Tips for Sniping on eBay

eBay Sniping
••• Sniping is automated bidding. Getty Images

Many new eBay shoppers feel like they've been cheated when bids appear in the last seconds of an auction. Regular snipers suggest that anyone who doesn't regularly snipe is not an experienced buyer. Sniping is an automated way to bid on eBay auctions. If you're going to do it, though, there are a few dos and don'ts to keep in mind to ensure that you're not going to lose out—rather than win—an auction due to sniping.

What Sniping Is

Auction sniping is a way to win auctions without having to be physically present on the computer to win. Snipers are third party services where buyers can enter a maximum bid on a specific item and the bid is automatically placed in the last seconds of the auctions. Placing bids like this draws less attention to the item than bidding manually and far in advance of when the auctions end. 

Be Realistic

You may or may not win. Sniping doesn't guarantee a win, it just automates your bid. Don't try to win more than one of something by sniping on multiple auctions of the same thing. For example, if you are trying to win an unlocked iPhone, just try to snipe one. If you lose, try again. You don't want to end up winning multiple auctions for the same item because you will be obligated to pay for all of them. 

Place Bids Early

Figure out your maximum bid and place it early. The beauty of snipers is that you can think ahead of time and have your bid set.

No need to go back and check on your bid because it won't be placed until the last seconds of the auction. This is especially true if you are on a budget. Sniping is a great way to stay within a budget. Be patient and wait. Delayed gratification is the way to get items the cheapest!

Stay Under the Radar

When an item listing shows a counter with hundreds and hundreds of hits, or when there are already dozens and dozens of bids outstanding on an item, it generally means that there are a lot of people watching and bidding on the listing.

In this case, any price advantage from using a sniping service will evaporate, since the item will likely go for market value or even in some cases above market value. There will be plenty of auctions with few or no other bidders. Patience is the key to winning an auction at your price. 

Snipers Integrate with Your eBay Account

Because of the way they work, sniping services need your eBay login information to place bids on your behalf. They work with a token, meaning they are a third party service that accesses your eBay account with your permission. 

This means that you're not only counting on eBay to protect your personal information, but on the sniping service, too, most of whom are much smaller companies with fewer resources at their disposal. If you regularly use sniping services, be sure only to use established services and connect your eBay and PayPal accounts to bank accounts that you use only for eBay and PayPal activity. 

Understand That Sniping Is the Same as Bidding

Be prepared to pay for anything you win when sniping. This is not like Best Offer on a fixed price item where the seller can decline your offer. Sniping is the same as bidding on an item so if you win, and don't pay, the seller can file an UPI (Unpaid Item case) against you.

Too many unpaid item cases and eBay will shut down your account. 

If You Lose, Keep Trying

There is plenty more where that one came from! You will lose most of what you try to snipe, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. Many good deals can be had with patience and time. Using most snipers is free, so it isn't costing you anything to try to win the item. Sniping can and does get you a discount of some kind that makes it worth the effort for you to continue to snipe in the future. So when you see an opportunity to snipe and believe that it will help, do try again if sniping is your thing—and you'll know whether or not sniping is your thing by measuring how frustrated you are at the results when it doesn't work out.

Updated by Suzanne Wells on May 29, 2017.