15 Essential Rules for Buying Stuff on Craigslist (2024)

Some people actually purchase something on Craigslist at its full listed price. Fools. They are treating the price tag not as the arbitrary price given by the seller, but like something in a store. However, a Craigslist situation isn’t like a store at all. It’s a used item sold by an individual to another individual in a very, very small market, where local supply and demand overshadows whatever silly number the seller has listed.

By going into the buying process armed with some common sense and simple wisdom, you can get a fair deal that makes sense to both parties. Cut down on that buyer’s remorse by following these 15 rules, you can be sure sellers are following their own such list.

1. All prices are negotiable.

Duh. The number in the listing is a starting-off point, clearly. This is a very subjective process and all of these prices are very elastic. If it's winter, bikes should be cheaper, because the demand is less. Know this. You could check on eBay to see if the seller listed the price reasonably, but remember that it's not that simple because eBay gives you guarantees. Craigslist is anonymous and offers no protection. That risk means you should pay less for a comparable item. Some people like to talk about a 15 to 20 percent rule when negotiating, but that's mostly psychological. Prices are too fickle to pin it down to a number. Do your research.

2. You don’t need to buy.

You’re interested, intrigued, looking to buy, but not in a hurry. Browsing, but serious about it. Sadly, dating and negotiating have things in common. Desperation isn't a good look and will keep prices high.

3. If the posting doesn’t have all the details you’re looking for, send a friendly email.

Being polite isimportant. If the seller has an incomplete, unhelpful listing, it narrows people down. Less interest means better prices. Sending an email costs you nothing and opens a channel which fosters trust. The seller has invested in you if they’re responding.

4. Meet somewhere public—you’re like a cop walking up to a freshly pulled over car.

Imagine getting to the seller’s apartment and the inside is lined with plastic…that would be a bummer.

5. Tune out any nonsense about other offers or people looking at it.

If someone has already made an offer, and you throw out a number that's the same or even less—and you're near an ATM or have cash—you’re good. The seller knows that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. If the seller can end all this hassle now, he might do it.

6.Look for flaws in the object.

Look for reasons why you should pay less besides the fact that you don’t want to. Rust, paint chips, weird software, unexplained stains, etc.

7. If it has a power button, TURN IT ON.

And if the "battery is dead," run away. You don't want a motorcycle-shaped boat anchor.

15 Essential Rules for Buying Stuff on Craigslist (1)

8. Don’t say any more than you have to, if that.

Take Travolta’s advice. The seller will probably talk as you inspect. Let them. You might hear the sound of a hole being dug. You didn't come to Craigslist to make friends and have conversations. Unless, well, you did.

9. Bring an expert.

When meeting a stranger, it never hurts to take a spare 225 pounds of muscle with you, but if that muscle knows about what’s being bought, you’re at a huge advantage. Good cop, bad cop can work. You want to buy, but he’s holding you back. If your friend's new boyfriend is a mechanic, definitely bring him along.

10. When it’s time to make a counteroffer to theludicrous figure listed, be tactful.

Do it in a non-confrontational way: “This is what I’m willing to pay,” not “This is worth ____.” People can get upset about low-ball offers. Sometimes buyers will even try negotiating a little over email at first because the seller might warm to the "lowball" offer once the indignation wears off. Also an email is hardly an inconvenience, so no one should actually be upset about that.

11. Bring cash, obviously.

There’s two ways to do this. Here's the first: you can ask to see the item over the internet, act like you’re just looking and then offhandedly throw out an offer, saying you have the cash right here and this can be over right now. Selling is a hassle, and you’re offering the buyer an easy way to end the trouble, get the whatever off his hands, and get guaranteed cash. You can generally get pretty low this way, but you have to be willing to walk away.

The other option is to say to the buyer via email that you can come by at the earliest possible time with cash in hand. You just flat out offer a lower price, and if you sound reliable, there’s a good chance they’ll take it because the hassle will be over.

12. Walk away quickly, then slowly.

Show the seller that you don’t need to buy his stupid thing. But then give him time to change your mind. Fumble for your keys, etc. Because now they have to find a new buyer, set up a new time, and go through it all over again.

13. Say you’ll take really good care of the thing.

If they’re selling something sentimental, you might be able to appeal to their humanity by saying you’ll treat their prized possession with great respect. People love to project personalities on material objects, and you should use that to your advantage. But don't be a liar and treat your new purchase like crap.

14. Ask them to throw in something.

If they are really firm on a price and it doesn’t sit well with you, it can’t hurt and you might get some sweet accessories.

15 Essential Rules for Buying Stuff on Craigslist (2)

15. "Be nice."

—Patrick Swayze

Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He has overpaid for things on Craigslist in the past, but doesn't anymore. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

15 Essential Rules for Buying Stuff on Craigslist (2024)


How to safely buy from Craigslist? ›

  1. Deal locally. It's always safest to finalize a transaction in person. ...
  2. Examine the product before finalizing a sale. ...
  3. Don't accept or send a cashier's check, certified check or money order as payment. ...
  4. Use cash — safely. ...
  5. Don't share your personal information.

How does buying from Craigslist work? ›

Listings on Craigslist are just like traditional newspaper classified ads. All transactions are between you and the seller; Craigslist is just the “middleman.” That means when you purchase an item from a Craigslist seller, expect to pick up the item in person and pay in cash.

How to buy something expensive on Craigslist? ›

Use a secure form of payment

If the transaction is for an expensive item, such as a car, meet the seller at the bank, and have them draw and deliver the cashier's check right then and there.

Should you give your phone number on Craigslist? ›

Scammers are getting pretty sneaky and are collecting personal phone numbers through Craigslist Ads. Case in point, when you're placing an ad or responding to an ad, avoid using your personal phone number to communicate with buyers or sellers.

What is the best way to accept payment on Craigslist? ›

Accept cash only, even for large purchases. If you indicated this requirement in your Craigslist post, it shouldn't be a problem. If you cash a fake cashier's check or money order, the bank will hold you responsible when it discovers it isn't real and will require that you give back the cash.

What is the best payment method to not get scammed? ›

Secure online payment methods
  • Credit cards. By and large, credit cards are easily the most secure and safe payment method to use when you shop online. ...
  • ACH payments. ...
  • Stored payment credentials. ...
  • Credit cards with EMV chip technology. ...
  • Credit cards with contactless payment. ...
  • Payment apps.
Feb 11, 2023

How to spot fake Craigslist responses? ›

Craigslist Scam Alert: 5 Signs a Con Artist Is Replying to Your...
  1. They Won't Come See the Item in Person. ...
  2. The Email Reply Doesn't Refer to the Specific Item You're Selling. ...
  3. The Buyer 'Accidentally' Overpays. ...
  4. They Ask for Personal or Financial Information. ...
  5. The Buyer Refuses to Meet at a Public Place.
Mar 21, 2019

Is it safe to give an address on Craigslist? ›

Don't share personal details. Never disclose your personal or financial information to strangers online. There is no need for your Craigslist contact to know your bank account number, home address, or date of birth. You might share your cell phone number with someone you are meeting in person, but not more.

What percentage does Craigslist take? ›

There are no fees for selling on Craigslist. The UX (user experience) is great, uploading and publishing an item takes less than 15 minutes. You can decide if you'd like to accept cryptocurrency, if there's delivery available, and if you want to show more Ads by you as a link.

Should you give your email address on Craigslist? ›

Craigslist email relay hides your email address when communicating with buyers or sellers. It's a great security feature that you should take advantage of. That means you shouldn't give your real email address or phone number to someone you're dealing with, especially if they're pressuring you.

What is the most bought item on Craigslist? ›

12 Items That Currently Sell the Most Money On Craigslist
  • Home Appliances. Gently used or well-maintained appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers are always in demand. ...
  • Furniture. ...
  • Electronics. ...
  • Cars and Motorcycles. ...
  • Power Tools. ...
  • Sporting Goods. ...
  • Garden Equipment. ...
  • Tech Accessories.
Jan 24, 2024

What is the safest way to receive a large payment? ›

Get a cashier's check

You must pay for a cashier's check upfront, and the financial institution guarantees it. So, it's safer for the recipient because it won't bounce, and only the designated payee can cash it. In fact, sometimes a cashier's check is required for large transactions, such as a down payment on a home.

Why do Craigslist buyers ask for code? ›

A buyer contacts a seller to purchase an item. The scammer pretends to be interested in buying the item and asks the seller to provide them with a “secret code” that was sent to their phone via a text message. The scammer claims that they need this code to verify the seller's identity and proceed with the transaction.

Is it safe to give out your number? ›

As you can see, giving out your cell phone number to the wrong people can be damaging and cause you tons of frustration. You risk getting your identity, finances, and even loved ones into a potential scam. You want to use precautions when giving out your cell phone number, which has now become a personal identifier.

Does Craigslist hide your email when you reply? ›

Craigslist offers an anonymous email to advertisers on the site, so they do not have to reveal their real email address. All replies sent to this anonymous email is forwarded to their actual email. This extra steps prevents others from having access to a poster's real address.

How to avoid being scammed on Craigslist? ›

5 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed on Craigslist
  1. Check the URL to be sure you're not on a bogus look-alike site. ...
  2. Deal locally so you can finalize a sale in person. ...
  3. Examine the product in person before finalizing a sale. ...
  4. Don't send a money order or wire transfer as payment for an item. ...
  5. Don't share your personal information.

How do I verify a buyer on Craigslist? ›

  1. Talk to the person on the phone, if possible, about the deal. If you have to email them first to make the initial contact, ask them for their phone number so you can talk more about the item. ...
  2. Meet the person you're doing business with in a public place, such as a coffee shop. ...
  3. Complete your transaction in cash.

What is the safest way to receive money as a seller? ›

The most reliable way of accepting a payment when selling something online is cash. If the item is of significant value, a cashier's check should also suffice. To avoid confusion down the road, make it clear in your ad and in your conversations with a potential buyer that you will only accept cash.

Does anyone buy from Craigslist anymore? ›

Now, aside from being a godsend to scammers, Craigslist is also full of legitimate people that are using the world biggest marketplace to buy and sell good/services.

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