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win ebay auctions snipeContrary to what you may think, winning an eBay auction by sniping does not entail waiting outside other participants’ windows, firing long-range paintball Play Fast-Paced Paintball Online With Digital Paint Play Fast-Paced Paintball Online With Digital Paint Most First Person Shooter games are rated too high for younger kids that may want to play games in that genre. Enter Digital Paint, with the free open source FPS offering called Paintball 2. This... Read More guns at them, and securing your bid via 4G while they clutch their bruising arms. Not only is this illegal, it’s not very practical – no man can hit that many targets with a paintball gun in that many locations within such a short time.

Actually, sniping – in its most basic form – is simply waiting until the very last second of an eBay auction and quickly plugging in a bid that is slightly higher than the user before you. It’s a controversial practice, and in some eyes, it’s almost as dirty as cheating. However, the truth is that it’s completely legal, not an eBay scam 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. You invest all of that time into selling a particular product or you spend a lot of time researching the perfect item, complete the transaction, and then… nothing. The... Read More , and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.

Let’s be real, though. You’ve probably sniped. Don’t deny it.

If you’re an avid eBay hunter (who may even happen to use Chrome’s eBay extension Keep An Eye On The Best Deals With The eBay Extension For Google Chrome Keep An Eye On The Best Deals With The eBay Extension For Google Chrome While it is always advocated that you compare prices and discounts across multiple online shops, it is also true that some of the best deals can be had on eBay. After all, (with due apologies... Read More ) there’s likely been that one special something you found while browsing eBay and absolutely had to have. While at work, you checked it every other minute, punching in numbers that just barely went over your competition’s bids. As the clock neared five seconds, you went in for the kill, bidding an amount that was just high enough.

Don’t feel too bad, though. Sniping on eBay is actually a pretty common practice, and while the above method is the most typical way of doing it, there are a few others. Let’s take a look at them.

Sniping Cons

win ebay auctions snipe


As aforementioned, the most common form of sniping is upping the bid little by little and swooping in at the last second a taking away your prize. As someone who has done this quite often, I can say that it is possible to win, but not always likely. There are a few risks.

For instance, the seller could cancel the auction early 12 hours before it ends (which stinks), or the auction may not reach the seller’s reserve (which also stinks). No bueno. Then there’s the chance of someone out-sniping you. They may even have a few resources up their sleeve like an automated sniping service.

Services like goSnipe and GIXEN automatically place your bid in the last few moments of an auction. The services tell you that they are fairly useful, but in all truth, it’s probably just a game of chance. With that said, I’m by no means recommending that you use them. I’m not even saying that you use them by saying that you shouldn’t use them in that “wink-wink, finger-guns” kind of way.

Just don’t use them. OK?

Sniping Strategies

won ebay auction sniper

While I am personally not a fan of automated sniping services, I will say that there are a few sniping strategies you could always try out. The first method is also known as incremental bidding. It’s basic, and there’s really not much of a strategy to it.

Some users will tell you that’s it a good idea to keep two eBay windows open instead and totally skipping the bidding part. You should use one window for watching the time, constantly refreshing and watching the numbers fly by. However, use the other window as your official bidder and plug in the highest amount you are willing to bid in this one. This number may change as you watch the other participants, but as the auction draws to a close, you should click the Commit to Buy button in the final seconds to secure your prize.

Another strategy is to use eBay’s proxy bidding system. Basically, you tell eBay the highest amount you are willing to pay, and it will automatically raise the increments for you up until this number. The catch is that if you and a user bid the same amount, then the user who offered their bid before you will be the winner. A good way to combat this is by adding an extra cent or maybe even a dollar to your amount. Granted, it would definitely be difficult to guess what other people are willing to spend, but it’s at least worth considering.

A dirtier method of sniping would be to find a partner or an alternate account and throw out an outrageously high amount after your (or your personal account’s) highest bid within the last hour of the auction. As the auction draws to a close, the faux bidder would then withdraw his bid, leaving your amount to be the next runner-up. This is a bit sketchy, for eBay says you can’t retract bids by default. However, if you ask nicely, there’s a chance it could work for you. With that said, I highly suggest that you not do this. It’s too much of a gamble.

Sniping Practicality

win ebay auctions snipe

Let me be clear: you can win an eBay auction by sniping.

But it is also very risky, and it may not be worth it in the end. Could you win in the final seconds of an auction? Of course. No one should tell you differently. In fact, it would be unfair if you couldn’t. However, you need accurate aim, a quick trigger finger, and a bit of luck.

Do you believe that eBay sniping is ethical? Are you a successful eBay sniper?

Image Credit: mastertoolman

  1. Mike
    June 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    You're wrong if you're trying to convince people that sniping doesn't work. If I want an item badly enough, my bid, (via a sniping service), will be high enough to ensure I win. I have yet to encounter a bidder who has beaten me in those circumstances, and if I did, he would be paying a full price. If my bid fails, it is because I didn't want the item badly enough. Also, my anonymity until the last few seconds, ensures that I at leas,t don't get into a bidding war which only serves to drive the price up.

    Another advantage that Ebay probably don't like to admit, is my ability to cancel my snipe bid at any time, for any reason. I recently had a snipe bid set on an item, which, on closer examination of the pics, I concluded, was either fake or repro. I immediately cancelled my snipe, and no-one was the wiser.

  2. John
    May 13, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Does anyone "Buy it NOW"?

  3. Simon
    February 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Sorry, that article is pretty lame. And as for the idea of getting a partner/second account to put in a super high bid then withdraw it in the dying seconds? That's just plain illegal. It's called fraud. Please, do some research before presenting yourself as an informed source.

  4. hankg
    December 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    from the original OP: "Let me be clear: you can win an eBay auction by sniping.
    But it is also very risky, and it may not be worth it in the end"

    this is like saying: "let me be clear, you can win by not using an eBay sniper, but it is also very risky, and it may not be worth it in the end."

    and actually you would be more correct by the later. because while things can go wrong with an eBay sniper, not using an eBay sniper is going to lose yourself 90% of the auctions, and I can say this with absolute authority on the subject, I've been using eBay since 1999. or last century for you knew comers "wink wink",

    now I would not use a "web service" for ebay sniping though, they are possible security risks, and they are failing because eBay is trying to prevent fraud, by saying hey, give us extra verification.

    I would recommend an eBay sniper app that lives on your desktop though, there are no downsides, except that you must leave your desktop running while you are using a snipe.

    on a Mac, the one I use is from the "Mac app store", extremely good.

  5. John
    November 12, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    What's the logic behind the new (to me, anyway) practice of a single bidder placing 10-15 bids on an item when they're the first bidder? They're not nibbling away to find out someone else's high bid, they are the ONLY bidder so far. What purpose does this serve?

    • hankg
      December 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      it serves no purpose, the OP is wrong, it also serves no purpose if there ARE bids. it only serves to run up the bidding. good for a seller, bad for a buyer, either place your max, or don't place at all... and for that matter, use a sniper and place that same Max bid, so someone else doesn't "nibbling" at your bid.

      it is always the new users doing the "nibbling" or a shill bidder. they know not what they do.

  6. Dustin Jones
    September 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Sniping isn't really a competitive advantage anymore in popular categories. Rather, it's a norm of buying. See, in each popular category there are "power buyers" who place bids with snipers across the board on all items. This isn't for their personal stash; it's for them to buy and resell the product. Usually these guys are professionals with the product and have a resell market that commands good prices and so they can offer fairly competitive pricing (around what normal ebay users might bid). So while it can give you an advantage just know that these guys do exist and your best opportunity is to use a sniping program AND place your highest bid. Since the entire concept has been out for a decade now lots of powerbuyers and everyday users use sniping programs so "you can win" IF still includes using a sniper. But remember also the hidden golden nuggets of newly listed buy it now only items. It requires the user to be present at the PC waiting for new items but is less competitive and no chance for dozens of others to use sniping programs ahead of time. I use for this. Also, I use myibidder for bidding on auctions. Me = bid / buy (wins) about $150,000 USD a month in consumer electronics on eBay and resell items to China wholesale.

  7. Glen McCausland
    June 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    What is the sense in getting involved in a bidding war. I do not have extra money to throw away on something i want on ebay. An ebay auction sniping service saves me money and also helps me get the item i want. I have tried esnipe and also and their service seems to me to be the best one to use. I do not think sniping is a bad thing. The seller gerts more money also ebay grets more money. Me the buyer gets what i want without spending more then i want

  8. John
    March 29, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Well if you don't want to loose auction I say if you don't want to loose it join in and snipe your self now with ebay the highest bidder wins sniping dose not work if someone want to pay more than you I have won items not sniping just because I wanted to pay more I just use the mobile app on my tablet enter my max bid press submit and wait until say 8 seconds left then hit the confirm button and your done

  9. TJB
    March 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Watch auction by putting on watch list, check maybe once a day, if price is below what I'm willing to pay in the last hour of the auction I'll watch it a bit more frequently. If its still reasonable I'll put my max bid in with about 5-10 seconds to go, I'll either win it for way below what I wanted to pay or at worst pay what I wanted to or lose it as it's too expensive for me.

    I've won loads of auctions doing this and in many cases got good deals on items which I've then resold with better pictures for a nice profit.

  10. Ray Jones
    February 25, 2015 at 5:22 am

    I have lost way too many auctions because I placed my max bid early on. Unless my max bid is some outrageously high bid then I am more than likely going to lose. If that max bid is a fair and reasonable amount then it will probably be beaten by $1. If I really want something ,then it's almost imperative that I engage in sniping. If you think that's unfair and unethical then go talk to your priest.

  11. Ajay Dumasiya
    September 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    It's all about luck I think. Sometime you may win auction with very less price and that will make you addictive and you feel to big on other items also and when you fail to win it you will feel like losers.

    Kind regards,
    Ajay Dumasiya

  12. Stevie Baxter
    June 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I'm not an opponent of sniping, but I'm certainly not a proponent. I have to snipe because I'm forced to, and to do otherwise would be "naive". It, however, makes eBay shopping dreadful. Knowing that an item sitting at 0.99£ for 99% of it's duration on the list then lifting to £30+ cos of some last second snipers doesn't make for a fun experience. Most times, I do not get my item. I'm outbidded by £1 or so, and that's fair if the winner had honestly evaluated the product higher than me, however, knowing that some will bid outrageous proxies 100x the price of the item (I've seen 2 snipers with ridiculous proxies resulting in the item going for hundreds of times more than it's RRP) really seems to embitter me.

    This tactic is what I'm against, and feel the system is inherently unfair. Not much can be done against these high force-bidders. Ebay shopping has evolved into this unnatural and stressful process. With the majority of the population struggling to keep up with manual snipes, you're starting to see even middle aged consumers resorting to software sniping as if it was a Godsend, at much of a compromise to those who don't feel the desperate need to resort to those inane depths.

  13. Charles
    April 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    As like several others who have commented, I snipe with the max amount I'm willing to pay. Saves me from overpaying by incrementing my bid. If I didn't win with my snipe, that's fine, because it sold to someone else for more than I was willing to pay.

  14. Keith S
    April 25, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Good article. Even more interesting discussion after the article! Thank you Joshua & M.U.O.! Keep the quality a coming!

  15. Thomas Kainz
    April 24, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Personally, I trust the proxy bidding about as much as I trust the slot machines at Vegas.... not at all. I'm a software engineer so I understand how computers can be programmed and how that programming can be "leveraged". Let's see..... Ebay... and Paypal have an interest in the final selling price...(commissions baby!) a whole slew of people input what the max they're willing to pay is so the computer system knows in advance what the final selling price "could" be. What's wrong with this picture? I'm not trying to imply that this is what's going on... only what could be going on if the parties involved weren't trustworthy.

    All that being said, an eBay auction is like any other auction. I prefer to sit back, watch how the bidding goes and then at the end, if the price is still favorable, I step in with my final bid. I either win it or I don't. The one nice thing about sniping is that you don't get caught up in the "heat of the battle". In most cases, you've checked out the item, the comps and have already established your top-end. If, at the last minute, your top end isn't good enough then no hard feelings... by your level-headed, calm decision making at the start it was overpriced anyways. It's those that get caught up in the action... OK... only $5 more....drats.... OK... $2 more......fudge.... Fine then.... $10 and that's my final offer...well, $3 won't hurt but that's REALLY my final offer...... (yeah right). Not Me! Besides I don't have the time to constantly be checking in. I see something I like... need... gotta have... I make a note of the ending date and time, log on a few minutes before and IF it's still at an acceptable price, I'll put in my top bid and walk away. In all actuality... most of what I buy is using the buy-it-now option..... trying to save a few bucks isn't worth my time and effort babysitting the item for a week or more. By the time the auction ends, I've already received the one I bought and am putting it to good use.

  16. Rattail
    April 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Face it. I won the auction because I bid more than you did. Period. Whether I sniped the auction or not. The high bid will always win. If you were willing to pay more, you should have bid more before time ran out.

  17. Charles Rachor
    April 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I almost never have time to wait for auctions. Rather, I just use amazon and ebay to price compare, and use the "buy it now" or even "make an offer" on ebay, if it's the lower price.

  18. Tony Karakashian
    April 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I've had mixed luck with sniping, but it's the only way I'll bid because on the whole I've won more at better prices than not. Unethical? Hardly. Just a different way of winning auctions. Others have strategies that work for them, why would theirs be any more "ethical"?

  19. null
    April 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I think sniping leads to a "Win at all cost" mentality and is detrimental to the bidder.

    I see people all the time snipe something while I am price comparing it on Amazon or another website and see them overpay for the item.

    Sure, you "won" the item, you still paid too much for it. In my game of saving myself money, you lose.

  20. dragonmouth
    April 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

    The pejorative term "sniping", with its unethical connotations, was invented by complacent bidders who lost auctions in the last seconds. "Sniping" on eBay is not different than bidding right after the auctioneer says "Going twice".

    I've won auctions by "sniping" and I've lost them. That is part of the auction game. If you go to a live auction you are not guaranteed that you will win it unless you have an unlimited budget. If you want an item so bad that you don't want to be out-sniped", buy it from Amazon or from a brick and mortar. That is the only way you are guaranteed to get it.

  21. James Howde
    April 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I don't use sniping as a rule. There's too much temptation in watching an auction to think 'well it's just another pound' and end up paying retail price for second-hand goods - so I just stick in what I'm willing to pay then walk away. That being the case it doesn't really matter much when I place the bid so I might as well do it early and know I've not won it sooner.

    The exception is where there several people selling an item I want at the same time. I only want one but you can't really retract bids so sniping is the best option. Most on-line snipers will let you link auctions together and not place your bids on other auctions in the group if you win one.

  22. Eduardo P
    April 24, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I know sniping is legal, but I still don't like it. I prefer the system that adds an extra couple of minutes to the auction in case a bid is placed inside the last few seconds. It takes much longer for a deal to end that way but it seems fairer to me.

  23. Scott M
    April 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I really don't enjoy the sniping aspect of Ebay.I will bid what I believe to a fair price whenever I see the item.If it is right away it doesn't matter,I'm not bidding any higher as I have already determined what it is worth to me and made my bid.I don't bid any higher and don't feel regret if I don't win.

  24. Jason Gwin
    April 24, 2013 at 7:58 am

    My greatest eBay score, a Jackson Randy Rhodes 7 string, was won via a snipe bid using an old cell phone in 2005, I think. Everyone snipes. It's they law of eBay. I generally wait until the last hour to make any bids at all.

  25. Vincenzo
    April 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Part of the game I guess.Trick the system with some clever strategy is not unethical.

  26. prosniper
    April 24, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Although some people don't like it (esp the sellers), it is a completely legitimate practice and from my understanding of ebay policies within the rules. I find the sniping services very useful and use them whenever I participate in a competitive auction. Think of a sniping service as a friend with a really fast computer and fast internet connection that is synched with ebay's clock. I remember going to a friends house when we were kids so we could use their touch tone phone to call ticketmaster when a good concert went on sale. My family had a rotary dial phone and I could never get through before the show had inevitably sold out. Same thing with ebay sniping. I bid the full amount I am willing to pay and schedule the sniping service (free) to bid 4 seconds before the end while I watch through my home terminal. If my internet service is disrupted or I am otherwise unavailable, my bid is still in play. I don't like to bid early to tip my hand to others who may be interested or attract attention to the auction. These are the rules of the auction and ebay would have shut these services down long ago if they weren't allowed.

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

      "I bid the full amount I am willing to pay and schedule the sniping service (free) to bid 4 seconds before the end"
      Losing the auction to me every time because I schedule my service to bid 2 seconds before the end. /GRIN/

      • Tyler
        April 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm

        The idea is not to bid at the last possible second, just late enough so that manual nibbling bidders don't have a chance to react.

        If prosniper and you bid the same amount on the same item, his being submitted with 4 seconds left in the auction, and yours 2, if one of 2 win, it will be prosniper.

        • dragonmouth
          April 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

          That was a joke, son!

          Winning an auction is not a matter of life and death for me. Win or lose, the universe will continue on its merry way, not bothering to notice the result.

        • Scott M
          April 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm

          That's how I feel about it.The world won't end if I miss out on an item.

      • Tyler
        April 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        "Actually, sniping – in its most basic form – is simply waiting until the very last second of an eBay auction and quickly plugging in a bid that is slightly higher than the user before you."

        The "slightly higher than the user before you" part sounds like nibbling, not sniping. You should decide on your absolute maximum bid, and that be your snipe amount.

        "Services like goSnipe and GIXEN automatically place your bid in the last few moments of an auction. The services tell you that they are fairly useful, but in all truth, it’s probably just a game of chance."

        "Another strategy is to use eBay’s proxy bidding system."

        Using eBay's proxy bidding system is not a strategy as all bids placed use eBay's proxy bidding system.

        "A dirtier method of sniping would be to find a partner or an alternate account and throw out an outrageously high amount after your (or your personal account’s) highest bid within the last hour of the auction."

        That is shill bidding, not sniping. Sniping is actually a way to combat shill bidding, but shill bidding is normally done by the seller or his buddy.

        Do you believe that eBay sniping is ethical? Are you a successful eBay sniper?

        Yes, all you're doing is waiting until the last couple of seconds to bid. You still have to have the highest bid to win, and you lose in the case of bid ties, if the other bid was placed before yours.

        Yes, I use

  27. Dee Wheat
    April 24, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Great info for people like me who don't do a lot of Ebay transactions. I keep saying I don't like to use Ebay, but truth be told, I end up using it quite a bit.

  28. geo1
    April 24, 2013 at 5:39 am

    I simply use the proxy bidding system and put in the max I want to spend. If I win, I win. If not, then it was not worth it to me, and it will likely come up again at the right price. Sniping would certainly entice me to spend more than I really intend if my attention is just on paying a bit more than the previous bidder.

    • derp
      October 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      If you use proxy bidding a few days, or even a few hours before the auction ends, this entices anyone who you outbid or possibly people watching the item to bid more to outbid you. Essentially you are just driving the price up. If you wait till the last minute, the price will be at a lower amount than if you had bid earlier, so you could then place a proxy bid of the same max amount, and since there is more room between your proxy and the highest bid, there is less of a chance someone will reach the max you set.

  29. Hugo
    April 24, 2013 at 4:53 am

    It's their rules, it's not unfair play by the rules.

    Call me machiavelic but it's the true about the world.

  30. Catherine M
    April 24, 2013 at 4:40 am

    It is very frustrating to loose a bid at the last minute but that's life!

  31. G Snyder
    April 24, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Under eBay's system, you're allowed to place a bid at any time until the auction closes. There's absolutely nothing shady about delaying your bid until the last minute.

    In effect, you are simply converting an open auction into a "sealed bid" auction.

    I'm afraid I disagree with Joshua Lockhart's suggestion that there's something inherently risky about sniping. On eBay, the winning bidder pays the second-highest bidder's bid plus a marginal increment. Therefore, the strategy of placing a single bid for the highest amount you're willing to pay is optimal.

    Ideally, you conceal this bid until the last moment to avoid goading other bidders into reevaluating their own maximum bids (i.e., you snipe). Anyone who thinks they've been "cheated" out of a winning auction by this strategy doesn't understand how eBay works.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      April 24, 2013 at 3:25 am

      I only say that there's a risk because you may not get the item you want among the other things I mentioned. Based on what else you said, I believe we're on the same page.

      • KiLotr
        April 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

        The only reason for not getting the item when sniping is by not bidding high enough or if your net dies at the last second.

        But you should always bid as high as you're willing to go. Doing it in sniping mode only increases your chances of winning since other people don't get a chance to increase their bids again.

  32. Grace
    April 24, 2013 at 2:56 am

    Sniping in person is all part of the auction experience. There is nothing wrong with it. However, sniping software is a violation of eBay policy for which eBay could close your account.

  33. Alexis
    April 24, 2013 at 2:55 am

    I also snipe without regret. Often, I don't trust placing a bid early on during an auction because of some unfair practices that eBay sellers sometimes partake in like using an alternate eBay account to increase the bids of their products. When I bid on eBay it's because I truly want the item, so I make sure I give myself the best possible chance at getting the item at a good price.

  34. James Ezell
    April 24, 2013 at 2:18 am

    what's the saying all fair in love and eBay? I snip all the time. I don't see anything dirty or unfair about it. It's eBay if you want fair go - I don't know, your mother maybe? when I bid it's to win at the lowest possible price. The only way to do this is to snip.

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