Study Says Shoppers "Save" Money On eBay

EBay doesn’t share data on bidders’ maximum bid amounts, so it’s always been difficult to quantify whether or not buyers are actually saving money, but a new study has attempted to put hard numbers behind the transactions. The study’s authors use data from bidders who used a specific sniping agent—by measuring what those bidders were willing to pay versus actual winning amounts, they’ve determined that the average winning bid comes in about 30% lower than the maximum amount the buyer was willing to spend.

However, the study focuses on winning bids of $14 and found that on these bids, buyers were on average willing to pay about $4 more to win. We wonder two things: does this scale to big-ticket purchases on eBay, where presumably shoppers have a greater incentive to seek out the best deal? ($14 is awfully close to an impulse or emotional purchase for a lot of eBay shoppers, we’d imagine.) And does this prove that eBay is a good deal, or that eBay shoppers tend to err on the side of willing to spend too much for the goods they’re buying, especially at lower price points?

One of the authors suggests eBay make similar data more transparent to shoppers in order to “reignite its auctions business.” EBay has said it’s going to start shifting away from auctions in order to focus more on fixed-price goods, which already account for 40% of eBay’s marketplace revenue.

“Tracking Consumer Savings on eBay” [NYT Bits blog]

“New Research Finds Consumers Save More Than $7B by Shopping on eBay “ [Robert H. Smith School of Business]
“EBay’s New Leader Moves Swiftly on a Revamping” [New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. econobiker says:

    So what if the maximum bid is 30% higher than actually it goes for. I would hate for this info to be out because it would encourage shill bidding to the nth degree…

    It was also reported today that ebay was going to reduce the listing fees and up the completed transaction percent. Which makes sense given the incredible amount of complete (and duplicated) crap I see advertised with nary a bid ever given. I never understood how some of these ying yangs could keep reposting sales and not go bust from the listing fees- of course unless they get volume discounts.

    As for saving money, that is true especially on some small stuff. Paid 50¢ plus $5.50 shipping for a cell phone case that would cost me $8-10 local plus tax. And I am sure the company is playing the numbers by selling it for 50¢ and shipping for $5.50, so they only have 50¢ to declare to ebay.

  2. ElizabethD says:

    What?? Shift away from auctions? Gimme a break. There are a zillion places to shop online, and the price-comparison sites to sift through them, but only one eBay auction site.

    So where will amateur, occasional sellers go to sell goods like Grandma’s pickle dish or Sonny’s outgrown parka? I never list anything at a fixed price; I love seeing the online market competition at work no matter what the outcome.

  3. Parting says:

    Some things, like fashion jewelery, are a lot cheaper on eBay, than in a regular store. As long as you know what you are paying for, you’ll be fine.

  4. johnva says:

    @ElizabethD: There are tons of auction sites besides just Ebay.

  5. Angryrider says:

    eBay is good, only if you know you can’t find it in store or if it’s too expensive.
    I bought two out of print DVDs for only 10% of the Standard retail price!
    For highly valued items, I obviously do not buy on the site. Man, most of those usually end up the usual 30% to even 200% of what I would pay.

  6. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    Yep. I don’t buy jewelery but I do buy electronics on Ebay. I have bought 3 unlocked cell phones, 1 for myself, the girlfriend and my mom, all for $75 less each time than what AT&T sells them for retail.

    My most recent transactions were for an HDMI cable and a set of component cables for my Wii. Each were 7 dollars including shipping. The Wii cables sell for $20+ at most stores, and the HDMI cables sells for $45+. I’ve always saved alot of money shopping for those types of things on Ebay.

  7. jimconsumer says:

    “Does this scale to big-ticket purchases on eBay?”

    In my case, yes, it does. I used a sniping service to place a bid for a “lot” of equipment. My estimate for resale by breaking the equipment up into individual pieces was $8,000 – $12,000. I used a sniping service and placed a bid for $6,000, leaving room for a reasonable profit.

    I won the auction for under $3,000 and tripled my money on the resale while still keeping a bunch of the equipment for myself.

  8. nequam says:

    I find that eBay is a place where it is easier to make money than save money. Often I list an item at a low starting bid and bidders will drive it over the price at amazon. But if they want to pay that much it’s their business I suppose. Sometimes I feel guilty when somebody overpays so I’ll do something extra like upgrade them to expedited delivery.

  9. jezzwer56 says:

    You feel bad because they paid what what they were willing to pay? Unbeliavable.

  10. lenagainster says:

    “Often I list an item at a low starting bid and bidders will drive it over the price at amazon.”

    That’s one reason I quit eBay a long time ago. So many bidders that there is always one or more fools willing to drive the price of an item beyond its worth just for the feeling they get from winning.

  11. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @lenagainster: Sour grapes. If you use Ebay as only ONE of your buying strategies, look for good deals using Buy It Now, don’t let yourself get raped on shipping, and know how to word your search terms, you’ll find things at a pretty good clip.

    My big successes have been:

    1. A perfectly good subdivision lot in the area where my fiance’s mom lives for 600 dollars. Some developer went bust and the disgruntled pre-buyers were selling out. I bought the lots on either side for 100 dollars in back taxes apiece.

    2. Silver jewelry… real sterling, with real semiprecious stones… lots of them… for less than 5 dollars a pop. Bracelets, pendants, earrings. The gift exchange game at work this Christmas mandated “10 dollars or less.” I gave a matching earrings and pendant set. This is getting a bit tougher to do with the price of silver, but 5 dollars was a ridiculous bargain given that equivalent pieces in a silver import shop down the block are 25 dollars and up for the same stuff.

    3. A bottle of 200 dollar perfume I loved for 50 dollars, fresh, in the original bottle, and verifiably the real stuff.

    4. A charoite gemstone sphere (compare listing 260087229103 for 285 dollars, mine was two full grades better than this one and slightly larger) for 80 dollars. They stopped mining this stuff last year. It’s far rarer than diamonds, weight for weight. There was only one deposit and there is no more (that Chinese crap is not the same stuff).

  12. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @speedwell: Word. I pick up all my authentic, new, designer bags, shoes and clothes from eBay for a fraction of the cost.

  13. deadlizard says:

    eBay may be good for the buyer, but not for the seller. With all their fees, if you sell anything worth less than $10 is likely you’ll be losing money.

  14. LAGirl says:

    ebay is a great way to save money + make money. i’ve been buying + selling for years, and am still a big fan. once you figure out how it works, you can really get some great deals.

  15. Jesse in Japan says:

    If the final bid is 14 dollars you’ll probably end up paying like 25 with shipping.

  16. jamar0303 says:

    eBay? Haven’t used it. A lot of what I want I can find for better prices on Yahoo Auctions.

  17. SaraAB87 says:

    I always factor shipping right into the price of the item so that I can see what I am really paying. After I calculate this I decide on a maximum bid that I will place and stick to it. I suggest everyone do the same. If there is no shipping cost listed I do not bid period.

  18. RhymePhile says:

    @SaraAB87: I do the exact same thing, only I do a Google search of the item (if applicable) to see how much it costs across the net. Then I plug in my max bid with shipping factored in, and relax. If the item goes over my max bid, I don’t sweat it.

  19. nardo218 says:

    So, uh, people who are savvy enough to use snipers are saving money? Wow. Whodathunk