Why snipe?

As eBay is using proxy bidding, legitimate question is - why snipe at all? If you submit your bid at eBay early, and if your maximum bid is higher than that of a sniping user, you will win regardless. While this fact is true, user experience and even some scientific research conducted says that sniping does pay. Here are some reasons why.

  1. Your early bid is an important information for other bidders. This specially applies to rare items, value of which is directly determined by interest. Other bidders may realize true value of an item only after you submit your bid. By bidding early, you are helping them, and that's against your own interest.
  2. Bidders tend to be overly optimistic, and therefore enter value lower than what they are really ready to pay. Leave them time to bid again after being outbid, and you will end up paying more, or lose the item you are bidding on.
  3. Bidders get excited during auctions, and are often ready to bid way more than what is rational.
  4. Ever been victim of shill bidding? It's a fraudulent practice used by some sellers to inflate the price of an item by using another eBay ID to bid on their own item (and retracting bid if they go too far. Be especially careful if bidders' IDs are kept private). If you use sniping, fraudulent sellers have no time to conduct shill bidding.
  5. You can change your mind at any time before auction ends by deleting your scheduled snipe. This is much easier than retracting a bid on eBay.

When is sniping not desirable?

It's almost always good for you to use sniping. In the worst case, you may end up paying a tiny fraction more, because early bidder has a small advantage in fact that your bid has to be a bit higher (search for "Bidding increments" in eBay help), however situations 1-4 above by far outweigh this. Generally, less known the fair value of an item, it's more beneficial to use sniping.

How can I snipe auctions?

There are three main ways to do this:

  1. Do it yourself at eBay. Wait until 10 seconds before the end, and then submit your bid.
    • Disadvantage of this approach: You may be late. Typical situation: you try to do it, and then eBay asks you to re-login. Sure, you can do it, but by the time you are done, your auction already ended.
    • Disadvantage: You must be present and alert. If auction ends in the middle of the night, or if you are busy at work, you just can't do it.
    • Advantage: Some people find it exciting.
  2. Install software for automated bid submission. Much better than 1.
    • Advantage: It's automated and it's less likely you will be late.
    • Disadvantage: You are installing software on your computer. Make sure it's from a reputable source and spyware/adware free.
    • Disadvantage: Your computer has to be on.
    • Disadvantage: If you have an unreliable internet connection (slow connection? unreliable ISP?), there is still very high probability your submission will be late.
  3. Online sniping services. Best solution.
    • Advantage: Most reliable sniping. Hosted servers have way more reliable connection than you do at home.
    • Advantage: Set it and forget it. Turn your computer off, and do something else.
    • Disadvantage: You may feel uneasy about sharing your eBay username and password with a third party. There is no way around it, as online sniping services need your login info in order to submit a bid for you.

There is a number of paid software and online services you can use for sniping. Make an online search and you will find plenty. Here I will only list free ones:

Free sniping software: JBidWatcher.

Free sniping service: Gixen.

Good luck with your sniping!