Living on a budget is what I’m all about. One of the cornerstones of living on a budget is buying things on the used market rather than buying new. There are a few things that should always be purchased new: toothbrushes, underwear and sandwiches are a few examples.
For most other things, you can get a way better deal on the used market, and there’s no better used market for most things than Craigslist. Learning how to negotiate on Craigslist is relatively easy. Most people are willing to be bargained with if you’re respectful and informed.
For a few months after our son was born, I ran a little Craigslist flipping business. Working part time, I earned about 15k in six months. Although I sold many different things (anything that I could buy cheap was fair game), I focused mostly on appliances. I got the idea from the man himself, Ryan Finlay over at ReCraigslist.
I learned the ins and outs of negotiating and how to approach sellers so that you are most likely to walk away with a deal. It’s not hard, but you need to follow a few simple steps to get the best deal every time.
How To Get The Best Deal On Craigslist
1. Research the item before you contact the seller
This is the first and most important aspect to getting the deal you want on any item. You need to be well-informed before you even start shopping. The reason I am able to consistently get appliances so cheap is that I know them inside and out. I know which washers were reliable and which ones were not. I can show you how to tell if a machine has been abused and how to tell if one has been treated well.
You aren’t necessarily going to be a world class expert on everything that you buy, but here are a few important things to know:
- How much does the item sell for on average
- What are common issues with the item
- Are there lots of them available in your area, or are you dealing with something that’s more rare?
I always make sure that I know what my ideal price is, as well as the maximum that I would be willing to pay before I even contact the seller. I will be a little more bold with my offer when I’m buying an item that is really easy to come by, like a dryer. If I’m buying something more specific and rare, I’m more likely to make an offer much closer to the asking price.
2. Email or Phone
When you reach out to somebody selling an item, you increase your chances of getting a response with a brief, kind and polite message. Keep it simple here, you don’t want to gush over how awesome the item is, as this may cause the seller to not want to haggle. This is the email that I send when I’m buying on Craigslist:
“Hey there, I’m interested in the Honda Civic you have listed for sale. I would like to come check it out tonight if possible. I’m free any time after 5, let me know if that works for you. Thank you!
There’s a couple of important things here. First off, it’s polite and to the point. I have eliminated some back and forth emails by letting them know when I’m free, giving them an opportunity to just accept and say “sounds good, here’s my address, see you then”. Many times, people will email about an item and say something like “I have cash”.
Don’t do this. Those people are usually the ones who want to make a low ball offer and sellers know it. They know you have cash, they’re not expecting to be paid in Dairy Queen coupons.
If you’re calling the seller, the same principles will help you get the best deal. Be polite and brief and offer a few times that work for you to come check the item out.
3. The Viewing
This is going to go differently depending on what you’re buying, but the same principles apply. First off, be polite, shake hands and make small talk if you can. You want the seller to like you. I like to try and find common ground however I can. If I see a motorcycle in the driveway, I mention that I ride as well. This works for dogs, kids etc.
Check the item over thoroughly. Make sure it’s as advertised but don’t use too much time here. If you’re not sure it’s what you’re looking for, just walk. Politely let them know that it’s not what you’re after and be on your way. Nobody is going to be upset that you didn’t waste any more of their time.
4. The Offer
If want to make an offer. Try to do it while the conversation is going well. I like to make my offer like this: “Thanks so much for your time. This washer would work for me. I’d be willing to offer you $80 for it”. Some people will accept right there, some will flat out refuse, and others will counter offer. It’s pretty tough to tell who is who here. I prefer not to haggle as there’s always another deal around the corner.
Here’s what I do. If they refuse my offer, I may make another offer if it’s an item that I really want. If we can’t agree on a price I shake their hand, thank them for their time and let them know that my offer stands until I find something else. I’ve actually had people run out to my car as I’m leaving and change their minds because they liked me and just wanted the item gone.
5. There’s Always Another Deal
This is the overarching principle when you’re buying on Craigslist. There is always another deal. Unless you’re buying one-of-a-kind paintings or antiques, there will always be another item popping up that meets your criteria. Be patient and wait for the next thing to come along.
I hope you’re able to put these tips to good use, it’s a great foundation for how to negotiate on Craigslist or any place you buy used stuff. This technique has made me thousands of dollars. When you’re flipping items for a living, you get to know what people are willing to pay for something and it’s pretty consistent. This means that your money is made when you buy, not when you sell. It’s much easier to buy something low than it is to sell it high.
What’s the best deal you’ve gotten on Craigslist? Let me know in the comments below.