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Online auctions

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Online auctions are hot! One mom tells you some tips on how you can find baby bargains online.

Online Auction

The basics of online auctions

If you're looking to get your baby necessities at a discount, and you don't have time to browse endless yard sales, online auctions may just be the answer for you! eBay is the largest online auction site, currently controlling 85% of the market. Amazon.com just started running their own auctions, and there are several other sites which function in much the same manner.

How does it work? Individuals -- people just like you and me -- place items up for bid online. They provide a description, a photo, a starting bid, and an end time/date for the auction of that item to close. Sellers may also set a "reserve price" on their auctions -- the lowest price at which a seller is willing to sell an item. This price is not disclosed to bidders and is at the discretion of the owner. However, if your bid does not both exceed the reserve price and is not the high bid, you will not get your item. Much more information is provided on the sites -- check out their online FAQs and help sections.

Don't Overbid -- or underbid

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the popularity of online auctions -- and how they're very profitable for sellers. They wrote, "...traders say they get higher prices at auctions than at swap meets or collectibles shows because bidding generates excitement." So while you're gaining access to a huge variety of goods, keep in mind that sometimes old-fashioned yard sales, secondhand stores and swap meets may save you more money.

Do your research beforehand -- including prices for what you want to buy new -- and don't overbid, or else you defeat the purpose of buying used (particularly when you factor in shipping costs). Set a limit on how much you're willing to spend before you get carried away.

As a side note, keep in mind that these products are coming from households across the country, so there may be some products you can't find in local stores. One mom I know picked up a gorgeous French stroller online -- something she couldn't have obtained almost any other way. She was one of the few bidders, because not many people had heard of the brand. (She made sure her bids were fair, however, because she knew the owners had paid several hundred dollars for it originally.)

What not to buy -- or to be wary of

If you're buying any sort of baby equipment or clothing, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site for any recall information before you buy. As a rule of thumb, don't buy baby items more than ten years old -- many new safety standards have been implemented in the past few years. The Danny Foundation recommends carefully evaluating a crib more than two years old -- and on any crib you buy, make sure all the parts are there and nothing has worn out. (See a list of Crib Dangers here.)

Never buy a car seat secondhand, unless you're certain it has never been in an accident. A crash weakens the structure of a seat, making it unsafe for your child -- and useless in the event of another crash.

Selling your stuff

You can also market your own used items (or anything else!) online! Commissions range from 1.25 to 5 percent, depending on the company you use and the sales price -- check out the competition and then go test the waters! It's a fun way to clean out your house or to get something for old baby clothes, maternity wear, toys and other household knicknacks you no longer need.

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