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Online Auctions and Procedures
There are many different types and formats. There are the big pure auction sites like Onsale and eBay, the retailer sponsored auction sites like Insight, and the mom & pop sites that are all over the net. You can buy almost anything at the auctions from vacations to beanie babies and of course, all kinds of computer equipment.
Usually some low initial price is proposed by the seller, and the site will take bids until some specified time period expires, which can be an hour, a day, or a week. Almost all large auctions sites require your credit card information before they will accept a bid from you.
Making an Informed Decision
Most computer equipment for sale consists of refurbished, out-of-date, overstocked or similar type items. After becoming interested in an item, you have to do some research in order to make an intelligent bidding decision.
First you have to become familiar with the rules of the auction and the item you are interested in. Some things you need to know: the full description of the item, how to bid, cancelling a bid, warranty procedures, shipping costs, applicable sales taxes, and return policies.
Second you need to determine what the item sells for new. As auctions are only for limited periods of time your best bet is to do some online research to determine the new selling price of the item. Our Computer Vendor List is a good reference for finding online retailers. So after researching several sites, you find the "new" price of the item is 20% more than the current auction price. What do you do next?
The third thing you have to do is decide if the difference between the new and auction price makes it worthwhile for you to bid at the auction. Chances are the bid price will continue to increase, so unless the price difference is meaningful its best not to bid on the item. (Note: Many auctions make initial bid prices ridiculously low to generate "excitement" at their auctions.)
The last thing to do is figure out the highest price you are willing to pay before you start bidding (I would suggest you bid no more than 90% of the cost of the new item and don't forget shipping and taxes). Sometimes bidding gets fast and furious, especially when an item is about to close. You don't want to be thinking about how high you should bid in the "heat of battle". Also, be aware that sometimes auction sites will allow bidding even after the specified bidding period has expired. In the fine print of the auction's rules you should see some mention of "bidding closes so many minutes after last bid received".
Last Words of Advice
1. Auctions are not for the inexperienced. Unless you feel you are an experienced buyer it's best to leave auctions alone.
2. Always do your research. Make sure you know what you are buying, what it costs new, and how to return it (sometimes you can't).
3. Always use your credit card (if possible-some sellers don't accept credit cards). It gives you certain return rights against unscrupulous vendors.
4. Find out before you buy, what help the site provides if a seller takes your money and doesn't deliver the product (eBay automatically insures all transactions up to $200).
Useful Auction Sites
1. BidFind - Lets you search for a specific item at a large number of auction sites.
2. Internet Auction List - A site to locate auctions by interest category.
3. BiddersEdge.com - Another auction searcher. Per one of our readers "I usually prefer it to bidfind, plus they send you alerts and show historic average prices of the auction."
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