If you are looking for something, chances are that you can find it on eBay. Even extremely rare items can be found if you are patient enough and there are bargains to be found among the millions of items offered everyday. By following a few basic tips listed below, you can save yourself some money. Be sure to review eBay seller's scams and keep a wary eye out for scammers.

1. Use PayPal

Always use PayPal to make your purchases on eBay. Eligible items are automatically covered by PayPal's buyer protection program up to $2,000. Fund your PayPal purchases using your credit card. In the event PayPal does not honor your claim against the seller, you can credit card company to reverse the charges. This gives you two lines of defense against fraudulent sellers.

2. Buyer Protection Program

As long as you use PayPal as payment, most items on eBay are covered by PayPal's $200 buyer protection program. Some items are eligible for PayPal's $2,000 buyer protection. The level of the protection depends on the status of the seller's account. See buyer protection plan eligibility for more information.

Check the "Buy Safely" heading below the seller's feedback to see if the item is eligible. Under the program, you will be covered up to the stated amount if you don't receive your item or if the item is not what is described in the listing. However, it does not cover items damaged during shipping. You need shipping insurance for that.

3. Review Seller's Feedback

The only way to gauge the seller's quality is by looking at the seller's feedback. Higher feedback scores give an indication of how experienced the seller is. The positive feedback percentage indicates the reliability of the seller. You want to deal only with sellers that have 99% positive feedback or higher. Sellers that have lower positive percentages tend to sell inferior products, have misleading descriptions, or give poor customer service.

Avoid buying expensive items from a seller with a feedback score less than 100. Some of these sellers are scammers trying to steal your money. Of course are legitimate sellers with low feedback scores, but it is very difficult for you to tell the difference.

If you are buying an expensive item, examine the seller's feedback details carefully. You can do this by clicking on the feedback score. Make sure that a majority of the feedback is from buyers by checking the "feedback as a seller" tab. Feedback from legitimate sellers have feedback from many unique buyers. Take a look at the "feedback left for others" tab too. Legitimate sellers will leave feedback for their buyers.

There are ways for scammers to artificially inflate their feedback scores. Don't blindly trust the seller's feedback score.

4. Research the Item

Do a search in "completed auctions" for the item that you are interested in. This will give you an idea of the average selling price of the item on eBay. Examine the listings with the highest bids. These listings often have useful information about the item that could come in handy when you are searching for another one.

5. Search for Spelling Errors

Savvy buyers will search for items with spelling errors. Not everyone checks their spelling when they post their eBay listings. Listings with misspelled words will not appear in the search results when people are searching using the correct spelling. Items with spelling errors can be had for bargain prices as most people can't find those listings. For example, search for "dimond" instead of "diamond". Use our misspelled eBay listing search engine to quickly find misspelled listings.

6. Read the Listing Description Carefully

Hidden in the fine print of the listing description could be some very important details about the item. Specifically look for information about the condition of the item and any accessories that may be included or not included. Don't assume anything.

7. Ask the Seller Questions

If you have questions or concerns about an item, ask the seller about it before bidding. Good sellers will respond quickly and in a friendly tone. Avoid bidding on items when you don't receive any response to your inquiries. Sometimes sellers can be busy, but if they don't have time to provide some basic customer service, then you should look elsewhere.

8. Examine Pictures in the Listing

Since you can't physically examine the item, the next best thing is to look at the pictures. Good sellers will have several pictures of the item so you can see exactly what you are buying. Inexperienced sellers only show a single image or no image at all. Scammers may use stock photos and won't show any pictures of the actual item. If you need more detailed pictures, ask the seller to send them to you.

9. Don't Over Bid

It is amazing how many times something on eBay sells for more than the retail price. I'm not talking about those hard-to-get items that are always sold out. I'm talking about things that you can go to the store and buy yourself without any problems. As a bidder, you need to know how much something is worth. Don't get caught up in a bidding war and overpay for an item. Studies have shown that as much as 50% of certain items have ending bids that are higher that what you would pay for them in a store.

Check what the item is selling for on www.overstock.com, www.ubid.com, Amazon, Google Product Search, and Yahoo! Shopping to make sure that you aren't paying too much.

10. Bid at the Last Minute

Don't allow your competition time to outbid you by bidding just before the auction is over. Place a proxy bid with the maximum amount that you are willing to pay when the auction has only one minute left to go. If your competition isn't prepared, they will not have time to outbid you. You can also use an auction sniping service if you can't be at the computer when the auction ends. See our eBay sniping software and website review for more information.

11. Get a Shipping Quote

Don't forget to add in the cost of shipping to the total cost of the item. Large bulky, or heavy items can be very expensive to ship. Most auctions will state the shipping cost in the listing. If they don't, ask for a quote before bidding, otherwise you could be surprised by exorbitant shipping charges.

Some sellers try to get around paying higher eBay listing fees by charging extremely high shipping costs. This causes the bid price to be abnormally low. Don't be fooled by this tactic.

12. Combined Shipping Discount

If you are planning to buy multiple items from the same seller, ask for a combined shipping discount before bidding. As long as the items can be packed into a single box, the shipping cost will be lower. Not all sellers will honor combined shipping discounts.

13. Insure Expensive and Fragile Items

Sellers are not responsible for damage to the item during shipping. Protect your investment by purchasing shipping insurance. Ask the seller about adding insurance if it isn't available in the listing.

14. Look for Local Sellers

You can save a lot of money on the shipping charges by purchasing from seller near where you live. Make sure the seller offers "local pickup" before bidding on the item. Ask the seller about local pickup if it isn't specified in the listing. It is better to pick up extremely fragile items yourself than risk it being damaged during shipping.

15. Return Policy

Sellers that offer a return policy generally stand behind the items that they are selling. Be sure to check the terms and conditions as the policy will often expire after a set number of days.

16. Look for Auctions that End at Odd Times

Bargains can be had by looking for auctions that end in the middle of the night. These auctions don't get as many bids because everyone is sleeping! Also look for auctions that end on major holidays. Christmas and Thanksgiving Day are great examples. Most people are spending time with their families and not on eBay. Many sellers make the mistake of listing their items one week before a major holiday. They don't realize their auctions will end on the holiday. You don't have to spoil your holiday either. Place a proxy bid before you go on vacation.

17. Don't Respond to Off eBay Solicitations From Sellers

When you don't win an auction, you may receive unsolicited email offering to sell you the same item. Most will try to convince you to buy the item off eBay. Don't do this. You will not have any protections offered by eBay and PayPal. If the offer is too good to be true, then it is.