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Have you ever been watching an auction on eBay that you have the top bid placed on and then, suddenly, right before the auction ends, someone places a higher bid than you, winning the auction? You’ve been bid sniped.

What Is Bid Sniping?

Bid sniping is the tactic many bidders use to swoop in and win an auction at the very last second. They do this by placing a bid higher than the current bid just seconds before the auction ends. Doing this prevents the current highest bidder from having time to come back with a counter bid, causing them to lose the auction.

Bid sniping doesn’t always guarantee the sniper will win an auction, though. During the last minute down to the last few seconds of an auction of a very popular item, many bidders may be bid sniping at the same time. So, if two bidders snipe at the same time, the highest bidder of those two will take home the prize.

As frustrating as it is to be bid sniped, this tactic is both common and allowed on eBay. However, there’s a way you can be better prepared for bid sniping so that you’re not always losing those auctions.

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Take Advantage of Automatic Bidding

You can use automatic bidding in each and every eBay auction you participate in, and you can take full advantage of it without having to adjust any special settings since automatic bidding is a built-in feature in every eBay auction.

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What happens with automatic bidding is you tell eBay what the highest amount you’re willing to bid on the item in the auction is, and then eBay will automatically place a bid on your behalf if someone else outbids you. eBay will continue to do this until your cap has been reached.

These are “invisible” bids, so to speak—other bidders won’t be able to see what the maximum amount you set for the auction is. So, if someone were to come along and try to snipe you during the last few seconds of the auction, and the amount they bid is less than the maximum amount you set for the auction, then eBay bids for you automatically and the sniper gets sniped.

The amount eBay bids for you is based on the price bracket the item currently falls in.

Item Price Bracket Automatic Bid Increment
$0.01–$0.99 $0.05
$1.00–$4.99 $0.25
$5.00–$24.99 $0.50
$25.00–$99.99 $1.00
$100.00–$249.99 $2.50
$250.00–$499.99 $5.00
$500.00–$999.99 $10.00
$1000.00–$2499.99 $25.00
$2500.00–$4999.99 $50.00
$5000.00+ $100.00

An important note to keep in mind is that these bids are legally binding contracts. If you set $5,000 as your maximum bid, but are only hoping to pay $300, and then someone comes and bids $4,900, eBay will automatically bid $5,000 for you. If you win the bid, you are legally obligated to pay that amount. So, only set the maximum bid to what you’re really willing to pay for the item. Note that your maximum bid doesn’t consider shipping in the equation—that’s handled separately.

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To set your maximum bid, go to the item you want to bid on, enter the maximum amount you’re willing to spend in the text box under Current Bid, and then click the blue “Place Bid” button to the right.

Place your eBay bid.

A confirmation window will appear. Click the blue “Confirm” button.

Your bid is now placed. Note that, even though we put $10,000 as our bid, if nobody else bids on this auction, then we’d only pay $7,870—$100 more than the current bid. If someone later bids $8,000, then eBay will automatically bid $8,100 on our behalf. This will continue until the maximum limit we set has been reached. If the auction ends at $8,100, then we only pay $8,100—not $10,000.

Now, if someone comes in and tries to bid snipe you in the last few seconds, you still stand a chance of winning.

The auction game can be quite stressful at times, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Most sellers will provide a “Buy Now” button, where you can just buy the item at the listed price without having to deal with an auction. Just make sure you don’t overpay.

RELATED: How to See What Something Is Worth Using eBay

Profile Photo for Marshall Gunnell Marshall Gunnell
Marshall is a writer with experience in the data storage industry. He worked at Synology, and most recently as CMO and technical staff writer at StorageReview. He's currently an API/Software Technical Writer based in Tokyo, Japan, runs VGKAMI and ITEnterpriser, and spends what little free time he has learning Japanese.
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