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Strategies to Help You Outsmart the Bidding Competition on eBay

Your two cents do matter — at least on eBay. Here's why: Many eBay members tend to round off their bids to the nearest dollar figure. Some choose nice, familiar coin increments such as 25, 50, or 75 cents. But the most successful eBay bidders have found that adding 2 or 3 cents to a routine bid can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Make your bids in oddish figures (such as $15.02 or $45.57) as an inexpensive way to edge out your competition. If you have a proxy bid in, say for $22.57, and a sniper jumps in at the last second and places a bid for $22.50 — you still win! The highest bid placed always wins. For the first time ever, your 2 cents (or in this case 7 cents) may actually pay off!

That's just one of the many strategies to get you ahead of the rest of the bidding pack without paying more than you should.

These strategies are for bidders who are tracking an item over the course of a week or so — so be sure that you have time to track the item and plan your next moves. Also, get a few auctions under your belt before you throw yourself into the middle of a bidding war.

Here's a list of dos and don'ts that can help you win your item. Of course, some of these tips are eBay endorsed:

  • Don't bid early and high. Bidding early and high shows that you have a clear interest in the item. It also shows that you're a rookie, apt to make mistakes. If you bid early and high, you may give away just how much you want the item.

    Of course, a higher bid does mean more bucks for the seller and a healthy cut for the middleman. So it's no big mystery that many sellers recommend it. In fact, when you sell an item, you may want to encourage it, too.

    If you must bid early and can't follow the auction action (you mean you have a life?), use software or an online sniping service like BidRobot. Then feel free to place your highest possible bid!

  • Do wait and watch your auction. If you're interested in an item and you have the time to watch it from beginning to end, the best strategy is to wait. Click the Watch This Item link to move it to your My eBay page — and remember to check it. But if you don't have the time, go ahead — put in your maximum bid early and cross your fingers.

  • Don't freak out if you find yourself in a bidding war. Don't keel over if, at the split second you're convinced that you're the high bidder with your $45.02, someone beats you out at $45.50.

    You can increase your maximum bid to $46.02, but if your bidding foe also has a maximum of $46.02, the tie goes to the person who put in the highest bid first. Bid as high as you're willing to go, but bid at the very end of the auction.

  • Do check the item's bidding history. If you find yourself in a bidding war and want an item badly enough, check the bidding history and identify your fiercest competitor.

    To get a pretty exact picture of your opponent's bidding habits, make special note of the times of day when he or she has bid on other auctions. You can adjust your bidding times accordingly.

  • Do consider sniping. Sniping describes a technique for bidding at the last possible second of an auction.

  • Do remember that most deals go through without a problem. The overwhelming majority of deals on eBay are closed with no trouble, which means that if the auction you're bidding in is typical and you come in second place, you've lost. Or maybe not . . .

    If the winning bidder backs out of the auction or the seller has more than one of the item, the seller could (but isn't obligated to) come to another bidder and offer to sell the item at the second bidder's price through eBay's Second Chance option.

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