My Guide to Buying/Selling on Craigslist
I absolutely love Craigslist, and have been buying and selling on there since I was in high school. I’ve bought and sold cars, electronics, boats, motorcycles furniture you name it. For anyone who has limited experience here are my biggest tips to getting good deals and not getting ripped off.
There are two categories of things for sale, things you can get burned on buying and things you can’t. For example books and furniture you can’t really get ripped off on (assuming you check the furniture for bugs!). A car or TV you CAN get burned on. Anything that wears out over time brings with it the possibility of failure.
Buy things you understand
If you don’t know anything about cars, don’t buy one on craigslist. Unless of course you’re trying to learn very very quickly about them. I bought my first motorcycle for $300 on craigslist (without knowledge) and fell in love with learning how to fix them. If that doesn’t sound romantic and exciting to you then just stay away from buying things you don’t have knowledge of.
The quality of the seller is more important than what they’re selling.
This is one that only frequent craigslister’s will understand. When buying something in the “can get ripped off” category, aside from thorough knowledge of what you’re buying the character of the seller is paramount. Can you trust this person? Are they honest about the flaws of the product? When buying something complex like a car, if you don’t feel 100% sure of the motives and ethics of the seller you must walk away.
Never accept paypal
This is a common scam buyers pull. Essentially they offer to pay for your item with paypal, then once they do they complain to paypal that you ripped them off and they never received the item. Since paypal has a serious buyer protection program they will almost always side with the scammer, putting you out of all the money. Just don’t ever do it. Cash only.
Avoid meeting at your home
While the VAST majority of people buying and selling on craigslist are great human beings, there’s no need to risk it. If possible meet somewhere public. SImple as that.
Meet close to your home
If you’re selling or buying you want to meet as close to your home as possible. By not committing a lot of time traveling to meet, you significantly strengthen your negotiation position by being able to walk away more easily. Try haggling over that last $100 bucks when you have a 2 hour drive home to make afterwards.
Always Haggle – I say haggle because real ‘negotiation’ is for much more complex transactions (like a benefits package and salary). Most people haggle the same way, you make a low offer, they counter and back and forth until you hit the midway point. This is fine for most transactions and you should plan on doing it to save yourself a few bucks. Here are few more tips to swing the odds in your favor.
Beware of the lowball offer
Only make lowball offers in person with cash in your hand. Sellers get turned off you offer half price over an email. If you take the time to meetup and seem like a generally nice person then most sellers will be more receptive to a low offer.
Know the score
I usually only go see items that I wouldn’t mind paying full price for (it saves yourself time). But if you MUST get a deal then know the score. By that I mean know the demand for the item you want, and know how desperate the seller is to get rid of it. How do we do this? Generally asking outright most people will tell you way too much information about why they need to sell. If you find a seller with an urgent need you’re much more likely to get the price you want.
Distance traveled to meet is the ultimate advantage you can give yourself. Whoever can walk away the easiest usually wins the last bit of negotiation. For example say you’re selling a car and you’ve haggled down to the last $200 difference. Buyer is at 3100 and you want 3300. If you’re only a block away from home and you happen to know this guy drove an hour to get there you can be firm on the 3300 and be almost positive he’ll accept it. No one wants a long drive home empty handed.
The coin flip mexican standoff tactic
Sometimes on larger items you will get down to a difference of around $100. Neither party wants to give up that last little bit because they figure they other won’t walk away. This is also due to some kind of weird ego trip people have about being the last person to relent in a haggling situation. If you’re really stuck a fun tactic is to get the other person to agree to a coin flip, heads it’s your price tails it’s theres. This is an easy way to over time get yourself a slight discount while avoiding annoying haggling stalemates. Everyone I’ve ever proposed it to agrees to it.
That’s all there is to it! Keep in mind the points on safety and product risk, haggle like a pro and you’ll end up a true Craigslist veteran in no time.