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How Do Online Auctions Work?

Updated on March 22, 2017

Online auctions generally work one of two ways: a timed auction or a live auction. Both present buyers with options to buy products are great prices, often far below retail cost. That said, timed and live auctions work very differently. Let’s look at each.

Timed Auctions: Easy, but can be frustrating.

A timed auction (such as ebay) has a specific start and end time. Bidding on the object isn’t governed by who bids the most, instead bidding remains open until the auction runs its full duration. Bids can be placed anytime, and whoever has the highest total bid amount wins. One reason this auction system is popular is because you can bid “up to” a certain amount, and if you’re lucky, you may not have to pay the full amount you’re willing to bid. In other words, you’ll only pay incrementally more (could be as low as five cents!) than the next-highest bidder.

Seems easy, but the system presents several ways that make the experience a potentially frustrating one. Among the most nefarious tactics employed by online bidders is a process called “sniping”, where at the very last second, they run up the auction price and “snipe” the product by bidding a slightly higher price at the very last moment in the auction. This prevents others from re-bidding or bidding against their total since they can place a bid literally milliseconds before the clock runs out.

Lastly, timed auctions present significant risks, mainly because you don’t know who you’re buying from. It’s always within the realm of possibility that a shipment could never arrive, be the wrong item or a fake.

Live Auctions: An exciting way to save big.

Live auctions are not timed and are coordinated by live auctioneers, not by an automated system. It works very much the same way a traditional auction would, only you can participate in the comfort of your own home, office—anywhere you have an internet connection.

Live online auctions, such as the ones at Auction King, offer the chance to watch and participate with an actual auctioneer via streaming, adding yet another level of human interaction to the experience. There’s also a chat module that allows auction participants to relay questions to the auctioneer in real time, getting their queries answered on the spot.

Because a live auction isn’t timed, the format brings together serious bidders in a shorter-defined time period. Even though you may place an absentee bid ahead of time (if you expect to miss part or all of the live auction), bidding in real time gives you the opportunity to focus on the lots you want.

A live online auction offers the personal interactive experience of an in-person auction combined with the convenience of online shopping. Anyone can get a great deal on high-end jewelry, luxury watches, collectibles and fine art. Whether you choose to buy from a timed auction or a live auction, have fun and enjoy the discounts!


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