Our Top Craigslist Tips (and our secret to getting to the best deals first!)

craigslist

Please note: This post was accidentally published early so some of you may have received it in your inbox unfinished. Sorry about that! Still learning the ropes of this whole blogging business (and having stayed up until 2 am painting probably doesn’t help). We are making some major headway on the bus this weekend and I will have a full report with lots of pictures coming up within the next couple days, so keep an eye out for that and in the meantime, enjoy these tips!

Several people have commented on the awesome scores we’ve landed on Craigslist throughout this whole project – from paint and flooring to the bus itself, we’ve paid bottom dollar for just about every major purchase.

We’ve been buying (and selling) things off Craigslist for years because it is truly one of the best ways to get amazing deals on pretty much anything you can possibly imagine. The best bargain we’ve ever gotten would have to be when we scored this computer for only $375 in perfect working condition, never used. We were pretty happy with that one.

Yes, Craigslist can be the place where dreams are furnished, but there are some general guidelines to be aware of and some tips and tricks to help you nab the deals on what you’re looking for (if you’re already Craigslist savvy, feel free to skip down to the bottom for our secret weapon in bargain-hunting).

Please note: These tips are in addition to practicing general guidelines for avoiding scams and keeping yourself safe such as meeting in a public place, not meeting anybody alone and not giving out your address, social security number or any financial information. Meeting people off the internet can be risky business and while most people are harmless and/or merely kooky, there’s some serious cray-cray out there, so practice proper precautions.

1. Pay attention.

Read the post carefully and try to adhere to the seller’s requests. If they specify to contact only via a phone call and say that they won’t answer emails, respect that. A bonus to that is that so few people DO pay attention to those things that being someone who does will help you stand out from the crowd. Another thing to pay attention to: the date the listing was posted. Chances are, the longer it’s been up without selling the less interest there’s been and the seller is probably about ready to let it go for a lower price.

2. Be complimentary.

When you’ve found something you’re interested in and you email the seller, let them know that you like the item and you’d love to take it off their hands. It helps to start off on a positive note and lets them know that you’re actually interested and not just one of (many) potential buyers who will email about an item and then never reply back.

3. It never hurts to ask.

Want to know if the listed price is the lowest they’ll take or if there’s still some wiggle-room to negotiate? My favorite line is “are you firm on the price?” You’d be surprised how often people will almost immediately knock 20% (or more) off the price to make a sale (of course, if it’s stated in the ad that the posted price is firm, then asking this question will probably cause the seller to ignore our email).

4. Be quick and prompt.

Of course, if the deal is already pretty stellar, don’t waste any time haggling and let them know that you are ready to pick it up right that very second or whenever is most convenient for them. When we got that fantastic deal on the computer Noah woke up at 5 am and drove 45 minutes away the same morning we were scheduled to drive out to Arizona. The seller said that his phone had been ringing off the hook and there was already someone on their way from 2 hours away. This is where our secret weapon comes into play:

5. Download CLapp and the CLapp Notify App from the Android Marketplace. 

I’m not sure if this is on iOS or whether they have something similar (does anybody know?), but this is what Noah and I use to stay on top of what’s selling when we’re specifically looking for something. The app allows you to search Craigslist for an item (a futon, for example), set the parameters of your search (for under $100 in San Diego) and then bookmark that search. When any item becomes available with the word “futon” in it listed for $100 or less in San Diego the app will notify you on your phone within ten minutes of the listing going live. With this app, you can be loading that futon in the back of your truck before anybody else even realizes it’s been listed.

Another thing that Noah does is to simply tell the app to notify you of all things that pop up under “Free”, especially if you’re building or doing some remodeling work – there are always free building materials and cast off kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures posted on there. It’s definitely something we plan to take full advantage of as we get further along in our building plans.

It should be noted that the “free” section of Craigslist CAN be dangerous if you have poor impulse control. Otherwise, you might wind up with a gigantic 13-year-old 66″ big screen TV in your garage just a few weeks before you move into a bus. Not that that happened to US this week or anything.

Oh wait…

bigtv

But is that not an awesome secret weapon, or what?

Happy bargain hunting, friends!

Do you use Craigslist? What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten? Have any other tips and tricks?

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5 thoughts on “Our Top Craigslist Tips (and our secret to getting to the best deals first!)

  1. Now that is a cool app! Here in Canada, craigslist isn’t as big of a thing. Our equivalent is kijiji. I check it two or three times almost every day! Thanks for the other tips. I have a bunch of things I need to list. I got a chair I’ve been wanting for years from my kijiji-stalking habits 😉

    1. Yeah, I find that we sell things on CL much less often than we buy things because so many buyers are flakes :/ I usually wind up donating things just to get them out of the house and clear up space. But I love the good deals we get!

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