What to Know Before Making an Offer on eBay

eBay Best Offer
eBay Best Offer allows buyers to start negotiations with sellers. Getty Images

eBay's Best Offer feature empowers buyers to start conversations with sellers and negotiate a price. Sellers complain about lowball offers, but who can blame buyers for trying? Sellers are always trying to get the best deal when buying for resale, so it shouldn't surprise us when buyers do the same thing.  Sellers have added the Best Offer option to open the door for negotiating, but there are a few things buyers should understand before making an offer on eBay.

Why Sellers Make Best Offer Available

  1. Some items are a challenge to determine a value for. A seller may have a rare piece of art, an antique item, or something unusual or strange that there is just no comps for. Sellers often just price high and see what kinds of offers come in. If several offers come in around the same price, the seller may change the price to a fixed price based on the offers he received. In other words, the seller is waiting for the market to tell him how to price the item.
  2. The seller may only want to entertain offers and see what the market will bear. An item is only worth what someone will pay for it. A woman who wears a size 8 Anthropologie dress may only want to pay $25 her dresses, or another woman may really love the brand and have trouble finding the desired size and style, and pay $60. Sellers know this. They wait to see what buyers will offer and wait for the best case scenario.
  1. The seller has a "fast nickel" business, which means turning inventory quickly for a reasonable price. Many eBay sellers have access to so much inventory locally, that their business model is to turn over inventory quickly rather than wait for the highest price possible. Or, they may just not care to wait for the highest offer. Good enough is good enough.
  1. The seller may be trying to get rid of stale inventory, or just wants to liquidate aging inventory at cost. They may take any reasonable offer to get rid of something they have had up for sale for years, they are closing their business, moving, or some other reason that involves liquidating their inventory. Sellers in the business may "age out" - meaning they were only selling on eBay to put kids through college, and when the last kid graduates, they liquidate and close up shop.

Rules for Best Offer

  1. Buyers only get three offers on the same item within 30 days. If you make an offer, and the seller counters, you can counter two more times. If you use up all your counteroffers, and really want  the item, you either need to pay full price for it now, or try again in 30 days, if the item is even still available. Expired offers, declined offers, and retracted offers all count towards the limit of 3 Best Offers per item. 
  2. Best Offers are only good for 48 hours. If you don't hear back from your seller in 48 hours, the offer expires and you can consider it rejected.
  3. The seller can accept, reject, or counteroffer.
  4. A Best Offer is a commitment to buy, the same as making a bid on an auction item or purchasing an item at full price. Make sure you really want the item. If you don't pay, the seller can file an unpaid item strike against you. Too many unpaid item strikes and your eBay account can be shut down. 
  1. Avoid including identifying information in your Best Offer such as email address, phone number, or website address. You will be notified if the seller accepts, rejects, or counteroffers through the eBay messaging system. 
  2. Shipping costs associated with a Best Offer can be a little tricky. According to eBay, "For listings in which the seller has specified shipping costs for the item, the Best Offer price includes only the listed item. For listings in which the shipping costs aren't specified, the buyer can choose to include shipping costs in their offer."

Tips for Making Best Offers

Most sellers will tell you that they reject more offers than they accept. And some won't even entertain offers at all because they have been insulted by too many low offers. Here are some tips for working with sellers who will entertain offers:

  1. If you really want the item, you can message the seller and ask what the lowest price is that they will accept. This is eBay legal and a good way to make sure you get the item without using all of your offers up.
  2. Be reasonable. Don't offer $5 for a $100 item. The seller may be so insulted he will block you.
  3. Be prepared to negotiate. Sellers have done their research and know what items are worth in the eBay marketplace.
  4. Counter offer until you run out of chances. If the seller engages with you, keep going! You get 3 chances on each item, so use them.
  5. Offer to pay immediately. Some sellers won't accept offers because many buyers don't pay. So be a real person! Tell the seller you really want the item and will pay right away. (There is not a way to require immediate payment on a Best Offer.) The seller may take a lower than optimal offer if the buyer includes in the terms, "Will pay immediately." Sellers just want to get paid, ship the item, and move on. 

Remember that Best Offer is an agreement between you and the seller. Treat the seller with respect, pay quickly, and don't insult them. You will be able to purchase more items at discount prices if you are courteous and respectful to the seller. 

Updated by Suzanne Wells on September 30, 2017.