here, you’ll be able to earn eBay bucks with most purchases. You’ll earn a percentage of each qualifying purchase to your ebay bucks account, and at the end of each calendar quarter you’ll receive a digital gift certificate that you can use for any items on eBay.

In addition, ebay will send you notifications alerting you to eBay bucks promotions that give you up to 8x more ebay bucks for many items! If you use eBay as much as I do, it’s nice to once in a while get a credit that helps me justify buying something fun or expensive I was holding out for.

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If you have any questions about buying or selling on eBay, please feel free to contact us or comment below. Also check back in our blog soon for part 2 with my top tips for selling on eBay!

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