4 min overview

All about bidding

Bidding on an eBay auction is a great way to get the item you want – at a bargain price.

It's quick and easy to bid on eBay. In an auction-style listing, sellers name a starting price and you bid against other buyers. You can watch the item to see how the bidding is going. When the listing ends, the highest bidder wins the item and completes the purchase. However, you should keep in mind that each bid you make is a binding contract to buy the item if you win.

To help answer any questions you might have about how bidding works, this article has links to all of our most useful bidding articles.

Automatic bidding

When you place a bid on an auction-style listing, you can choose to enter a maximum amount you feel comfortable paying. Once you've set your maximum, we'll keep an eye on the auction for you, and if you get outbid we'll automatically bid again for you, up to your limit. Using automatic bidding makes it easier to win the listing you're interested in.

Retracting a bid

Whenever you bid on an item, you’re agreeing to buy it if you win. Sometimes though, you might need to retract a bid you've made on a listing. For instance, if you made a mistake while bidding or if the seller changes the description of the item, you might be able to retract your bid.

How reserve prices work

Sellers can choose to add a reserve price when listing an item in an eBay auction. It's the minimum amount the seller is willing to sell for, so if the reserve price isn't met, the item won't be sold. If you place a bid that's below the reserve price, you'll see a 'Reserve not met' message. This means that even if you're the highest bidder at the end of the auction, you won't win the item.

Responding to Second Chance Offers

If you don't win an auction, sometimes a seller may make you a Second Chance Offer, and give you another opportunity to buy the item. This may happen if they have extra stock of an item or if no one met their reserve price but they still want to sell the item. With a Second Chance Offer, the item is available for you to buy at the amount you offered in your last bid.

Tips for winning auctions

Auction-style listings will often have a number of competing bidders, but you can maximize your chances of winning by having a well thought out bidding strategy. We've put together some tips to help you find exactly what you're looking for, and to give you the best chance of being the top bidder when the listing ends.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find my bidding history?

To see your bid history, go to My eBay and select Bids/Offers.

There you'll find any items you're currently bidding on, items you bid on but didn't win, and any Best Offers you've made.

If you want to delete your bid history, tick the box next to items you want to remove and select Delete.

What is private bidding?

Sellers sometimes create private listings that keep bidders and the buyer anonymous, particularly when selling high-priced items or pharmaceutical products. There will be a note on these listings stating that they're private, and that only the seller can see your username.

Why did the item I was bidding on disappear?

The seller may have had to end the listing early – although this is something we strongly discourage. Or, if the seller breached one of our policies, we may have had to cancel the listing.

Why am I getting a message to contact the seller when trying to place a bid?

Sellers sometimes set requirements for potential buyers, based on their payment or shipping preferences. For example, if you don't have a PayPal account or you live in an area that the seller doesn't ship to, you may not be able to bid on their item.

If that happens, you'll see a message when trying to place a bid, asking you to contact the seller. Let them know you'd like to bid, and they may change their requirements to allow you to take part.

Why can't I bid in my friend's auction?

It's important to us that auctions are always fair and honest. Sometimes a member who knows the seller – perhaps a family member or friend – bids on an item to drive up the price. This is known as shill bidding and isn't allowed on eBay.


When bidding on an auction, enter the maximum bid you feel comfortable with and we'll place bids for you, up to that limit.

Was this article helpful for you?

Related help topics