Cashing in on Craigslist: How I’ve saved thousands of dollars buying used

In August, I wrote about Ryan Finlay, who makes a living through Craigslist arbitrage. Many readers wanted to hear more about how Ryan uses Craigslist to make and save money. In this article, Ryan explains how to use Craigslist to save money on high-ticket items like appliances and furniture. If there’s enough interest, he may share more Craigslist tips in the future. Meanwhile, be sure to check out his new site: ReCraigslist.com.

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” my mother used to say. She’s always been a thrifty shopper and a bargain hunter. “Pennies add up,” she’d say, but for years I scoffed at the idea. But my resistance to that message was outward and temporary; early on, I began resenting overpaying for candy or soda pop — or anything, for that matter. I began to notice that grocery stores would sell candy bars for half (or sometimes a quarter) of what the local mini-mart charged.

Bargain hunting began to intrigue me. I started joining my mom on garage sale outings, and soon I was hooked. Finding bargains was like discovering hidden treasures! I started reading the classified ads in the newspaper to supplement the garage sales and pawn shops. Garage sales provided the best deals, but were limited to the summer, leaving a void for the rest of the year.

Then, around the year 2000, Craigslist began expanding to cities all over the world, changing the way people buy and sell. Craigslist is simple, easy to use, localized, and organized into many different sections. I lived in a small town when they began expanding, so I wasn’t one of the first to enjoy the incredible benefits that Craigslist has to offer. For eight years, I occasionally used Craigslist for purchasing and selling electronics, furniture, appliances, tickets, cars, etc. But it wasn’t until about ten months ago that I went from casual user to actually making my entire living buying and reselling goods on Craigslist.

This is my story.

Overcoming Fear of Craigslist

First, I need to get this off my chest: If your exposure to the world is only through newspapers and TV, you might be terrified of Craigslist. Most news stories about Craigslist involve theft, muggings, and other criminal mischief. In fact, often a story that might otherwise have been ignored becomes news solely because it involves Craigslist. Exposure to only negative stories about Craigslist robs you of a balanced perspective. (Need evidence? Scroll through the pages of news stories at news.google.com involving craigslist.)

In over a thousand interactions both buying and selling on craigslist, I’ve had counterfeit money passed to me once. I’ve had a few people not disclose minor issues with items that I bought. That’s it. The rest were simply hundreds and hundreds of great transactions where both buyer and seller were satisfied. So from my perspective, being in the field, the image of Craigslist portrayed on the news is wholly inaccurate.

Craigslist users are doctors, teachers, coaches, business owners, students, neighbors, and students. In other words, people just like you. They’re the people that live in your community. Don’t allow others to stir up an undue fear of Craigslist that prevents you from enjoying its benefits.

Change the way you think about buying
When I started buying on Craigslist, I had to get past the stigma of buying things used. Friends would laugh when they learned that I’d purchased certain items secondhand instead of new. I have much more confidence now, having become very skilled at finding good deals. I usually buy things on average for 10% of the new price (sometimes more, sometimes less). I went from being embarrassed of my finds to proud of them, like a fisherman showing off his prized catch. Saving a huge percentage off the new price for an item that you need is a victory. I hate overpaying for anything.

Second, I shifted my approach. If I need to buy something, I try to find it on Craigslist first. Stores are convenient, and for certain items provide a great value. However, most things can be bought used, and depending on your commitment can save you thousands. I’m not going to give a formula for what you should and shouldn’t buy from a store. That will depend on how strong your desire is to save your money.

Third, I’ve become more patient. When most people want something, they want it now and aren’t willing to wait. So they pay full retail price. I used to be like this. Getting yourself to the place where being wise with your money is more important over having things now, will save you a lot of money in the long run. If you have to buy new, wait until it goes on sale and shop around. I love it when I find what I’m looking for used in like new condition on craigslist and I get it for a small fraction of the price. This takes patience and sometimes waiting a few weeks. I’ve been there and the reward is definitely worth the wait.

How to Save Thousands of Dollars

Want to save a fortune? Stop buying bleeding edge technology.

When Apple comes out with a new iPad, wait three or four months before you buy it used. Just be patient. You can usually get a product for at least 40% off the new price just a month or two after it’s been released. For example, when the Samsung Galaxy Tab was first released, I really wanted one because it had a built-in 3g card and a camera. Verizon was selling them for $499 with a contract. I went on craigslist a month after they were released and bought one that had been used for less than a week. I paid $325 and have no contract. I use mine a lot for work, but if I would have waited six months, I’ve seen them lately for between $150-$200.

I’ve been buying little netbooks for $80-100 and have probably purchased ten of them this past year. That’s about one-third of what they sell for new. Same goes for other laptop and desktop computers. Monitors you can usually find for about one-third of what they sell for new. Smaller monitors you can almost get for free — another proof that it pays to use slightly older technology.

Buy Your Next Car on Craigslist

Start buying your cars on craigslist (clean titles only). Instead of buying this year’s model, buy last year’s or the year before and save thousands of dollars on a basically new car. The thing that’s great about Craigslist is that you can search from home without the high-pressure salesman telling you that you needed a brand new car two days ago.

Do your research beforehand. Buy high quality, highly rated cars. Check out Consumer Reports. Finally, don’t buy the car before you pay the money for your mechanic to check it out first. It’s the wisest $75 you could ever spend. Don’t cut corners here.

Buy Your Appliances on Craigslist

Buying white appliances on craigslist is the way to go. They are far more common than black or stainless steel, and thus much less expensive. If one of your appliances goes out, you’ll be able to find an exact replacement much quicker and cheaper if the appliance is white. I make most of my money on this principal alone. People are constantly getting rid of their really nice white appliances to “upgrade” to stainless steel. I buy their appliances for next to nothing and then resell them to their neighbor who is simply replacing a broken appliance.

I’ve bought year-old dishwashers for $25, nice smooth-top ranges for $75, and nice side-by-side refrigerators for as low as $60. I’ve purchased a stainless steel year-old side-by-side fridge for $150 and a three-year-old stainless built-in convection oven for $50. You can save massive amounts of money by buying your appliances on craigslist. I make most of my money buying and selling appliances. The prices you can get them for are sometimes mind blowing. I usually get appliances for 10-20% of the original price!

Advice: Buy appliances from the type of person you’d have wanted to own the appliance before you. Did they take care of it? Keep it clean? Do your research on good brands. Make sure you can test it out before you buy it. Check the seals to make sure they’re tight. Look for missing broken parts. If that’s not possible, ask if you can bring it back that day if something doesn’t work right.

My wife’s KitchenAid mixer died last winter. It was a newer model, but alas they don’t make things like they used to! I started looking for an older model upon hearing that her mother had an older one that has been working for 15 years. Well, probably four months went by, but I finally found an older model in great condition for $40. It came with a meat grinder attachment with its box. Though it was quite used, we sold the meat grinder attachment on eBay for $28, and another extra part for $7. Final cost for the well-made mixer? Five bucks.

Finally, if an appliance goes out, it’s often far cheaper to replace it with a used one on Craigslist instead of repairing. For example, if your washing machine breaks and needs to be repaired, you can easily find another one for $75, much less than it would cost to repair your current one. Then, drive your old washer to the scrap yard and get another $20-$25 for it in scrap metal.

Buy Your Furniture on Craigslist

Like appliances, people are constantly changing their furniture. Here again I would encourage you to buy very nice furniture that will last a long time. Besides saving loads of money, used leather furniture is usually broken in, certain pieces are already assembled, and often times older furniture is higher quality and made from real wood. It’s best to ask beforehand questions like if it’s been around smoke or pets if those things are important to you.

When Not to Buy on Craigslist

I love Craigslist, but I’ll admit it’s not great for everything. TVs are probably the most overpriced items on Craigslist. I’ll often find people trying to sell their TVs for more than the current new price for the same make and model!

The new price of certain TVs can drop by hundreds of dollars a year. Often, someone who paid $800 for a TV last year will try to get $500-$600 for it used. The problem is you can probably find the same TV new for the same price or less — and it’ll come with a warranty.

Dealnews.com is a good site for finding out the best prices for many items. Before you buy anything on Craigslist, find out how much it is going for new in stores and online.

Parting Thoughts

When you start using Craigslist, keep track of how much you save on the items you purchase. The numbers won’t lie. At the end of the year, add up your savings. Then imagine what would happen if your buying habits remained like this for 30 years.

Buying on Craigslist will not only help you save money, but for many will turn into another income stream. You could easily make a few hundred dollars a month buying and selling products you’re familiar with. And with some hard work, an entire living can be made (from home) buying and selling on craigslist. (I’ll write more about this in a future post, if you’d like.)

With another recession looming, unemployment continuing to rise, and wages flat, now’s the time for people to change their purchasing habits. It’s not unpatriotic to buy used instead of new from stores. You’re greatly benefiting your neighbor who you are buying from (or selling to). A lot of times people are selling things they don’t need. This is a quick way to inject money into our economy. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to real people. It’s keeping the money in the community, in normal people’s pockets.

Bargain Hunting With Mom

Aside of Craigslist, I still find good deals at garage sales too. Nowadays when my mom comes to visit during the summer, I love to take her out to the yard sales. We pick up a coffee and hit about 5-10 garage sales on a Friday or Saturday morning.

One of the first sales we hit this year was a good one. As we were walking up the driveway our eyes started dancing at the quality items on the tables before us. She settled in on the clothing and I ended up over a pile of contractor tools. I ended up buying three nail guns and my mother bought a sweater. As we were walking back out of the driveway I turned to my mom and told her that I was going to make $200 profit on the nail guns. (It ended up being a little over $200) “That’s incredible.” she said shaking her head.

I think it’s incredible that my mom has always seen the wisdom in buying things used. Her example was influential in my life. Words can be so hollow; we need examples. If I can help you save some money in the years to come, or I planted a seed for a new career path, thank my mom.

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There are 77 comments to "Cashing in on Craigslist: How I’ve saved thousands of dollars buying used".

  1. Jennifer says 17 October 2011 at 04:24

    We have sold a car on Craigslist and it was so easy and fast. I do more selling on there than buying, but I couldn’t agree with this article more. It reallly is a great avenue for finding good quality stuff for great prices.

    • Jaime+B says 17 October 2011 at 12:47

      Same here, I sold my previous vehicle on craigslist and it was very easy and fast.

  2. 20's Finances says 17 October 2011 at 04:37

    Quite comprehensive article. I certainly agree that the time can be well worth it. I recently talked about how I furnished my entire apartment for $600 through craigslist. Thanks for sharing you story.

  3. Tracy says 17 October 2011 at 04:38

    While I love craigslist and agree with most of his advice, it’s worth noting that some of it does not hold in large cities. Living in NYC after years spent in small town (and medium town) America, prices on CL are much higher here. Things I’ve shopped for: bookshelves (roughly 80% of the sales price, including for IKEA well used shelves that weren’t made to last that long!), appliances (again, often 75-80% of the ticker price), and bikes (typically 90-150% of the original price, and often on their 3rd or 4th owner with all the care you’d expect of a used car on its 4th owner). And finally, in NYC, one rarely buys furniture on CL because of the bedbug situation. Annoying! (Even moving boxes can be infested!).

    • Ryan says 17 October 2011 at 15:17

      Tracy, fascinating insight! I’ve often wondered what it was like buying in the biggest cities on craigslist. I live in Portland OR, which is a decent sized city. One advantage that we have here are the many suburbs that surround the city that I have pretty easy access to. I might have just landed in the perfect Craigslist city, as the prices are incredible here. I’d love to hear yours/other people’s thoughts on why such high resale prices exist in the larger cities. What is LA like? etc

      Good point on the bedbugs. I’m not sure how big of a problem they are out here, or if they are, I really don’t hear people talking about it at all. I need to do some more research on the bedbugs. Thanks for your comment!

      • Amy L says 17 October 2011 at 16:49

        We had great success with CL in the Dallas, TX area. Now that we are in the Northeast, we aren’t finding the selection and pricing we were used to, but we still check out CL first for most purchases.

        Before leaving Dallas, we made about $6k selling things we wouldn’t be moving- like our excellent condition dining set (seated 8-10) which went for 1/3 of the new price, a huge leather sectional that went for 1/4 of the new price and lots of odds and ends. Sold two cars on CL over the years- always have had excellent luck!

      • Tracy says 17 October 2011 at 19:57

        My family is all in Chicago, and they don’t seem to have nearly the bedbug problem there that we have here in NYC. My office was closed for three days for bedbug eradication last year!

        I think it would be interesting to do a study of the variety of prices. I always assumed with NYC that it was just the sheer volume of people: some of them want ANY discount (paying 80% is cheaper than 100%) and some who haven’t done their homework on prices. I’d love to hear others’ experiences, too.

    • Steve says 18 October 2011 at 12:08

      The only reason you can get stuff for 90% off in some cities is if there is enough “slack” in the system for you to soak up. That is, enough people who aren’t willing to buy used, and are willing to buy new and then sell used losing almost all the money in the process. They are not only not competing with you in the used market, but in fact are the fuel which the used market lives off of. Obviously a used item has more than 10% of it’s original life left, so it’s not logical for things to sell for that little. Of course it depends on a number of factors (as just one example, buying used is more work, generally, than buying new, so for small dollar items the discount might be higher). But overall it seems that in many areas the discounts are higher than makes strict logical sense, and stories like the OP live off that excess, while in NYC there are enough people aware of it that the excess is mostly soaked up in the system already.

  4. SB @ One Cent At A Time says 17 October 2011 at 04:51

    I did use craigslist arbitrage more than once. The other aspects of CL that you didn’t speak about like renting out your vacation home, getting clients for your appliance repair business or getting a job in neighborhood are growing every day.

    Craigslist is a huge market place, rather, economy of its own where 1000s people earn living.

  5. Joyce says 17 October 2011 at 04:53

    I love this post! I have been a lurker for some time now but I had to comment because I would love to see Ryan regularly guest post. I know TVs usually are not a good deal on craigslist but a few years ago my husband bought a 60 inch tv from craigslist for $125! It works splendidly and he loves it!

  6. John Phung says 17 October 2011 at 05:49

    Craigslist/Kijiji are a great place to find fitness equipment for cheap.

    The best deal I scored was 12 x 45lbs Olympic plates (540lbs) for $50. They’re pretty rusted, but can be easily restored. Typical price for Olympic plates are about $0.50-$1/lb. So I saved least $220.

  7. Ash says 17 October 2011 at 06:13

    When buying a used car on Craiglist, how do you earn the trust of the seller as he might think about theft with his car when telling him you ant it checked out by a local mechanic?

    • SLCCOm says 17 October 2011 at 08:37

      Invite him to go with you. That is what I would insist on doing if you wanted to buy my car.

    • Kristen says 17 October 2011 at 13:31

      … or, as the seller, make the appt at the shop yourself and take the car in. Then the mechanic gives the report to you both.

  8. Christian says 17 October 2011 at 06:19

    My wife and I just got a $150 bread maker for $30. The seller was great and the merchandise is like new. Craigslist is definitely the way to go.

  9. MoneyforCollegePro says 17 October 2011 at 06:25

    I have bought and sold Stihl chainsaws numerous times for a very good profit. I don’t really know a lot about them, but I know how to do routine maintenance, and I can typically make around $100 – $120 profit with about an hours worth of work in maintenance.

    • Rosa says 17 October 2011 at 21:27

      You’re the perfect vendor. It is SO HARD to find repair shops or legit refurbished stuff, it’s unbelievable.

      A lot of local shops have gone online-only, including tons of used book stores and niche repair places.

  10. Adrienne says 17 October 2011 at 06:30

    What I love about craigslist (even more than the great deals) is that it reminds me that overwhelmingly most people are good. Almost everyone I’ve encountered with craigslist has been over the top nice. You’re right – the stories out there are scary but my experience has been great. If you’re a little scared about trying do some simple things – meet in a public place, ignore emails that feel weird to you. I like being reminded that strangers can go out of their way to help you.

    • Paul says 18 October 2011 at 08:37

      Couldn’t agree more. I call it Craigslist Karma. Whether I’m buying or selling, I always try to keep my CK high – I always do my best to make a transaction as smooth as possible (keep my commitments to meet someone, communicate openly and often, etc).
      It almost always works out.

      Also, when i’m selling smaller items, I always price them in $20 increments. that way it’s easy for someone grab $20’s from the ATM and pay me. No need for change, etc.

  11. Stupidly Happy says 17 October 2011 at 07:07

    While I agree with most of the article there are a bunch of flakes out there. I have bought and sold a good amount of items on CL, the majority being positive.
    Best deal I got was on a home gym. Found one about 5-6 years old, barely used and in awesome condition for $250. When sold new, it retailed for $3,500. I had to move and reassemble but that was not a big deal.
    Worst experience has been in selling items, people don’t show or when they do, they are hours late. One guy showed up and appeared to be casing the house, actually wandered away saying he was looking to use the bathroom. After that, I let the dogs out of their room – he left quickly after that – was not interested in the dining room set anymore.
    But overall I agree their can be great deals made on both ends. Keep ’em coming.

  12. Julie says 17 October 2011 at 07:13

    All I can think of when Craigslist and furniture are used in the same sentance is BEDBUGS! But I love to use them to by collections of books, CD’s, games and sports equiptment.

  13. Joe D. says 17 October 2011 at 07:16

    My experiences with Craigslist so far have been very good. The news stories are total hyperbole when it comes to the overall experience.

    Would love to see a complete post on how you make a living from this. I think it would be intriguing…

    • Steve says 18 October 2011 at 12:14

      Wasn’t there already a user story by someone who makes a living off craigslist? He basically bought appliances during the day at rock bottom prices, washed them off so they looked nicer, and resold them at night to people who have day jobs, for two to four times the price he paid. Commenters were outraged.

      • Ryan says 18 October 2011 at 14:32

        The details for some are going to be fuel to find better deals and make extra money. For others, it’s going to show how much of their wealth they are giving away.(to people like me and others) I can see how it would be popular to some and not to others.

  14. jonnie515 says 17 October 2011 at 07:39

    LOVE Craigslist. I purchased my first house last June and have used Craigslist for everything from power tools to TVs to my string trimmer. All transactions have gone super smoothly.

  15. Andrew says 17 October 2011 at 08:07

    I agree that Craigslist can be a great resource. I’ve bought several solid wood furniture pieces (wouldn’t go near the upholstered ones as I too am wary of bedbugs) and a brand-new food processor. I’ve also found temp jobs to supplement my regular income– the “gigs” section can be very very useful.

    I also was about to toss a year’s worth of the French-language magazine Paris Match when it occurred to me to list them on Craigslist. Within a day I’d sold them for more than the total subscription price.

  16. Jonathan says 17 October 2011 at 08:11

    I’ve thought about Craigslist arbitrage myself lately, but one thing seems to throw a big wrench in the whole idea – the cost of driving all around buying and selling stuff. I suppose if you’re really getting super great deals, that could mitigate the gas factor…but it sure doesn’t make much sense to buy something for $20 and sell if for $40 if buying it requires a 20 mile drive (especially if you get there and find out it’s in bad shape).

    • cc says 17 October 2011 at 09:39

      it works pretty well in nyc- i usually ask people to come to my place (i’m near the subway) or i’ll meet them at another nearby subway stop.
      i’ve sold and bought all kinds of great things- i had sold-out concert tickets to a show i couldn’t go to (sold immediately), i bought a screenprinting machine for 140, used it for a couple years then sold it for 160, sold lots of motorcycle gear, husband has bought and sold a couple motorcycles through it. No furniture, the bedbug risk isn’t worth it. best purchase was my fat little pet weasel, someone couldn’t keep the little dude because of their new baby (allergies), so i took him home with me. craigslist rules!

    • Jaime+B says 17 October 2011 at 13:02

      I think if you’re going to make a living or part-time income from Craigslist arbitrage you need to spend a few minutes figuring out your costs. All it takes is a couple of tanks of gas and an odometer to figure out your approximate fuel mileage. From there, it is quite to do a simple cost/benefit analysis. If you get 15 mpg at $3.50/gal, then a 40 miles (roundtrip) to check out an appliance is approx. $9.33 in gas. If you’re making a $200 profit on the appliance, then you’re still clearing $190.66. From there, you can start deducting your other costs – mostly time spent cleaning or repairing and costs of cleaning materials or parts.

      It’s inevitable that you’ll find some appliance (or whatever) are not worth your time and you’ve just lost out on that $9.33 in gas. This is where experience comes into play. It will not take long for you to become skilled at parsing the phrasing of ads and you’ll decide what distance you’re willing to travel on the possibility of a good deal.

      And, of course, if you’re only clearing $20 on the deal then you would likely be less willing to travel to make that deal unless you have a super low mileage way to get there.

    • Ryan says 17 October 2011 at 14:43

      Hey Jonathan, thanks for the comment. Here’s the short version of how I decide if something’s worth it. How much can the item be resold for if it’s in the described condition? How much if it’s got blemishes etc? Figure out your gas mileage and how much you want to make per hour. Personally, if I spend an hour picking something up, I want to make at least $50. Usually I will make more than that. For short trips it can be less. Over time you get very good at math and calculating everything very quickly. Also, sometimes you will make a lot of money on one transaction, and just a little on the next 2-3, but they average out. Only going for the biggest scores can be fine for someone that is just doing this on the side, but those small profit transactions add up quickly over the course of a month. Hope that helps!

  17. Tracy says 17 October 2011 at 08:19

    Is there any way to automate searches on craigslist? For instance, I’d be interested in buying a digital SLR camera on craigslist – do I just need to keep looking at craigslist every night or is there a way to set it up so that I would get an e-mail when someone in my area listed a camera?

    • Jonathan says 17 October 2011 at 09:20

      You may be able to do this using RSS feeds…I don’t have any idea how, or even what RSS really does, but I know Craigslist makes them available at the bottom of each page (i.e., the bottom of the “photo and video” page there’s an “RSS” button)

      • Michael+Moore says 17 October 2011 at 12:18

        Yes, you can do it with the RSS feeds. You do a search on Craigslist, then click the RSS icon at the bottom of the page, it will show you the RSS feed for that search.

        This works great UNLESS it’s a hot item! The RSS feeds are updated only periodically (every 1/2 hour maybe?) so if you’re waiting for something awesome, it might be gone already.

        • Ted says 19 October 2011 at 17:19

          RSS feeds are updated based on how many subscribers they have and how often they update. For a single-reader CL RSS feed, it’s probably not more than a few times a day.

      • mike says 17 October 2011 at 12:53

        Here’s how to automate it so that it will go to your Reader.

        Let’s say you’re looking for a particular kind of camera. Go to the “search craigslist” box and type in what you want. Click “enter” on your keypad and it will take you to all the cameras. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see an orange “RSS” icon. Click on that and it will take you to your “Reader”. Click on “Add to Reader” and then when anyone posts about a camera, you’ll get it in your Reader.

        • jj says 28 October 2011 at 08:42

          You can also use the Craigslist notification app on Android phones. I think there’s something similar for iphones. Basically you do a search and save it; it will send updates matching your search to your cellphone.

  18. Sharon Widdop says 17 October 2011 at 08:20

    I have been using Craigslist for a long time now and love it. Thanks for the tip about buying TV’s. I never knew that one!

  19. Kevin M says 17 October 2011 at 08:27

    CL is great to “rent” kids stuff – a few of our finds:

    $5 for Fisher Price roller skates
    $40 for a good quality wood/metal wagon (not the plastic crap they sell now)
    $5 for a Little Tykes slide
    $5 for a Mongoose bike (just need a new innertube and pedals)
    $5 for an adjustable basketball hoop

    Right there we probably saved over $200 and we’ll probably resell it all for the same price when we’re done. There’s no point buying new when they’ll outgrow or wear it out so quickly.

    I’m curious about the laptops/netbooks. I guess I’m always worried about buying electronics where I can’t return them. I may have to try this out though.

  20. Matthew says 17 October 2011 at 08:51

    When we tried to sell our car on Craigslist every buyer wanted to nickle and dime the price down. It was listed for $2200 and many wanted it for half that. When we paid a few dollars to list it in the local paper the client profile changed a lot to people wanting to haggle, but not undercut.

  21. Geek says 17 October 2011 at 08:58

    “Like appliances, people are constantly changing their furniture.”

    Who are these people?

    • Andrew says 17 October 2011 at 09:09

      HGTV addicts.

      • Bareheadedwoman says 17 October 2011 at 10:47

        Hey! I resemble that remark! 😉

    • Ru says 18 October 2011 at 13:48

      I recently was treated to a tour of the Armitage Shanks sanitaryware factory (yeah, a toilet factory). At the end of it, we got a talk from one of the head honchos of the company. He told us that people replace their bathrooms an average of EVERY 5 YEARS! I was so shocked I actually shouted “really?!” and we ended up having a little discussion about trends. Basically there are some people out there who are such slaves to the trends that they regularly decorate and get rid of perfectly good furniture.

      But back to Craigslist. One of the best things you can get? Sewing machines. Older sewing machines are heavier and sturdier than their modern counterparts and can be bought for a fraction of the price of a new one. They are relatively easy to repair and maintain and manuals can be found online.

  22. Diedra B says 17 October 2011 at 09:02

    how would you go about trying to buy a treadmill or elliptical machine?
    I’m looking for one and would rather buy a high quality used one than a new one that is poor quality. However, I’m having trouble convincing my husband.

    I think if I had a little more information about how to approach a purchase like this, he might be a little more accepting.

    • Bareheadedwoman says 17 October 2011 at 10:54

      after one of the “discussions” about said item, i do my homework on which one he would want/pick if he had his druthers, then find the same used, good shape, thingy with reasonable price and logistics and then his man-heart cannot resist the deal. It works best if you compare new apples to used apples rather than apples to oranges…at least on the first convincing.

      …and at the next cocktail party, you will hear him bragging to someone about the great craigslist deal he found.

  23. retirebyforty says 17 October 2011 at 09:45

    I sold our old Z3 with a blown engine on Craigslist for $3,000. 🙂
    The most common thing I buy on craigslist is furniture. I don’t buy electronic because I usually use mine until the are busted and that’s what I thought people do. I’ll try it next time when I need something.

    • Bareheadedwoman says 17 October 2011 at 11:09

      the closest i’ve ever gotten to buying craigslist electronics is a casual friend’s computer (big gamer upgrade) after a coffee cooler discussion about his “going to put it up on…” which worked out great but I still feel like a fish out of water buying electronics.

      I’m savy but not a computer whiz; I almost feel the need to take a geeksquad guy with me like taking a used car to a mechanic…like you, I usually I use electronics until the death groan and they blink no more.

      Advice for how to buy used electronics would be most welcome. I’ve had great success with appliances, furniture, clothes, tickets et al but gadgets not so much.

  24. brooklyn+money says 17 October 2011 at 09:56

    Agree with #3. I bought a Room & Board bed on craigslist and I paid about what I would have in the store. There was so much competition for it, the guy got almost what he paid for it. If I didn’t want it, there were 50 more people lined up who did. Also, true about bed bugs. This was a steel bed frame. I think wood is okay too to buy.

    • Katie says 17 October 2011 at 19:40

      Thanks for this post! I’ve been thinking about buying some Room and Board furniture and seeing as how we don’t have the store here in MI anyway, and they don’t seem to have sales, I thought I’d try CL. Whenever I look I can’t find anything at all from Room and Board and this now explains why!

  25. JayBeeNOLA says 17 October 2011 at 10:00

    Thanks for the great article on CL – my 1st stop for almost anything I need or want to buy, replace. Please write more!

  26. Wanda says 17 October 2011 at 10:24

    Being a 69 year old women who lives alone, I have been leery about using CL to buy or sell and this has been a very helpful post.

    I would be interested in learning more about how Ryan is able to make a living at this to supplement my fixed income!

  27. changeonabudget says 17 October 2011 at 10:25

    I LOVE craigslist. When I moved across the country and had to completely furnish my new apartment when I was broke, craigslist totally saved my bacon. It’s great because you are saving money and using something that would probably otherwise get thrown away. I think about the only thing I wouldn’t buy is a mattress.

  28. Kathy+F says 17 October 2011 at 10:39

    I see a lot of people giving away TVs on Craig’s list. Check the Free section. However, I think these TVs are probably the ones predating the digital signal conversion.

    I have bought a lot of stuff on Craig’s list. My dining room set, small pieces of furniture, some area rugs, lots of framed pictures for my walls. I have also sold furniture, and linens and other household items. I tend to sell stuff cheap. I look at what other people are charging for similar items and then charge the lowest for quick sale. That said, people still want to haggle me down on the price which I find irritating. So maybe I should charge higher and then give them a discount?

    I wonder about all the electronic stuff. I know a lot of stolen stuff ends up on Craig’s list and Ebay. I would rather buy from a manufacturer and get a warranty.

    Yes, to sell you have to have the patience to deal with a lot of emails and people who don’t follow through.

  29. Bella says 17 October 2011 at 12:47

    Am I the only one who thinks this article was remarkably similar to the other one from the same guy about buying on craigslist? I mean really – how hard is it – know you’re product, be patient, check daily. Really – two posts about how this guy gets white appliances and fixes them up?

    • Ryan says 17 October 2011 at 15:47

      Hi Bella. This was my first guest post. I knew that this article wouldn’t be helpful to everyone. This was more of a persuasive post focusing on some of the benefits of Craigslist.

      If I’m asked to write another post, it will probably contain more of the actual details of how I make my full time living doing this. I’ve written a number of posts over at my ReCraigslist.com website. Was there a particular topic you would like addressed? Thanks for your comment.

      • Bella says 18 October 2011 at 08:35

        Sorry about that, I was misremembering the article JD wrote about you. I’m actually sorry for the whole comment – I’m not usually that snarky – looking back it must have been after I missed lunch yesterday.

  30. Heather says 17 October 2011 at 15:20

    If you don’t happen to have a truck or other large vehicle, going to pick up an appliance plus getting rid of the old (broken) appliance is not worth it. Large furniture has the same pick-up problem. If it doesn’t fit in the car, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    • Ryan says 17 October 2011 at 15:54

      You would be surprised at how many people will deliver the items. You will likely have a much smaller profit margin for items that people deliver to you. (If you are buying/selling) But if you are just trying to save money over buying new, even delivered, you are going to save a lot of money.

    • TheGooch says 24 June 2013 at 17:10

      I agree. If you don’t know anyone who can/will loan you their truck, you’ll pay a large overhead to rent one ( miscellaneous fees, fuel/mileage charges, taxes, etc ).

  31. Stu says 17 October 2011 at 15:58

    Terrific article, thank you so much! I’m sure many will be thanking your clever Mom.
    The one remaining worry I have is inadvertantly buying something that is stolen. I’d love to buy a bicycle through CL, but worry about theft (such as room-mate theft). I haven’t thought of a way I can check the serial number with the police without being insulting. Maybe some other readers will share some ideas?

    • Matt says 18 October 2011 at 10:09

      Stu –

      I’ve bought/sold a bunch of bikes on Craigslist. I generally try to get a seller talking, ask where a bike came from/how long they’ve had it, etc. If I get a bad vibe I walk away. I also try to get seller phone numbers before I go anywhere – this tends to cut down on no-shows and sketchy people alike.

      Warning signs can also include not knowing much about what they’re selling, trying to sell unusually cheap/fast, etc.

      Serial numbers aren’t usually helpful – most people don’t register their bikes so that’s probably not a reliable metric to go on.

  32. Suzanne says 17 October 2011 at 16:53

    I am just getting into using Craigslist. A few years ago my husband and I bought two desks for our office brand new and paid over $600. My husband needs a desk for his new office and I found something next to perfect for less than $100. Love it!

  33. Karen says 17 October 2011 at 17:27

    Hi! I am Ryan’s Mom and just want you all to know that he gives me much more credit than I deserve. I love garage sales and have found many bargains over the years. Craigslist takes resale shopping to a whole new level. Good job Ryan!

  34. Loren says 17 October 2011 at 18:39

    I really enjoyed this article and could not agree more. I love shopping online and finding deals. I have also met some interesting people and had great experiences on Craigslist. To date, some of them include:

    A used Toyota Tundra, a brand new Weber grill in the box at 40% cost (someone received two as housewarming gifts), washer and dryer for 30% cost of new ones, completely free recliner sofa, rocking loveseat and lazy boy set in great condition (they were moving and didn’t want to take the furniture with them).

    Craigslist is a great way to shop!

    • cc says 18 October 2011 at 07:55

      lol are you my old neighbor? i had to part with a washer-dryer unit a few years ago, i papered up my block and someone took it right off my hands for a fraction of the price (condition: it was 4 flights up and i wasn’t lifting a finger to help).
      in any case, even with hiring some muscle, they got a great deal. godspeed, washer-dryer. i miss you ;_;

  35. Anoel says 17 October 2011 at 19:22

    Craigslist really is amazing for a lot of things. I’ve gotten great cheap places to stay from there, sold and bought a bunch of cheap things and picked up a great car for only $700. I’ve found LA prices to be pretty low for the most part. The only annoying parts are the people who post a billion times about the same things and shady types.

  36. bemoneyaware says 17 October 2011 at 21:51

    Thanks for sharing the information. “Friends would laugh when they learned that I’d purchased certain items secondhand instead of new” was bang on. Shall try craiglist for little drops of water make an ocean!

  37. matt says 18 October 2011 at 00:26

    I have used rideshare a few times as well, with some adventures along the way. My wife and I were going up to NorCal from Orange County and had met a nice lady in the park who was so horrified at our decision to do a rideshare that she offered to take us there personally. At the last minute she couldn’t believe that I(the husband-to be at that time) would dare come with her and my wife(i.e. the offer was for the girl, I guess). So we found a rideshare that night who ended up being a Marijuana grower who was driving back up(probably after a sale) and was a really nice guy and wouldn’t accept gas money. He also had a premonition and stated that we would get married- which has now come true. Thanks Craigslist! (I would not let my wife do it without me though)

  38. Holly says 18 October 2011 at 04:33

    Regarding appliances, you can buy appliance contact paper. If applied correctly it looks good. Last year I renovated my kitchen to the tune of $30,000, and installed a CL dishwasher with stainless appliance contact paper. One would never know it wasn’t new without close inspection.

  39. Debbie says 18 October 2011 at 11:32

    I love Craigslist. When my brother in law’s stove / oven broke and he didn’t replace it for 6 months due to cost, I decided to get on Craigslist to see if I could find a replacement. He has a small, tight spaced kitchen and needed a drop in model and also the glass top / lighted burner style. I watched for about 2 weeks and found one that had hardly been used. It was being junked for a remodel. He also got the kitchen hood for free. Major score! I’ve bought used tents, toys, cars, etc. on Craigslist. I’ve also sold cars, toys, baby stuff on Craigslist. Love it!

  40. Mutant Supermodel says 18 October 2011 at 13:52

    I just wanted to say Ryan’s article is very well-written. I love his voice! Please use him again 🙂 And can we find someone like him to give advice on thrift stores? I SUCK at those!

  41. Libbeth says 18 October 2011 at 15:26

    I use Craigslist all the time…even if I don’t need anything! My family says that I’m an addict, I tell them to go ahead and laught at me. I’ve made some pretty good deals on CL:

    I found a nice, small house to rent from a CL ad but when I moved in it had a really old, nasty, smelly refrigerator. The owner of the house told me that the fridge was mine to do whatever I wanted with it. I searched and searched for a fridge on CL. It took about three weeks but I finally saw an ad that an office was closing and they were selling everything including the breakroom refrigerator. Imagine my surprise when I went to look at it and it was in beautiful shape WITH an ice maker!! My cost? $25!!! But wait, there’s more! I also needed a microwave. Found that on CL too….for $5! I live in the Phoenix area and our electric company offers to pick up our old working refrigerators and send us a $30 rebate check. So, yes, I made the call. Final cost for fridge and microwave???? ZERO

    I now live in a larger rental house but the washer and dryer that came with it were disgustingly dirty and didn’t work well. I recently found an ad on CL for an electric dryer but no price was listed. I sent an email asking for the price. The guy called me back and said that if I would show up that night that I could have it for free. CHA-CHING! I got a beautiful, energy efficient dryer for ZERO dollars.

    A few years ago I needed to purchase transportation. I perused CL and found a 1995 mini van that was in great shape for a mere $1400. I drove it for the next three years until the maintenance started costing too much, too many things started failing so it wasn’t worth the cost of repairs. I sold it on Craigslist for $350.

    Oh, and I just bought an older Sony Grand Vega 42″ LCD TV that originally cost $3,000 for…..wait for it……..$100. Yep, that’s right!

    CRAIGSLIST ROCKS!

  42. Vince Thorne says 22 October 2011 at 19:45

    If you are not repelled by buying used craigslist can be a huge resource. Buying from a person does carry risk. try and meet in busy parking lots if you are buying articles that can fit in a car or a truck. If you are visiting someone take a couple of friends along. Make sure you speak to the person on phone before you commit to meet and see if you are comfortable going through with the trade.

    • Matt says 23 October 2011 at 06:50

      “If you are visiting someone take a couple friends along.”

      From a seller’s perspective, this would make me nervous. If you were to bring 1 person along that would probably be fine with everyone, but if you showed up to my house with 2 friends to buy something, I’d be a bit uncomfortable unless it was something big and heavy that needed 3 people to move.

      I’ve done quite a bit of buying and selling, and I’ve never felt personally threatened. I do quite a few sales/meetups after dark, but usually either meet in a public place or meet outside my home/the other person’s home. I never bring anyone in my home, and have rarely been in another person’s home.

  43. Ann I. Ball says 26 October 2011 at 17:17

    You’ve just saved me over 50% on a refrigerator. The money I’ve saved will go to something else I want.

  44. asdf says 31 May 2012 at 00:39

    I furnished my whole kitchen bachelor suite for free. like new. looked new. nice glass coffee table, side table, nice dark modern dinner table, glass top, side table i used as a shoe rack. all free. zero. ALL MATCH. 3 different givers. Also free scanner, and printer. Like new, wifi.

  45. jestjack says 29 December 2012 at 07:23

    Great article!! I use CL a lot….I make a couple of $ on lawn mowers. Buying good quality mowers that won’t start putting a little work into them and then re-selling them on Craigslist. The key IMHO is to be patient. Had a couple of boxes of comic books on CL and guy came out and said basically my stuff was junk BUT he’d give me $40. Sent him on his way…and 2 months later got my price $350. These were left behind in a rental unit so my cost….$0. Thanks again for the article.

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