Hidden buying and selling tips

Buying Tips

We compiled some tips to help you make better decisions when buying and selling online on Ebay, Amazon and other marketplaces. Most of the tips are from MoneySavingExpert.com.

Tip 1 - Find super-cheap local bargains

Whether they’re designer sofas, dishwashers, Wiis or children’s books, sellers on eBay often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

Yet you can’t search for “pick up only” on eBay, so we built tools to speedily track and map gems near you

Tip 2 - Use spelling mistakes spotters

Many people can’t spell, so they mistype their eBay entries. This English teacher’s nightmare is a bargain hunter’s dream. Wrongly-spelled products attract fewer bids because many people miss them.

A few specialist search sites take advantage of this. They trawl eBay for all possible spelling mistake combinations. These include Fatfingers, Baycrazy, Goofbid and BargainChecker.


Often sellers start auctions at 99p or less, hoping a bidding war will erupt. Many items go unspotted, staying at this super-low price. Lastminute Auction hunts for eBay auctions due to finish within an hour, but which still cost £1 or less. On a similar note, Baycrazy’s Zero Bids tool finds items ending soon with no bidders.

Double-check delivery charges, as some sellers hope to recoup costs by charging a little extra (though eBay’s now set maximum delivery charges for many categories).


If you want something very specific or hard to track down, set a ‘favourite search’ and eBay will email each time a seller lists your desired item. This is fab if you like buying on eBay, but don’t want to spend your life hunched over the site.

Simply type a product in eBay’s search bar, such as “Star Wars Lego Millennium Falcon”, and click ‘save search’. Be as specific as possible for the most accurate results. Then, when someone clears out the loft and lists one, an email pops into your inbox.

Tip 5 - Don't assume Ebay's the cheapest

Many people assume that if it’s on eBay*, it’s automatically cheap, but this isn’t always the case. With a few basic checks, it’s easy to spot if you’re really getting a bargain.

Use shopbots (shopping robots) that whizz to scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest price. Our MegaShopBot.com tool auto-searches the best of these for each category.

The same rule applies when buying second-hand gear. Check the used marketplace on Amazon* – you may even get it for free on Freecycle or Freegle.

Tip 6 - Check Ebay's ongoing rate

There’s a quick way to glean an eBay product’s market value. Fill in the search box and tick ‘completed items’ on the left-hand grey bar. It’ll come up with a list of prices similar auctions have already fetched. Then sort by “price: lowest first”.
If the price is red, it means no one bought it. Green means it sold – don’t pay more than the average.

Tip 7 - Search titles and descriptions

eBay automatically searches for results with your specified words in their title. If you’re not getting the results you want, try searching the item’s description too. Just tick ‘include description’ under the search button.

For example, imagine you were searching for a North Face jacket. The seller may have just put ‘ski jacket’ in the title, but mentioned North Face in the description.

Tip 8 - Boost your search skills

As sellers can describe an item in several ways, you can make eBay search for several terms at once. Just place (( at the beginning and enter different phrases within quotation marks, followed by a commas.

So for example, type…

(( “cabinet”, “bookshelf”, “dresser”

It will bring up listings that contain the words “cabinet”, “bookshelf” or “dresser”.

Tip 9 - Bid a few extras pence

When bidding, you enter a “maximum bid”, and eBay makes automatic bids on your behalf up to your limit.

Don’t enter a round number. For example, if a Downton Abbey box set is currently selling for £7, and the most you are willing to pay is £17, enter a maximum bid of £17.07. If someone tries to outbid you by entering £17, they will receive an outbid notice.

eBay will favour your bid, even though it’s just 7p more.

It’s worth being aware of bid increments, the steps by which prices rise. It varies from 5p to £100, depending on the current price.

Tip 10 - You have 45 days to open a case

We want to sear a number onto your brain… 45. This is the number of days you have to to open a case if you’re are unhappy with your purchase, under eBay’s buyer protection scheme.

You have longer for event tickets

Promoters often post concert tickets a week before the event, so sellers often say they’ll send tickets when they get them. Trouble is, many fans pay several months in advance. So eBay gives you till seven days after the event date for events in its tickets category.

Tip 11 - Don't be duped by fakes

While eBay has a ‘flag and remove’ policy to help identify fakes, it’s hard for it to stay on top of all knock-offs. Some of the most commonly-faked goods include GHD hair stylers, Mulberry handbags, Gameboy Advances, Ray-Ban sunglasses, branded golf clubs, celebrity autographs, Ugg boots and Montblanc pens.

If you’re buying these or other big-name brands, do your research first. Carefully check sellers’ feedback and post on the forum’s eBay board to garner others’ opinions. Be especially wary of overseas sellers or branded items that seem especially cheap.

The more unprofessional the photos, the better. Scammers often lift professional photos from brands’ sites – legit sellers usually take photos of the item at home

Tip 12 - Stay safe when picking up

If you’re picking up in person, there are simple precautions you can take to make sure the transaction is a safe one. Go with a friend, or failing that, tell someone exactly where you are going and arrange to contact them afterwards.

Take a mobile phone, and stay on the doorstep if possible. If a listing or email looks dodgy, trust your gut and walk away.

Tip 13 - Harness Facebook's power

Facebook Marketplace has rocketed. You may be able to pick up items in a couple of hours, and sellers are often open to haggling. Just log onto Facebook and search for “Marketplace” to see what’s on offer. It’s also worth searching for bustling local Facebook selling groups in your area.

Anyone can post, so be careful. If someone asks you to pay by MoneyGram or Western Union, be highly suspicious. Never pay this way.


Holding a candle to eBay’s size, Amazon and Play.com have second-hand marketplaces for most of the products they sell new.

Search for something on the site, and if there’s a used version available, it’s listed. These operate as a fixed price rather than an auction, making it an easy alternative.


Hundreds of top-quality goodies are available daily for free. It’s all about web communities, and the big names are Freecycle and Freegle.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Instead of dumping goods or eBaying them, people harness the web’s power to offer them to their local communities. So as well as kitting up for nowt, the environment benefits as unwanted items aren’t flung into landfills.

Of course there is some moth-bitten tat. But there’s also top-quality stuff people just don’t use any more. Bagging the best is all about the etiquette – you need to give yourself and keep your eyes peeled.

Tip 16 - Price dropped within 7 days on Amazon?

Amazon will pay you back the difference if the price of the product you bought on Amazon dropped within 7 days. If you bought a TV on Amazon and then within 7 days, the same product is now cheaper, Amazon will pay you back the difference. Don’t forget to ask.

Tip 17 - Take feedback with a dose of scepticism

eBay sellers have a feedback rating that acts as a useful guide to whether they’ve dealt fairly in the past. As a guideline, look for a seller with more than 98% positive feedback, and a high feedback score of at least 30.

Think twice before purchasing expensive items from a seller with zero feedback. Also ensure you read their feedback from selling, not just buying (click on their username, then the ‘feedback as a seller’ tab).

Remember feedback’s useful but not infallible

Tip 18 - What if it's got a reserve

Sellers occasionally list goods at a rock-bottom figure, but set a reserve, a hidden minimum price. These listings say “reserve not yet met”. The seller hopes the low price will attract bidders, but don’t want to part with it for that amount.

Avoid wasting your time by asking the seller what the reserve is. They may tell you where to go, but it’s always worth a shot. If you do bid and your maximum amount meets the reserve, eBay automatically increases your bid to that figure (usually other buyers need to bid it up)

Tip 19 - Don't be duped by fakes

While eBay has a ‘flag and remove’ policy to help identify fakes, it’s hard for it to stay on top of all knock-offs. Some of the most commonly-faked goods include GHD hair stylers, Mulberry handbags, Gameboy Advances, Ray-Ban sunglasses, branded golf clubs, celebrity autographs, Ugg boots and Montblanc pens.

If you’re buying these or other big-name brands, do your research first. Carefully check sellers’ feedback and post on the forum’s eBay board to garner others’ opinions. Be especially wary of overseas sellers or branded items that seem especially cheap.

The more unprofessional the photos, the better. Scammers often lift professional photos from brands’ sites – legit sellers usually take photos of the item at home


Missed out on a desired item by pennies? Don’t give up hope. As every seller knows, sales sometimes fall through when buyers change their minds. So send a friendly message such as: “Hi, I’ve been after this limited edition Call of Duty game for ages, but just missed out. Please let me know if the sale falls through.”

They may send a second-chance offer, which are sent out by sellers to unsuccessful bidders if the winner fails to pay up. If you forgot to bid and the item didn’t sell, ask them to relist it at an agreed buy-it-now price.

Selling Tips


The first task is to sort through those bulging drawers and messy cupboards, finding stuff to flog. Get a big eBay box to stash your wares in, and systematically clear out wardrobes, DVD and CD piles, the loft and garage.

Use the easy 12-month rule of thumb to help you decide what to offload: Haven’t used it for a year? Flog it.

Here’s what sells best. Of course, if it doesn’t fit into these categories, the pounds will still add up, and you’ll benefit from a more ordered home.

– New items. Cellophane-wrapped DVDs and frocks with tags fetch a higher price.
Branded goods. People are more likely to trust a ‘Black & Decker drill’, rather than just a ‘drill’.
Items with keywords. One question to ask is “will someone search for this?” People are more likely to seach for a Ted Baker shirt than just a shirt.

– Rare commodities. Rare or difficult to get hold of sell well. The petrol cap on a 1974 special version Beetle may take time to sell, but someone who wants it should be willing to pay. Set start prices higher for items a few specialist buyers may be interested in.

– Job lots. If you’ve little time and heaps of similar small items, consider selling them as a bundle. This works especially well with baby clothes. Yet sell expensive branded goods individually – don’t bung Prada in with Primark

Tip 2 - Free Bulk listing tool

Usually there’s no way to save draft listings without actually starting the auction. Free bulk listing tool Turbo Lister lets you create auctions in advance. You can save and edit at leisure. You could write the description now, then upload pictures the next week.

The tool is eBay’s own software, which you download to your computer. It creates auctions offline, and offers templates for slicker-looking auctions. To make auctions live, simply click ‘upload’.

This does mean that to upload auctions at a specific time, you need to be around then to click the upload button. It’s still possible to upload in advance and schedule listings, but eBay charges 6p for the privilege.

The catch is Turbo Lister doesn’t work with eBay free listing days or other free listing promotions. If you want to take advange of these, consider just preparing descriptions in a Word document and keeping photos in a special eBay folder.


The joy of eBay is you can see exactly how much other items have sold for, and how other sellers have described their wares. Just fill in the search box and tick ‘completed items’ on the left hand grey bar.

This reveals which descriptions or chosen categories get the most bids. If the price is listed in red, it means it did not sell.

Spotted a product identical to yours? Click ‘sell one like this’ at the top of the listing to automatically fill in most of the details

Tip 4 - Compose the perfect title

Ensure your item’s title is searchable. When buyers search, eBay automatically searches for words in the item’s title only, so every word counts. Though buyers can opt to search the title and description.

Imagine what you would search for. Take “stylish plunging neckline plum dress”. No one’s going to search for “stylish”, “plunging” or “plum”. Instead, try “new size 10 purple silk Whistles dress”, and you’ll cram in tons more search terms.

Alternatively, “driving video game, not had it long” isn’t going to come up as often as “New Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA V) for PS3”.

Tip 5 - eBay Jargon Buster

eBay pros use certain initials to get their message across. These are useful for cramming extra info into titles without exceeding the character limit. Don’t go overboard though, or newbies won’t have the foggiest what you’re on about.

Here’s the most commonly used eBay jargon. BN: Brand new. BNWT: Brand new with tags. BNIB: Brand new in box. BIN: Buy it now. VGC: Very good condition

Tip 6 - Describing your items

Now it’s time to sell and market your product. To write a good description, think about what you‘d like to know if you were buying the product yourself. Include information such as brand name, condition (new or used), item specifics, model numbers, size, precise dimensions, style and colour.

While you want to big up the product, ensure the description’s accurate. It might be tempting to describe a shirt as like new. But if it turns up with kebab stains down the front, the buyer will leave bad feedback. Plus if it’s not as described, they may have recourse to action.

Always run your description through a spellchecker. To show how important spelling is, entire sites, such as Goofbid (formerly Goofbay) and Fatfingers, are dedicated to profiting from people’s slip-ups. Listings with spelling errors, especially in the title, go for lower amounts.

Tip 7 - Time to upload your best pictures

A decent picture’s paramount. You might get away with not including a Harry Potter DVD’s image, but no one pays good cash for a painting they’ve never laid eyes on.

eBay used to charge for pictures but now lets you upload 12 for free. Uploading is easy, just click ‘add photo’ on the selling page.

Most digital cameras these days will take a snap good enough to upload. Ensure there’s enough light, and if you’re taking outdoor pics – for a car, perhaps – then plan for a sunny day. If it’s an expensive item, take shots from different angles, as well as close-ups and distance shots.

Use a plain background. Buyers won’t be enticed by a mirror reflecting you in your Y-fronts.

Love your flaws

Take close-up photos of slight imperfections – ideally next to a ruler to show size – so buyers can inspect. They might be more likely to buy if the flaw’s not as bad as they thought, and may leave you good feedback for honesty

Tip 8 - Pick your start price

It’s a delicate balance. Set the start price too high and no one will bid, set it low and there’s a risk it will sell for the knock-down price.

As described above, searching completed items gives a list of prices similar auctions have already fetched – a useful guide to how much you’re likely to make.

Lower your start price

Not only will it slash the initial listing fee, but your listing may attract more attention. Boffins at London University did some research on this topic, and found auctions with modest start prices sparked more bidding and fetched higher final prices. Of course, there is always the risk it will end up selling for the knock-down price.

Tip 9 - Time it right

Avoid ending auctions at 4am, when nobody’s about. Often bidders prefer to swoop in in the last few minutes, hoping others won’t fight back.

According to eBaying MoneySavers, the best time to close an auction is between 7pm and 9pm, Sundays to Thursdays. If listing an expensive item, check TV listings to ensure you don’t clash with the Downton Abbey season finale.

Though remember if you’re selling to another country, such as the US, you’ll want to tweak your end time accordingly.

Prior engagement? eBay lets you list auctions and schedule a start time

Tip 10 - Sell in high season

Think about seasonality. Sell stuff at the right time of year. Few will search for barbecues in December or Christmas crackers in July.

The more precise, the better. If you’re flogging an air-conditioning unit, wait for a hot spell to pump up the price.

Tip 11 - Price the postage right

The buyer pays for postage, and when listing goods, you must specify a postage cost. Try to be as accurate as possible, as if the price specified is too low, you’ll have to make up the difference. If it’s too high, the buyer may leave bad feedback.

Don’t forget to factor in packaging costs when calculating postage charges. Though buyers often don’t expect to pay much more than the stamp price, so you may wish to factor this into your sale price


Discourage dodgy buyers by adding a requirement that you’ll only accept bids from buyers with a certain feedback score. To do this, in My eBay, under the Account, click the Site Preferences link. In the Selling Preferences section, scroll to Buyer requirements.

You can also block specific buyers. So if you get enquiries from a buyer before your auction ends and don’t like the cut of their jib, just add ’em to the blocked list.

Of course, much negative feedback is justified. But one issue is buyers who casually leave negative and neutral feedback for sellers most people would consider decent. To check if you’re dealing with a cranky curmudgeon, go to their feedback profile and click ‘feedback left for others’.

Click here