How to take part in an online auction header image

Published: 7th Sep 2015

If you’ve already got to grips with the basics of online shopping, then you may also be interested in getting involved with online auctions.

Using popular sites such as eBay, you may well be able to pick up a bargain, as well as getting hooked on the excitement of bidding.

The first step is to find an item that you are interested in. Some sites offer a combination of fixed price and auction listings, so you should then work out which category the item falls into. As with all online shopping, you should take care to read the description closely, as sometimes a deal that seems too good to be true can be just that, especially when it comes to second-hand items.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to buy an auctioned item, then the next stage is to put in a bid. The current highest bid should already be displayed on the item’s webpage, as well as the minimum increase for the next bid. All you have to do is enter the amount you would like to bid, and click submit. Just remember, you are committing to buy the item at that price if you win the auction, so think before you bid!

Of course, another person who wants the item may outbid you, so you could get drawn into a back-and-forth as the price creeps ever higher. This is part of what makes online auctions so exciting, but it can lead to you spending rather more than you had planned. The best thing to do is to set a hard limit, which is the maximum amount you are prepared to offer for the item, ahead of time and stick to it.

It’s also worth paying attention to the time when the auction will end. If it’s still got a few hours to run, then it may not be worth getting caught up in a bidding war - at least, not yet. If you want to be sneaky, you can engage in a practice known as sniping.

This involves waiting until the last few seconds of an auction, then slipping in a slightly higher bid. If the auction doesn’t end for hours or even days, then the best way to remember is often setting a reminder in your phone, so that you can come back to your computer for the crucial last seconds. Of course, someone else may have had the same idea, so it can all come down to a tiny margin - yet more excitement!