Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

In a recent arbitrage tip, we showed you the secret to making money fast by buying and selling the same thing over and over again on eBay. But there's one thing you need to know about the buying part—get the lowest price possible! This article aims to show you some of the best methods to making sure you're paying the lowest prices on eBay, so you're the best arbitrageur out there, with your profits higher than ever!

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Step 1 Research

Before you go out buying and selling products on eBay, you need to do your research. Find out what's currently hot on the market, like the iPad 2 or Motorola XOOM tablets. These items sell for a decent amount of cash, and almost always sell. Consumer electronics are always a safe bet, like computers and cell phones. Fashion is also a decent category to check out. But it's best to do you research on everything before devoting your time to one thing. And you may consider a niche area you can control the market for.

And one thing to take in account when figuring your product is how much it's worth overseas. If you're selling primarily to a North American market, you could be losing out on some serious cash. In China, they couldn't purchase the 3G version of the iPad locally (though this may change soon), meaning they would pay well above market price for one elsewhere (or perhaps settle for a cheap knockoff).

Step 2 Improve Your Search Skills

If you're using the same search strategies on eBay that everyone else is using, then you're just going to be finding the same items as everyone else. You need to start thinking outside of the box.

Misspellings in Titles

It might sound bizarre when it comes to eBay bargain hunting, but looking for misspelt words can easily point you towards auctions that have no watchers. And let's face it—not everyone is great at spelling, and you definitely don't need to be to list something on eBay. But this doesn't mean that the item isn't valuable.

Those with poor grammar skills aren't necessarily using spell check, so varying your keywords in search will give you a real bargain from time to time. Also, sometimes the mispelt words are intentional, due to space-saving techniques in the headline. Here are some examples:

  • digtal = digital
  • anitque = antique
  • electic = electric
  • Motorola Zoom = Motorola Xoom
  • Sony Ericson = Sony Ericsson

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

And believe or not, there's actually a few tools to help you search for misspelt words on eBay. One is called Auction Speller. You just enter in a word, and it will open up a new window, searching for that word in eBay, along with all its misspelled variations. You can also do searches without the correctly spelled word (as in the example below), along with more options, like country search and word exclusion.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

There's also an online tool called Searchspell Typo, but it only shows you the misspelled words, which you would need to input into eBay yourself.


  • Use a multiple keyword search by inputting all of your word variations, separated by commas and inside of parentheses, i.e. (atique, anique, antque, antiue, antiqe, aantique). This searches for any of the words, not all, i.e. (atique OR anique OR antque OR antiue OR antiqe OR aantique). The Auction Speller tool above automatically does this, but you can also do it manually, with help from the Searchspell Typo tool.
  • The search box on eBay is limited to 300 characters, so you may want to split up your keywords for those with tons of misspellings.
  • Avoid deliberately misspelled words. Some sellers know what you're up to and want you to find their items, so they include the correct and misspelled versions in the headline. You have a much better chance getting a good deal on an accidental misspelt word. When performing your search, just add a dash (or minus sign (-)) before the correct version of the word, i.e. (ctique, anique) -antique.
  • BID! If you notice a huge misspelling, chances are the seller has, too. But if you hurry up and bid on the item, just the minimum bid, the seller won't be able to make any changes. And that means you've secured a possible steal deal, because no one else will find it!

Abbreviations in Titles

Just like the intentional misspelt word due to limited room on the headline, adding abbreviations and acronyms are a great way to keep the heft down. Search for a common (or uncommon) abbr. or acronym. Here are some examples:

  • kt. = karat
  • sq. = square
  • iPod Touch - iTouch
  • MacBook Pro = MBP
  • Dungeons & Dragons = D&D

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Missing Keywords in Titles

Another word-savvy way to find the cheapest products on eBay is to try searching for the non-obvious keywords. If you're a man looking for a pair of shoes, you're probably going to search for "men's shoes" or some variation of it. You may want a pair of sneakers, but if you search for "men's sneakers", you may be missing out on some deals than if you were to search for just "sneakers". A seller may easily forget (or not even think) to include the word "men" in their headline, making it nearly impossible for anyone to find them (or bother to find them)—except you, the master arbitrage. Then, you can narrow your results by category (which hopefully would be correct).


  • Don't limit yourself to the headline. Though someone might have spelled something wrong in the headline, they may have spelled it correctly in the description. Searching in the descriptions doubles your odds of finding your wanted items. Also, an item that's missing an obvious keyword in the headline may have it in the description. When you perform a search on eBay, it limits you to headlines only, but you can easily change this by using Advanced Search.
  • An easier way to go about this is by performing your headline only search, then on the results page, you have the option to add description to the search, by simply checking the "Include description" box.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Poor Images

Something that dissuades eBayers from bidding on auctions is poor image quality. But remember, just because an image is bad—grainy, black and white, dull, blurry, etc.—doesn't mean the product isn't valuable. Rely on the description to tell you what it's worth. Chances are they don't have a good camera or any image editing skills, or maybe they even used some poor stock photos. Just keep your eyes peeled.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Step 3 Saving Your Favorite Searches

You may get tired of searching for the same things over and over again. This is especially daunting if you're searching for misspellings, using the multiple keywords search. But you can easily save your favorite searches for later, and eBay will email you daily so you can stay up to date with everything. This is particularly useful if you're focusing on one item, and buying and selling on a daily basis. When you perform a search, just find the "Save search" option.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

After you press it, eBay will prompt you with a confirmation message.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

You can manage your favorite searches by going to "My eBay" and "Save Searches".


  • This is great for getting notifications for hard-to-find items that only pop up every now and then.

Step 4 Find the Going Rates

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain HuntingNow that you've found something to bid on, you should research its worth. You can do this by checking eBay for average selling prices, or even checking other online stores for fair prices. This will give you an idea of what your maximum bid should be when trying to buy.

When searching in eBay, you need to browse the completed transactions for your item in question. Just perform your search, then in the gray, left-hand options bar, find and check "Completed listings".

This will show you everything that's been completed, sold and unsold. The unsold auctions are great for seeing what prices don't work, while the successful auctions give you an idea on the average going price.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Try to pay less than these prices, so you can actually make a profit when it comes time to sell.


  • Search for specific model numbers to make sure you're getting a more accurate price average.
  • Consider "Used" and "New" prices separately, for they probably have different final values.
  • If selling outside of eBay, like in a trade magazine or paper, research going prices there, too.
  • Auctions usually have final sell prices than Buy-It-Now prices.
  • Remember to factor in shipping costs! Some sellers have absurd shipping prices, to make up for a loss from the selling cost (as in the ridiculous example below, which actually sold).

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

Step 5 Snipe Your Way to Steals

So, you've found something you want to buy—great. But don't jump right into bidding. In fact, don't do any manual bidding. There's plenty of reasons why you shouldn't.

  1. It's a waste of time. If you bid on an item right away, you're more than likely going to be watching it until the time expires, which could be a couple weeks, and a great deal of time lost that could have been used scoping out other auctions.
  2. You're more likely to bid more than intended. Watching someone outbid you time and time again is sure to make you keep bidding and bidding, even if you're passing your maximum intended price. Nobody likes to lose—but either way, you're going to, because you're not going to get it or you're going to spend more than you can resell it for.
  3. If there's someone out there doing the same thing you're doing—arbitraging—then surely he/she is using a sniping tool. So, why aren't you?

It's nearly impossible to compete against a sniping tool, because it's automatically outbidding everyone at the last second. Using a sniping tool will help you secure an item, as well as prevent you from getting carried away in a bidding war. Best of all—you don't have to keep watching the items you've bid on. You just enter in your max bid, along with a few other details, then you just wait until you win.

Most sniping tools are available for free, though some will charge for securing a winning bid. Here are some to consider.

  • Auction Sniper
    Has a free trial, then it charges 1% of the winning auction price (minimum fee of $0.25, max of $9.95). Web-based.
  • JBidwatcher
    Free. Software available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • eSnipe
    deSnipe charges 1% of the winning auction price (minimum fee of $0.25, max of $10.00). Web-based.
  • AuctionStealer
    Offers a free service that gets you a winning bid 97% of the time, but their priority services offer more functionality. Monthly subscription plans start at $8.99, and one-time monthly plans start at $11.99. Web-based.
  • AuctionBlitz
    Owned by AuctionStealer with the same free and paid services. Web-based.
  • Bidnapper
    15-day free trial. Then, subscriptions ranging from $7.99 (monthly) to $49.99 (yearly). You can also prepay for snipes, either 10 for $19.99 or 25 for $36.99. Web-based.
  • Gixen
    Free (with ads). There's also a "Mirror" service (without ads) for $6 a year, which doubles your chances of winning. Web-based.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting

For the most part, these sniping tools are extremely easy to use. You just use the eBay auction numbers, enter your maximum bid and time before the end of the auction. The sniping tool does the rest, emailing you on a successful (or unsuccessful) bid.

These tools are great for maintaining a profit. If you feel tempted to increase your max bid—don't. Your profits will plummet. Once you initially set up the snipe bid, remain detached from it until you receive a good (or bad) email. This ensures you're only paying what you can make a profit on.

Step 6 Late Night Bargains

Sometimes shopping during sleep hours can help you secure a real bargain, as the number of last-minute shoppers is reduced. Auctions ending between midnight (00:00) and 5 a.m. (05:00) on a weekday often have fewer final bidders.

Also, if there are multiple auctions for the same items within a short time frame, focus your efforts on the later ones. Hopefully, other interested parties will get jammed up in bidding wars against each other on the earlier ones.

Step 7 Keep an Eye Out for Best Offers

It may take a little more of your time, but search eBay for sellers who will consider "Best Offers". It's a fairly new eBay feature, and is usually coupled with sellers using "Buy It Now". You can also research those specific sellers to see what prices they've accepted in the past, which is most useful for sellers who post lots of the same item.

How to Buy Products for Cheap on eBay: The Art of Arbitrage Bargain Hunting


  • Beware of knockoff items.
  • Don't expect to be great right away—practice makes perfect.

Once you've mastered your buying technique, it's time to master your selling technique. But that's for another time, though I'll give you some quick tips. Try selling in different or multiple categories to expand your watchers. Try combining your auctions, because you'll save big on insertion fees. Think about PayPay's Micropayments for selling low value items. And save money with a listing designer to help cut the costs of all the optional eBay upgrade fees.

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Photo by AMagill
SOURCE Windows: The Official Magazine, SaleHoo

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