Here's How to Win on eBay

Category: Shopping

If you buy stuff on eBay, you have probably suffered the agony of seeing defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Do you want to find out how they keep outbidding you at the last second, every time? Want to start winning some eBay auctions? Read on to learn all about eBay sniping...

What is eBay Sniping?

An auction is ending in just a few seconds. You've been the high bidder for hours or days, indicating that everyone else has given up. You watch the seconds tick down into single digits. 5… 4… 3… and the thrill of winning swells in you.

And then suddenly, the screen refreshes and you see, “You have been outbid – bid again before it’s gone!” But there's not enough time to enter a new bid before the auction ends. You lose, and you don’t know what happened.

A “snipe” is what happened, most likely. Someone deliberately waited until the last second to place one bid exceeding the auction’s high bid, giving you no time to respond with a higher bid.

eBay Sniping

Sniping can be done manually, by placing a bid in the usual way and sitting there, finger hovered over the mouse key that will send the final “confirm bid” acknowledgement and place your bid in eBay’s system. Sniping is so popular that eBay actually changed its bid-submission protocol to make it easier. But manual sniping is crude and unreliable.

As the clock winds down, a crash in the kitchen and a toddler’s wail may distract, and you miss the end of the auction. Your Internet connection may choose that exact moment to stall or be lost completely. Your phone may ring. Someone may knock at your door. Lots of things can interfere with a manual snipe.

eBay Sniping Software

Software can handle this problem. While you go deal with distractions, or just go about your life normally, a bid sniping program can sit there waiting for the precise moment before the auction’s end to submit your bid for you. Software can synchronize your computer’s clock to “eBay time,” which is really just National Time Service atomic clock time, so there is no win-ruining discrepancy between your PC’s clock and eBay’s.

The catch is that you must give the software your eBay ID and password; otherwise, it cannot place a bid for you. Here we reach the big fork in the road: do you trust your eBay login information to a remote server, or only to software running on your local machine?

It really doesn’t matter from a security standpoint. A program running locally can transmit your eBay login info to anyone, anywhere, and you will never know it. So the notion that “local is better” is an illusion.

The advantages of using a remote service to place your snipes are real. Typically, a sniping service runs on a high-reliability server in a data center well designed to prevent downtime. It has a faster Internet connection than your consumer or small-business grade connection. It’s just more reliable than a locally running program.

Google the phrase “eBay sniping service” and you will get a bewildering, large set of results. One says it’s totally free, but near the bottom of its laundry list of unfamiliar benefits like “multi-win group bidding” and “contingency group bidding” it says you’ll pay six bucks a year for “mirror service.” If you’re a casual eBay bidder, or brand-new to sniping, it can all get a bit bewildering.

Some Advice From an Expert

I talked to an expert who has been using eBay for many years. Here are some highlights from our conversation about sniping:

Q: How long have you used sniping services?

A: Over ten years; when you trade actively, with many different buy/sell transactions going on all the time, it’s essential to have a sniping service take most of the load off of you on the buying side.

Q: What sorts of things do you trade in?

A: Since I started on eBay in April, 2002, I have dealt in everything from cloth diapers to high-end gems. I’ve even sold intangibles, like a PDF file containing woodworking plans for a rubber-band Gatling gun; that one was popular with grandpas, shop teachers, and Scout leaders.

Q: Sniping services have some confusing jargon, such as “contingency bidding" and "multi-win". What do those terms mean, and are they of value to the casual bidder?

A: A “contingency bidding group” is a group of snipes to be placed on identical or similar items that end at different times. If one snipe fails to win, the later snipes remain poised to place their bids. But as soon as a snipe wins, the remaining snipes are canceled. This allows you to set a group of snipes in which your maximum bid is pretty close to the starting bid. You – or rather, the sniping service – just keep trying to low-ball auctions until you succeed. It helps you pay the least you can.

Using a “multi-win group" can help you win two or three of the same item; a multi-win group will not cancel remaining snipes until all of the auctions have been won.

Q: What is “mirror service” and is it worth paying for?

A: It’s not worth paying for, in my opinion. “Mirror service” means that your snipe is placed from two physical locations simultaneously, supposedly decreasing the chance that a snipe will fail due an Internet outage or server crash. But the risk is so small it’s not worth buying insurance against it.

Q: Do you have a favorite sniping service?

A: has been around since 1998. It has won awards for its reliability and customer service. It does contingency group bidding but not multi-win groups. But how often do you need three identical cameras? Its interface is pure HTML, no Flash or Java or other jazzy but unnecessary frills. I like simple when I’m doing business; if I want bling, I’ll go to Another nice thing about BidRobot is that it can delete your pending eBay bids with no penalty, which you can't do when bidding manually at eBay.

Q: Any final advice for our eBay buyers and sellers?

A: The winner of an auction is the one who pays more than anyone else thinks a thing is worth, for a thing the seller didn’t think was worth keeping.

I agree with our expert's recommendation to use BidRobot, and that's not just because I personally know Chuck Eglinton, the guy who has run it for two decades. The service has helped more than 100,000 users win millions of auctions at eBay. BidRobot isn't free, but it's been proven that buyers pay less for the items they win simply by bidding only in the final moments of an auction. The basic "Unlimited Bidding for 3 weeks" plan costs $7.99 and comes with a $500 win guarantee. If you don't win that much, your account stays open for FREE until you win the amount promised!

Your thoughts on eBay buying, bidding and sniping are welcome! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Win on eBay"

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I use!

Posted by:

Alien Bob
06 Sep 2019

I was in an online (real estate) auction recently that had a "last 15 minute" rule. Any bids made in the last 15 minutes exrended the auction by another 15 minutes. The auction ended after there were no more bids during the 15 minute final period. I would actually use Ebay if they were to institute such a rule, but paying for a service as described here? No thanks, not as an occasional buyer. Maybe, though, if I ran an Ebay based business

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I don’t bid frequently on eBay, but when I do, manual sniping has served me well. It has allowed me to win most of the time, while simultaneously helping to keep the final cost lower by avoiding a price-raising bid war. (It’s how I pulled together a nice antique Belleek collection at a reasonable price.) If I were a frequent flyer on eBay, I would probably look at a service such as BidRobot.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I think it's totally unfair having services to aid people in winning eBay bids. It kind of defeats the purpose of bidding. Why bother bidding just have everyone use these bidding services. To me this is cheating and doing a disservice to what bidding is
all about. Let's level the playing field and have everyone use these services or outlaw the use of these services altogether.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I don't really see the point of sniping: just bid what you're prepared to pay and leave it!

Last time I was tempted to wait on a Buy It Now or make me an offer item someone offered a quarter of the Buy It Now price and was immediately accepted!

Somteimes waiting doesn't pay.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

What happens if 2 people are both bidding thru that service?

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

Does anyone know if these services would work for buying concert tickets when a pre-sale opportunity starts at a particular time? Seems like the big ticket brokers all manage to grab every available ticket and force a "sold out" within seconds after the start of the sale.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I prefer eBay over Amazon if I can help it. However, I never make a purchase online without scrubbing the web for better pricing/shipping. In 2019, I have made 50+ purchases from eBay and ONLY one of these was an auctioned item, which I won (a NOS Milwaukee M12 cordless screwdriver @$79 retail value) for $30 using no bid-bot.
I used to enjoy the entertainment value of eBay auctions in the early years (member since Feb. 1999). I distinctly recall my excitement when I won a ~2GB SCSI-2 HardDiskDrive for dirt cheap price of $150. I was so excited until I found out that this used HDD was the size of a half cinder block. Nowadays, I get my auction thrills from, when I need absolutely nothing in particular.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

The highest bid always wins. If two buyers bid the exact same amount then the one who bid earliest wins, even if it just a tiny fraction of a second earlier.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

years ago I wrote my own sniping script in linux. Probably in perl. I'd run it with an AT command if I remember right. It kept a log. So it'd start running five minutes before the end of auction, and check it every 30 seconds or so and then do a final countdown and bid at 3 or 4 seconds out. Wanted to do something more elaborate but never did. Think it would email me win/not win information, but it's been years.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2019

I have been using phantombidder ( for many years, very reliable sniping service.

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

Here in New Zealand we don't have eBay. When they set up here we already had an auction service called Trade Me and eBay never took off.
Anyway, Trade Me got around the sniping problem by using what they call auto extend. If a bid is placed within the last 2 minutes the closing time of the auction will extend another 2 minutes. So there is always time to place another bid if you want to - as long as you are watching the auction of course!

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

I have been using gixen for many many years.

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

I've been using esnipe for years. Every once in awhile a bid gets missed by a glitch on their part but 99.44% of the time they succeed if I'm high bidder. I stay because their cost of doing business is the most reasonable for my inconsistent bidding/spending patterns. That's why monthly prepaid outlays don't work for me otherwise I'd be elsewhere.

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

Don't forget that eBay already provides an automatic system for everyone (secret maximum bidding) so theoretically there should be no need for sniping. However, a sniper's own maximum bid is not submitted until the last few seconds, giving none of the other bidders a chance to change their mind and increase their previous maximum. So by preventing a bidding war, the sniper is assured of getting the item for the minimum amount above whatever actually is the current secret maximum of a rival.

Snipers simply do what we all should do: set a firm maximum bid that they are willing to pay and leave it alone, understanding that doing so does not preclude getting the item for far less if competitors give up. The only difference is that they do it at the last minute, so they tend to pay less. I'm surprised that eBay is actually making it easier to snipe, rather than trying to prevent the technique, because the lower the price, the less eBay makes.

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

I've used eSnipe since August, 2001.

For those who think it's a bad thing to do, it really keeps you out of bidding more than you had planned because you're in an "I'm going to win this" frame of mind. It's much easier to put in your highest snipe bid and forget about it.

I used to bid manually, but I'd get caught up in the excitement and spend more than I planned. Then I'd have a bit of remorse for letting myself get in the bidding war.

When you put in a snipe bid to be placed in the last few seconds, you don't have the 'nibblers' eating away at your maximum bid. If another bidder has a higher maximum than my snipe bid, so be it.

When I used to bid manually at the end of the auction, I occasionally missed out because of a loss of internet or distraction or whatever. That would really get to me and I'd feel badly.

Having eSnipe do my bidding takes away the highs and lows of winning/losing.

Posted by:

07 Sep 2019

I second Sewlady's comment. I find eSnipe works just as I need it to. There is only a charge if I win-usually about 25 cents.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2019

Very informative, both from Bob and from posters. Sniping reminds me of The Price is Right TV show, where one person bids $700 and another then bids $701. (I've only bought off eBay once, and it was not an auction item, so I have no experience with this.)

Posted by:

08 Sep 2019

I don't see the point of bidding on Ebay mostly. If I am looking for something I usually need it right now. What is the point of waiting for days or even hours to find out if your bid was good enough. I have purchased from Ebay but used the buy it now option. I only do that after I have checked a few places to make sure that I'm not getting ripped off.

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