12 essential tips for eBay Christmas shoppers

Always read the small print on eBay purchases

Looking to bag a bargain on eBay, but unsure where to start?

Or are you a seasoned eBay buyer, but still tend to lose out on the items you really want?

Buying on eBay can be a fun, enjoyable experience, but it's worth knowing a few of the top tips to help ensure your transaction goes smoothly, and that you get the deal you always wanted.

Here are 12 top tips to help make sure the auctions you get involved in go your way.

1. Read everything

Check the detail. This might be an obvious tip for many, but we can attest that some buyers sadly don't read anything below the item title and price. Be sure to read the entire description, shipping and returns information to avoid complications, before parting with your hard-earned cash. Be wary of any seller who tries to take the sale off eBay, or bombards you with paragraphs of small print terms and conditions.

2. Get in touch with the seller

High Detailed Seller Rating stars (DSRs) and recent positive feedback are hallmarks of a good seller, but they're not always foolproof indicators. It pays to be diligent: scour the seller's feedback history and check for comments relating to the type of item you want to purchase. If in doubt, get in touch, and ask for the seller's number. An honest seller will be happy to answer any queries.

3. Thinking of selling? Buy first

A great way to accumulate feedback, get comfortable with eBay, and get ideas for the types of items you could sell, is to buy. It's lots of fun, but can be addictive, so know your budget, and stick to it. And if you're doing last-minute shopping, search for Buy It Now items and check the seller has good ratings for delivery time.

4. Be Safe!

Are you the savvy buyer you think you are? Do you know the typical hallmarks of a phishing email? Thanks to eBay's and PayPal's investment in Trust and Safety, the majority won't have a problem, but if something does go awry, acting quickly could save you time and money. eBay's Safety Centre and GetSafeOnline are worth a read. Check any emails in My eBay to be sure they're legitimate, and install the eBay toolbar, which will indicate if you're on a spoof site, and has numerous benefits for buyers, too.

5. Use PayPal

If you're new to eBay, one of the first things you should do is register for a PayPal account. PayPal is by far the most popular method of payment; secure, quick, and favoured by the majority of sellers. Plus, you should benefit from Buyer Protection, whatever the amount. Most buyers prefer PayPal and you can fund your purchase by linking your credit or debit card, bank account, or PayPal balance.

6. Refine your searches

Can't find exactly what you're looking for? Sometimes the vast sea of listings can be simply too much to negotiate, so it's worth spending a little time refining your searches. Once you've entered your search term, select the appropriate category, and then the click on Refine search and Preferences on the left column. It's also worth looking at the Matching Shops box further down on the left.