It shouldn't take long to figure out that it's usually better to bid later in the auction--the later, the better. Many eBayers wait until the last few minutes of the auction to bid, leaving no time for lower bidders to be notified and respond with higher bids. This is called sniping,
and all it takes is a little nerve and the ability to tell time. Sniping leaves no time to read the auction description carefully or to ask the seller any questions you may have. Make sure you take care of these things long before the end of the auction.
When you've found an auction you want to snipe, the first step is to track the auction and make note of its closing date and time. Then all you need to do is return to eBay a few minutes before the auction ends and place your bid. The problem is that many eBay users make a habit of doing this, so you'll likely have competition. With multiple snipers, the prize often goes to the bidder who can enter a bid closest to the end of the auction.
With seconds to spare...
The most effective snipes occur within 10 seconds of the end of the auction, leaving no time for other bidders to even see your bid--not to mention outbid you--before it's too late. Give yourself about 2 minutes to set up. Start by opening two browser windows (press Ctrl+N to open a second window) and open the auction page in both windows. Move and resize the two browser windows so that they're side by side on your screen.
Type your maximum bid in one of the windows and click Place Bid (but do not confirm your bid on the next page). If necessary, scroll the page so that the Confirm Bid button is visible and not obscured. Then switch to the other window and reload (refresh) the page by pressing Ctrl+R. Reload it again a few seconds later to see any changes to the current price and the time left. Repeat this until there are only 10 to 15 seconds left in the auction.
If you have a slow connection to the Internet, it will be difficult to reload the page quickly enough to see the status of the auction. Try temporarily turning off images in your browser settings to speed things up. If your connection is exceedingly slow, you'll probably have to increase your sniping margin to 20 to 30 seconds and hope for the best.
When the time is right, switch back to the other window and press the Confirm Bid button to place your bid. Then quickly reload the auction page to make sure your bid was accepted. Assuming you entered a sufficiently large bid, you should be the high bidder for the 7 seconds that remain. If you cut it close enough, nobody else will even know you've bid until the auction is over.
Some eBay members consider the ethics of sniping to be somewhat dubious in that it may appear unfair to those unfamiliar with the process. This concern is somewhat understandable. It's true that new members will lose auctions to seasoned eBayers at first, either in bidding wars or by sniping, but as they become more experienced, they'll start winning more auctions. The choice of whether to snipe is yours, but in all my years of using eBay, I've never had a single buyer or seller contact me and complain about an auction I've sniped. Inexperienced bidders will eventually learn the system and find a method that works for them, sniping or otherwise.