The world of online auctions makes purchasing items for much less than market value a piece of cake -- or, at least, a much simpler process that doesn't require you to get dressed or start the car. Online auction sites tend to come and go, except for the major players, but you can still find some really great deals from what's available on the web. There are different types of online auctions, though, and all operate quite differently; it's prudent to know how to handle yourself and your conduct in each one.
Person-to-person auctions are what most people think of when they hear the term "online auction." eBay is the most notable example, and has set the tone and rules for person-to-person auctions all across the internet. These are mostly individual auctions -- a single person wanting to get rid of his or her excess possessions or a craft they've invented -- although some companies use person-to-person auction formats to get rid of stock they can't use. In these auctions, you'll want to carefully observe the seller's feedback and ratings, because this will often clue you in to someone who is a scam.
Commercial auctions occur when a company uses the online auction platform to get rid of items they can't sell normally -- surplus stock, discontinued items for which they have no room in their store or warehouse, and refurbished equipment that can't be sold as new. These sites usually have good prices and low reserves, so you can bid on them with confidence. The only thing you should be concerned about as far as commercial auctions is not getting a price any lower than retail.
Webcast auctions are a marriage of live auctions and online auctions -- real-life auctions are caught on webcam, while bidders both in the building and watching online can place bids. You'll want to check out the policies of the auction house, to make sure you don't have to be pre-registered for the auction in order to place bids. Some places require that you visit the auction house in order to get your name on the bidders' list.
All in all, online auctions are a great alternative to real life auctions, especially if you can't make it to an auction house for whatever reason. Just remember that unless the auction is local and you can go pick up the item, you will have to pay shipping, so factor that into your bidding budget.
If you're looking for another alternative to auctions, try out garage sales. Come visit us at GarageSaleCow.com, where you can advertise and locate garage sales in your area for free!