A Guide to Buying on Craigslist
I’ve been looking for a refrigerator on craigslist for a couple months now and I finally found one. My current refrigerator was in good working condition, but it was pretty old and I wanted to get a nice stainless steel one for when I rent out my condo in a year or two. Renters and buyers love to see stainless steel appliances Since I wasn’t in a rush, I was able to take my time and really wade through the cruddy listings and be picky. I ended up getting a nice 2 year old GE Side by Side for $340 including delivery and haul away from an appliance trader I found on craigslist.
There are some great deals to be had on craigslist but unfortunately, there are also some people who are out there to ruin it for everyone. So when buying on craigslist you need to follow these steps to make sure you get what you want for the price you want.
1. Comparison Shop
If you’re looking for an item like an appliance or furniture be sure to go into a physical retailer and see what they charge for it. The whole point of buying used on craigslist is so that you don’t have to pay the retailer mark-up. If the difference between new and used isn’t more than 20-30% I don’t think it’s worth it to buy it used on Craigslist. I’d rather use a credit card and buy it at a retailer where I have credit card protection, and the ability to return it should I change my mind or the item stops working. There are no returns on Craigslist so you want to make sure the opportunity cost is worth it to buy used.
2. The Search
If you’ve decided to go the Craigslist route, here comes the fun part. Finding the exact item you want for the price you want is usually a tedious task but I have some great tips that will ensure you get your item. I usually start off with a basic keyword search to see what’s available. If there is not much inventory at the time, you can use a site like Search Tempest to search multiple cities at once. This should give you a good idea of what’s available at what price.
If you’re looking to pay as little as possible, then you will need to search a lot more frequently than someone who is less concerned about getting the lowest possible price. You can be picky if you don’t need the item immediately, otherwise you may need to spend a little more. I usually search for items three to four times a day so that I’m able to pursue any leads almost instantaneously. If you only search 1-2 times a day, you should use a service like Feed My Inbox to send you the RSS feed every day. I also use a chrome plugin called Craigshunter to save searches and notify me of new listings.
3. Offer Low
Don’t be afraid to throw a low ball offer in. If you can’t agree on a price, there will always be another one. Craigslist is mutually beneficial to buyers and sellers in that way because there is so much supply and demand. When you make a low offer, give the seller a reason to sell to you. You don’t need to lie, but use the facts to your advantage. Here are some examples:
- It’s my girlfriend’s birthday and I’d really like to take her to this show, can you give me the tickets for $100?
- I’m a college student so I can only afford $60 for the couch, is that ok?
Get the picture? When you appeal to a seller’s emotion they tend to overlook the lower offer.
4. Be Ready to Go
As soon as you’ve targeted an item go get it. Do not wait! As a seller, I tell all enquirers that the item is still available until I have the money in my hand. The reason is there are a lot of buyers who can be very flaky. Don’t be one of them, as soon as you verbally agree on a price and a meeting place go get your item.
5. Inspect the Item
There are no returns on Craigslist so always make sure the item works as described. Test every feature and ensure that it’s in working order. If you get home and realize something is wrong, don’t expect the seller to be there to help you out. Although most sellers are selling in good faith, don’t take their word as the above all truth. If they say something works, be sure to try it out. Turn it on, turn it off, wait a few minutes and try again, etc.
If you have concerns or the item is different than what appeared in the picture, this is usually a bad sign. Don’t sweat it, tell them you’ll come back later or sleep on it. You are under no obligation whatsoever, regardless of what the seller says. If you are a newbie, bring a friend as a second pair of eyes. They don’t have to be an expert in what you’re buying, but it’s always nice to have a second set of eyes. They may see something that you didn’t even notice.
6. Bring Cash
Nothing says you’re a serious buyer more than cash. Bring however much you agreed on and if you find any minor defects, this is the time to ask for a price reduction. If you’re ok with the item, pay and be on your way.
I’ve bought and sold everything from furniture and electronics to cars and tickets on Craigslist. Most of my purchases have worked out great, but there have been a couple hiccups here and there. I learn with every sale though, and if you follow these tips, you should be on your way to some mega savings. Remember though, there is inherent risk with buying on Craigslist. But you have to be willing to take on some risk if you don’t want to pay the retailer mark-up.
Readers, do you buy and/or sell on Craigslist? What’s the biggest item you’ve ever bought?
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