Craigslist is ancient in terms of websites. The site was created in 1995 by a guy named Craig Newmark (hence the site’s name). It started as an email distribution list Newmark put together to share local events and then became a website to share classified ads.
Since its inception, Craigslist has hosted millions of classified ads for jobs, housing, and a multitude of things for sale. Countless people have used the site to buy, sell, find jobs, hire people, and even get dates (although the personal ads are no longer a part of the site).
If you go to the site now, it feels like going back in time. The design is straightforward, and the team behind Craigslist has made a point to keep things basic and not focus on making it as profitable as possible. That makes Craigslist unique compared to other classified sites and is probably one of the reasons it has stuck around for so long. Sometimes less is more.
While some sites have popped up recently to compete with Craigslist, it is still a thriving marketplace used by millions of people.
If you know what you’re doing, you can make good money flipping things on the site, or find great deals on the stuff you need.
How to Sell on Craigslist
To list something on Craigslist, head over to the home page and click “create a posting” in the top left corner of the page.
Having an account is not required to create a posting.
If you’re not sure the item you want to sell is allowed on Craigslist, check out this page before going any further.
Select your preferred location and what type of posting you want to create. For most things you sell, you will need to select “for sale by owner.” That will take you to the page where you choose the category for the item you want to sell.
Once you select the category, it will take you to the listing page.
On this page, you will fill out all of the information about your item. Some of the data is optional, but you have to fill out the title, description, zip code, and email address. You can choose to keep your email private if you wish.
Titles are Important
In your title, try to be descriptive and include as many relevant keywords as possible, so your item will show up in more search results.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar that is tobacco sunburst color, and you have the case you’re putting with it. Instead of just making the title “Gibson electric guitar with the case,” make it “1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar Tobacco Sunburst + Case”.
You get 70 characters for the listing title, and if you can fill it up with relevant keywords, your item will be viewed by more people.
Use the Description to Make the Sale
You can add 1,000 characters in the description, so this is where you want to convince buyers why they should buy your item. Don’t make the listing sound better than it is, but try your best to make the sale sound like a great deal.
Write a short story of how you’ve used the item and how it has worked for you. Make it sound like you hate to let it go, and the only reason you’re getting rid of it is that you need the money.
The more you can make the description sound like the item is incredible, the better chance you’ll have of making more money and selling it quickly.
In addition to making a great sales pitch in the description, be very detailed with what the offer in the listing includes. Also, list any defects the item may have. If you can make the buyer feel like they know everything they need to know about the item by reading your description, they’ll be more confident to reach out and possibly purchase from you.
When it comes to pricing the item, I always price it a little higher than what I really want because people will try to negotiate you down. If I need $100 for something, I may list it at $125, so when the buyer asks if I’ll take $100, I’ll get the price I want while making the buyer feel like they’re getting a deal.
What Optional Information Should You Provide?
On top of the required information, you can also provide some optional details if you want. Depending on the item category, you will have the option to provide things like the make/manufacturer, model number, measurements, and condition.
There are also options like “cryptocurrency ok,” “delivery available,” “include more ads by this seller link,” as well as a place to include your phone number and address.
You can fill out as much or as little of this information as you want, but I would be cautious about including my home address. I would fill out all of the item specific options, though, so the listing is as complete as possible.
A lot of people will want to reach you by text, so you may want to include your phone number in the listing.
Once you have everything filled out, click continue. That will bring you to a page to enter a location. If you want to meet the buyer at a specific location, you can enter the address. Otherwise, you can just enter the city and zip code and click continue.
Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words
After you click continue on the location page, you will add images. Pictures actually aren’t required on Craigslist, but not adding them is a big mistake. When people shop online, they want to see what the item looks like before committing to buy it.
While you want to describe the item as best as you can in the title and description, the images are most likely what the buyer will use to decide if they want the item.
If you have a modern smartphone, it should be all you need to take great photos. Use natural lighting if possible, and don’t have anything in the background. You want the pictures to focus on the item only, not that pile of clutter you’ve been meaning to pick up.
Once you’ve taken quality photos of the item that shows how it looks in real life, and any defects, upload the best image first. The first image will be the one featured on the listing, and then you can add up to 23 others for a total of 24 shots. 24 is a lot of pictures, but the more you add, the better!
You want to make it feel like the buyer is holding the item in their hands.
Publish and Wait
After you upload all the images, you’re officially done with the listing! Once you click continue, it will take you to a review page so you can make sure everything is how you want it. Then, all you have to do is publish.
When you hit publish, you will be sent an email with a link. You must click the link in the email for your listing to be verified and become active. You will also use this link to manage your listing if you need to make any changes or delete it once the item sales.
Your listing will stay live for 45 days, and you will have to renew it if it doesn’t sell within that time.
And now we wait. Depending on the contact method you chose, you will start getting responses to the listing either through email or your phone.
Now all you have to do is respond to people who reach out, and if someone wants your item, determine a time and place to do the transaction. Due to safety concerns, it’s best to meet in a busy public area. You may even ask the buyer to meet at your local police station if it’s nearby.
How to Buy on Craigslist
Buying on Craigslist is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is go to the site, click the category you want to search in, or click “all for sale” and either scroll through the listings or enter a search term in the search bar to narrow the listings down.
Once you find an item you’re interested in, contact the seller through their chosen contact method and see if the item is still available. Sometimes sellers forget to delete the listing after the item has sold. If the item is still available, figure out when and where you can meet the seller to purchase it. Just like when you sell an item, you’ll want to meet in a safe location.
Buying on Craigslist may sound like a lot of work compared to shopping at your local retail stores or on places like Amazon, where the item will be shipped right to your door.
The beauty of Craigslist, though, is that you can find great things at a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere.
You might even find something for free!
I got a bunch of for free tile off Craigslist, and it would have cost me several hundred dollars if I had bought the same tile at a store. We ended up not using the tile, and I sold it for $200.
Not a bad profit and you may be able to replicate this process in your area to resell things and make some money! Or just get great deals on items you need to buy anyways.
How to Stay Safe When Dealing With Strangers on Craigslist
Buying and selling on Craigslist can work out great, but there are some things to be mindful of when using the platform.
The main things to keep in mind are to watch out for scams and fraud, as well as staying safe when meeting people.
When it comes to scams and fraud keep these things in mind:
- Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
- Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds (e.g., Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
- Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
- Transactions are between users only. No third party provides a “guarantee.”
- Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc.).
- Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist.
- Refuse background/credit checks until you have met the landlord/employer in person.
- “Craigslist voicemails” – Any message asking you to access or check “Craigslist voicemails” or “Craigslist voice messages” is fraudulent – no such service exists.
Here’s what Craigslist has to say on their safety page about meeting people in person:
- insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
- Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
- Be especially careful buying/selling high-value items.
- Tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
- Take your cell phone along if you have one.
- Consider having a friend accompany you.
- Trust your instincts.
As long as you stick to these guidelines, you should be fine! Lots of people are worried about their safety when it comes to dealing with Craigslist, but the amount of violent crimes associated with the site is minimal.
Now that you know how to buy and sell safely, it’s time to get on Craigslist and make some money or hunt for those deals.