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14 eBay buying hacks that will get you the wardrobe of your dreams

The best tips and tricks to up your eBay game.

In case you didn't already know, eBay is just about the best resource for any fashion girl. There are thousands of fashion pieces listed on eBay from all around the world. Some are new, some are worn and all of them are waiting to be snapped up by savvy shoppers.

I am totally eBay obsessed. I started using it back in 2009 as an underpaid and overworked university student with a penchant for designer clothing. There was absolutely no way I could afford the Sass & Bide t-shirts and Zimmermann dresses that I coveted on the money I was earning, so a friend pointed me in the direction of the auction site. After a couple of weeks I was hooked.

Today, at least half my wardrobe has come from eBay. Even though I've grown up and found a "grownup" job, I still use it to buy everything from jeans and boots to jewellery and bags because you just can't beat the prices. As an example, my latest purchases include:

  • Viktoria & Woods leather skirt originally $600 and bought for $46
  • Alexander Wang Kori Boots originally $700 and bought for $262
  • A brand new with tags Kookai Dress originally $90 and bought for $51

I even use eBay to buy my household items. Why should I pay $40 for my shampoo and conditioner set when I can get the exact same thing shipped to me for $30?

That said, finding exactly what you want and getting it for the price you want is an art that I've spent years practicing and perfecting. Some first time users of eBay can get frustrated because there are hundreds of pages to search through, pictures can be deceiving and shipping times can be really long. So for all you frustrated users, first time dabblers and keen fashion hunters out there, here are the best eBay hacks and tips that have helped me curate my dream closet for a fraction of the cost.


1. Search for spelling errors

This works particularly well if you are after a specific brand. You'd be surprised how many people write "Alice McCall" as "Alice Mcall" or "Alexander Wang" as "Alexander Wand". These misspelled listings attract very few watchers/buyers which means no bidding competition and a cheaper price for you.

There's even a special site dedicated to helping you find misspelled listings. It's called Fat Fingers. Type in what you're looking for and it will source all the misspellings for your search term.

2. Search for features and brands not product type

Searching features and brands will yield more results than if you search for a product type. For example, when looking for a black handbag you should only search for the term “black” and then select "women’s bags" category. Many people will list handbag as bag, pouch, shoulder bag, bucketbag etc. So including “handbag” in your search term removes all the other listings from your results.

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3. Search for items listed in the wrong category

When listing an item, some sellers will accidentally list things in the wrong place eg. a dress being listed in the "women's jeans" category. As with the misspelled listings, these attract fewer buyers and will generally have a lower auction price. If you're after a dress, try searching in the tops or shoes categories and see what comes up.

4. Follow and save your favourite searches

Are you looking for something specific? Search for it on eBay and then select the "follow this search" option. eBay will then send you a notification every time something falling within your search terms is listed and you won't have to constantly monitor eBay for newly listed items.

5. Don't filter by size

Every single brand uses a different type of sizing. Some brands use 6, 8, 10 etc., some use S,M,L and some use 1, 2, 3 etc. So, filtering your search results by size 10 will eliminate all the size M results and you'll potentially miss out on some great buys. If you really insist on filtering by size, make sure you run a few different searches filtering by size 10, size M and size 3.

6. Look at every single photo in detail

Many eBay sellers, especially the casual sellers, use dull, grainy photos that really undersell the appeal of the clothing. Really take the time to assess the pictures in a listing. You'd be surprised how many amazing pieces are disguised by bad listing photos. If you're having trouble seeing through a bad photo, try typing the listing description into Google and see if you can dig up some better images that do the item justice.

7. Items ending at weird times have less bidding competition

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Items that end at odd times like 3am when people are asleep or 9am when people have just started work will attract less buyers. As a result these listings will be generally be easier for you to snag at a great price. But since not all of us can stay up until 3am to bid on a dress, this brings me to the next tip...

8. Try using an eBay sniper service

These services work by placing your bid at the very last second. This gives only seconds for someone to bid above you and prevents the price from rising too high. They are a great tool to use if your auction ends at odd hours. Simply type in the auction ID and details of the maximum price you're prepared to pay. My favourite one is called Auction Stealer. Sign up and you'll get 5 free steals a month.

9. Two similar items on eBay at the same time? Buy the first one

Think about it: Every person that misses out on the first auction will jump on the second and the price will go up. So, if you're ever caught in this situation where two similar items are listed at around the same time, always buy the one that ends first.

10. Expand the location filter. It's always preset

The location filter is always preset to items only listed on eBay Australia. This will include items based in other countries but not items listed on foreign versions of the site. You should always change this filter to suit your preferences. If you're after something common and simple, change the filter to “Australia only” to avoid excessive shipping costs and times. But if you're after something very niche, open the filter up to worldwide so you can see every item that can be shipped to Australia. Opening the filter up is especially important if you're after designer items. There are so many more choices in the luxury categories when you include auctions based overseas.

11. Beware cheap items will have lengthy shipping times

If you see an amazing dress for $5 and it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Often, items that are listed at a buy-it-now low price are made overseas and sent from overseas via boat. These items can sometimes take months to arrive, if at all. As newbie eBayer, I was blindsided by prices and bought a few things that either arrive after eight weeks or didn't arrive at all. Avoid making this mistake by reading all the other information on a listing before making a purchase.

12. Bargain with the seller

There is no harm in contacting the seller and asking them for a better price. You'd be surprised by how many sellers are willing to take their items down and sell them out of the auction format. It is also worth contacting the seller about items you believe will gather a hefty price during the auction. If you see something listed for $20 and you know it has the potential to get to $100, why not contact the seller and offer them $50 before the auction ends? You could save yourself some money.

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13. Always contact the seller with issues

Sellers rely on positive feedback to continue selling, especially the power sellers. If you aren't happy with your item, contact them. Most of them are happy for you to return the item and they'll give you your money back.

14. On the off chance you're ever shopping in store...

And you see something that you love, search eBay for it before you buy it. I was once about to drop $200 on a white blazer in store when I decided to double check eBay. I found it, brand new, listed for it a buy-it-now price of $60.


Still not sure where to start?

Here are few links to some of the biggest fashion categories that offer the biggest bargains.

Kookai leather pieces are some of the most beautiful clothing on the market. The only problem is they retail for $500+. On eBay you can pick up some great Kookai leather from $100 or less. The same goes from Bec & Bridge and Sass & Bide. You can pick up some great Sass & Bide tees for $20 and super sexy Bed & Bridge dresses for $50.

Happy shopping.

Sass & Bide T-Shirt
eBay
Kookai Leather Pieces
eBay
Bec & Bridge Dress
eBay

Mia Steiber

Mia Steiber is a journalist at finder.com.au with a serious shopping habit and an addiction to gold jewellery. Her talents include tracking down one-off or almost sold out pieces and knowing the sizing charts for just about every brand.

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