The 25 Best Things to Buy on Craigslist

by Paul Michael on 14 November 2011 20 comments

Craigslist continues to be one of the go-to places for people to buy and sell used (and sometimes brand-new) goods. Not only is it simple and free to use (thanks, Craigslist, for staying true to your word) but it also has a vast reach, with sites across the United States and the rest of the world. (See also: Get a Deal Every Time You Shop With These Tools)

There are plenty of articles out there about what to avoid on Craigslist. (The big ones are used infant seats, cell phones, and high-end electronic goods.) But there aren’t nearly as many articles about what you should go to Craigslist for. Well, here (in no particular order) are the 25 best things to buy off Craigslist. You may agree, disagree, or want to add to the list. By all means, use the comments box as a way to inform our other Wise Bread readers.

1. Exercise Equipment

Why? Quite simply — human nature. Every year people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get fit, and stay in shape. And for a while, they make good on those resolutions, going out and buying some shiny new equipment to make it happen. However, most people soon realize that the infomercials and ads made this “easy-peasy workout” look a lot easier that it actually is. It takes effort. And soon the exercise bikes, elliptical trainers, and treadmills are gathering dust in the basement. When the time comes to sell the equipment, you can usually snap up an almost brand new piece of machinery for less than half the price. Sometimes they’ll be almost giving it away to get it out of the house, because no one likes a reminder of a failed resolution.

2. Bed Frames

Not mattresses. Yikes. But the bed frame itself, that’s a different story. You can pick up some terrific deals on bed frames, including four-poster beds, and all you have to do is arrange for pick up if you don’t have a truck large enough to do the job. Craigslist actually has a section called “services” where you can quickly find people to help you move large items for a nominal fee. Some people make good extra money doing it.

3. Furniture

We just bought a new house, and it’s twice the size of our old home. Ironically, with the market being the way it is, it cost almost the same price. But it has left us with some large, empty rooms that need to be filled. We’re going straight to Craigslist for furniture, especially for some classic mid-century modern pieces. They are much cheaper than store-bought pieces, have more character, and were built to last the test of time.

4. DVDs and CDs

People buy DVDs and CDs. They watch them, listen to them, and get bored with them. Or they copy them to their iPods, computers, or other media devices, and then they sit and watch the original gather dust. So they sell them, and that’s where you can come in and pick up some great bargains. I’ve found recent movies and albums for sale on Craigslist for just a few bucks.

5. Video Games

Even more copious than movies and albums are video games. The reason is one of usefulness. Unlike DVDs and CDs, once a game has been completed, there is very little point in doing it all over again. So you will see tons of titles on Craigslist that are way cheaper than buying new. And once you’ve bought and played the title, you can resell it or trade it in for a discount on a game (used is always cheaper and just as good…if you can wait).

Typewriter

6. Collectibles

Typewriters. Old cameras. Action figures. Clocks. Teapots. You name it — there is something to add your collection on Craigslist. Finding them isn’t always easy, as sometimes people put them in rather confusing sections or don’t know exactly how to list them. But put in the time, and you’ll find your items way cheaper than on eBay. Plus there's no wait for shipping.

7. Tools

Have you noticed how expensive good tools are? Sure, you can buy the cheap and cheerful tools at Walmart and Target, but if you want good, solid, reliable tools that last decades, you need to pay. Craigslist is a great option for these kinds of tools, and you’ll get them way cheaper.

8. Books

Personally, I love the library for books. But sometimes it’s not an option, especially if you want to highlight sections and write notes in the margin. Or if you want books for the kids that you don’t have to worry about them destroying. There is a whole category on Craigslist devoted to books, and the prices are rock-bottom as always.

9. Toys

Kids have this habit of wanting toys, playing with them for 20 minutes, and then throwing them in the corner. If they’re not forgotten about, they played with so much and so hard that they’re destroyed. So why pay full price? You can pick up some of the latest toys on Craigslist for pennies, and you won’t have to contend with that annoying packaging that would challenge the patience of a saint.

10. Bicycles

You have to be careful on this one, but if you know what you want and what to look for, you can scoop up some major bargains. Kids bikes are a great option here, as are cruiser bikes. Just be wary of bikes that look too good to be true; they may have been rode hard and repaired often, or they could be stolen.

11. Framed Art

I was in Target yesterday and saw some nice art, albeit mass-produced, and it was $100. I saw the same piece on Craigslist for $20. Chances are you won’t be as lucky finding the exact piece you want, but if you just want to browse and pick up something decorative for a few bucks, you’ll do well. You may even find original art for a bargain, or a long lost masterpiece!

12. Office Supplies

I’m not just talking about pens and pencils here, but chairs, cubicles, shredders, printers, whiteboards, and so much more. Sadly, the poor economy means that a lot of businesses have gone into liquidation, and when that happens, the supplies have to be sold off for pennies on the dollar. I bought a white board for $20 that retails for over $180.

13. Refrigerators and Other Appliances

When we decided to rent out our old home, we didn’t want to leave the stainless steel appliances behind. We wanted them for the new home, but didn’t want to pay another small fortune to get replacements. We searched Craigslist and found a one-year-old, black, side-by-side refrigerator for just $200. The cheapest we could find it used in an appliance store was $600. When people want their old appliances gone, they will take much less money. Take advantage of that.

14. Antiques

You really need to know your stuff, and I don’t. I would love to browse the listings, see an old item for a few bucks, and sell it for thousands. But I know plenty of people who have made some big money buying antiques for profit.

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15. Sports Equipment for Kids

When you have kids, you soon discover that they grow quickly. They outgrow their sports uniforms in no time, and the uniforms are often in amazing condition. Parents will sell these to make cash for the next size up, and you can pick up bargains for your kids. Adults can also find great deals on golf clubs, fishing gear, and lots of other sporty stuff.

Guitar

16. Musical Instruments

So many guitars. So many pianos. So many drum kits. Take a look at the musical instruments section of your local Craigslist, and you’ll soon see how many instruments, often barely used, are up for grabs. Again, it’s a mix of unrealized dreams (wow, playing guitar isn’t easy), kids who aren’t interested, and people who are moving up to bigger and better equipment. Whatever the reason, you make out.

17. Barbeque Grills

Who doesn’t love a brand new barbeque grill? Well, some people don’t, because they’re really expensive these days. But you can find bargains on Craigslist, if you don’t mind a little grease and smoke from someone else’s cookouts. Trust me, they all look that way after a few weeks anyway, and you can save hundreds of dollars going used.

18. Sinks, Tubs, Toilets, and Showers

One word for you — remodel. When people decide to upgrade their bathrooms, they want the old fixtures and fittings gone quickly. But quite often, these upgrades are about style and modernization, not function. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and you can find some wonderful old sinks, tubs, toilets, and showers units for almost nothing.

19. Lawn Mowers

I’m in the market for a bigger mower now that I’ve moved. I don’t want to pay a bigger price though, so I’m trawling the Craigslist ads for a self-propelled model. The stores sell these for upwards of $300, but one look at Craigslist and you’ll see models, almost new, for half that price. Now is a great time to buy too, because winter is a tough time to sell a mower. Just test drive it first.

20. Pack ‘n’ Plays, High Chairs, and Rockers

There’s a lot of baby stuff I’ll avoid on Craigslist, purely because of safety concerns. No infant seats, no cribs, no strollers. I just don’t know where they’ve been, what they’ve endured, and how well they were taken care of. But things like Pack ‘n’ Plays, high chairs, and rockers, well, they’re much less likely to have any problems. When baby grows up, the parents want to make room for new furniture, and you can pick up items for 75% less than retail.

21. Dog Kennels

Our 120-pound dog needed a big kennel. The price of Dogloo in her size, new, was about $300. We picked up a barely used one for $50. All it needed was a quick hose down to remove some grass and dirt, and it looked brand new. Now the bigger challenge is getting her to actually use it.

Swingset

22. Playsets

You will see lots of listings for these on Craigslist, and you need to use good judgment and inspect the items carefully. Some of them have been played with hard and left unattended, and could be too rickety for children of any age. But some are pristine, with parents selling them because the kids don’t play on them, or they want to make room for one of those huge trampolines. If you do your due diligence, you can spend hundreds instead of thousands. But you will need to dismantle it and reassemble, so take plenty of pictures before you start!

23. Outdoor Furniture

Just like with lawn mowers, this is a good time of year to pick up outdoor furniture. Who wants to be sat outside in the cold when the warmth of the fireplace beckons? But summer will be back, and you can pick up some real steals. A lot of people buy outdoor furniture and realize they’re not actually using it, so they’ll sell it off really cheap.

24. Landscaping Supplies

When homeowners landscape their yards, they will invariably be left with overages. They may also have removed some things to make way for new shrubs, benches, pathways, and so on. You can find cheap or free landscaping rock, stones, concrete, and all sorts of other backyard goodies on Craigslist for a fraction of the price you’ll pay at a hardware store. Just remember…you haul.

25. Crockery and Silverware

How are your plates and dishes looking? If it’s time for replacements, Craigslist is a phenomenal resource. For a start, a lot of newlyweds will get crockery and silverware as gifts, and they can’t use it all. So, they sell it. Also, people looking to clear out space in the kitchen will sell off their older sets for almost nothing. It’s a good way to spruce up your kitchen on a budget.

So, do you have any “must buy on Craigslist” tips to share? Please let us know.

Additional photo credits: xlibber, Daehyun Park, barelyfitz
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Guest's picture
PKamp3

You nailed it with number one! Weights for exercise are pretty much interchangeable - you need to know if you have an olympic bar or not, but outside of that you can pretty much just buy what you find on Craigslist. Considering weights are regular priced at ~$2 a lb you can usually enjoy massive savings by going the CL route.

Guest's picture
KarenJ

I agree with your list, but I have to say that for some of the larger items you have to have access to a truck (or a friend with a truck). I have neither, and that makes some larger items harder to obtain. I lost out on a brand new treadmill in my own neighborhood because I didn't have a way to get it home. Plus I would have needed help to get it to the basement.

Paul Michael's picture

Hey Karen, remember that there are people who offer moving help, it's usually a flat fee and you can find them in the Services section. We bought a fridge last year, way too big for us, but we paid someone $50 to pick it up and deliver it to our door. Even with that delivery charge added in, it was half the price of a used fridge from a store. Also, places like Home Depot offer truck rental for about $20/hour.

Carrie Kirby's picture

I was thinking of looking on Craigslist (or Ebay) for big buckets of Legos, considering the high price of the sets.

Guest's picture
Norman

Big lover of Craigslist here! I recently purchased a condo and it needed a new kitchen faucet. I found a brand new one on Craigslist for 20 bucks that normally sells for over $100. The guy who sold it to me had just bought a brand new house and he works for a competing brand of faucet, so he had those installed in his new house and wanted to get a little money out of the ones he took out. Man, I love a good bargain!

Guest's picture
mkibrick

Especially for DVDs, CDs, and video games, it helps to compare the prices from Amazon sellers and Ebay. Setting up a meeting with a craigslist seller can be a lot more painful than simply having an item shipped to you.

Guest's picture
Wldflr

Buying furniture on Craigslist may not be such a good idea.

Easy way to bring unwanted bed bugs into your home. Eggs and larvae are very small.

- from wife of former bug exterminator.

Meg Favreau's picture

I was really nervous about this when I bought my couch off of Craigslist, and I looked up bedbug-finding tips before I went to pick it up. What I read suggested looking closely around cushion seams for bugs. Thankfully, I got an awesome couch without any biting crawling things. I'd love to know if, as the wife of a former exterminator, you have any other tips for sussing out whether there are bedbugs on a piece of furniture?

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm also curious about the bed bug issue. I need som upholstered furniture, but don't want to risk inviting a bed bug infestation (so much more costly and annoying than paying for new furniture in the first place!)

Is there a way to simply "treat" any furniture i buy?

Guest's picture

I really agree with you on furniture. You can get nice condition bedroom furniture at a great price. I already bought 2 bedroom furniture sets. Your list of 25 contains really good items.

Guest's picture
jay

Just be sure to disinfect exercise equipment

Guest's picture
Guest

So pretty much everthing except food, clothes, and TVs? Thanks for the advice.

Guest's picture
DR

Yes, DVDs can be bought for $3 or less. Great deal

Guest's picture
Guest

A secondhand plastic dog kennel needs to be washed out with hot soapy water with a little bleach in it, just in case the former tenant had ringworm or Giardia. Both are highly contagious, and when our dog picked up a case of each (several months apart) walking on the neighborhood dog trail, it was very expensive to get cleared up. And the vet recommended bleach cleaning his house, toys, and bedding.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just a FYI on the DVDs, CDs and Video Games. Almost all of these media products are sold with a license that stipulate that ownership is non-transferable, even without payment. That said, I personally do buy and sell them, but thought it unusual that a commercial websites would want to promote a non-grey-area activity so prominently, if at all. Just saying.

Guest's picture
Bicycle Superhero

Thieves sell stolen bicycles on Craigslist constantly. Why? Because it's fast, easy, and untraceable. Any chump has access to the site. If you are considering buying a bike on CL, consider these moves.

1. Respond to lengthy ads where the owner really has something to say about the bike beyond a basic description. Photos do not suffice.

2. Talk to the seller. They should have a story of ownership and repair.

3. Does the product match the owner? (You know what I mean.)

4. Meet them in the driveway of their home, not a street corner, ally or anonymous public location.

5. Check the serial number against police records. This takes one phone call. Look online for announcements of stolen bikes to make sure it's not listed. Websearch "stolen bike registry" with the name of your city. Or check CL!

If this sounds like a lot of effort to you, please consider how awful it is to have your beloved bicycle stolen. YOU can discourage such crime by being a wise and responsible CL shopper. Happy riding!

Guest's picture

Craigslist, the anarchic classifieds website, has developed a reputation for hosting some of the oddest adverts ...

So why am I listing in for free?

Guest's picture
Nick

I think if you focus on selling things to groups who are, by nature, deal shoppers, you can do very well on craigslist. Of course, you need to be careful (we only accept cash as a policy to minimize the scamsters). But it can be great.

We've found children's products between $100 and $300 to be a good sweet spot for craigslist. We just sold a stroller on Craigslist in that price range last week. And we got full asking price (which was a good deal admittedly) and got it quick.

Guest's picture

I feel like there is a lot of potential in craigslist searches for almost any household item you might need. When someone is looking to upgrade and remodel, they almost always want to get something for the things they are taking out. It's either throw it away, or take a picture and post it on craigslist-most people choose the latter. It is beneficial to those who want to take the time to sift through these lists, but in the end is often a big payoff. Especially with the holiday's coming up, this is a great time of year to look for good deals on potential gifts for children. Sporting and gaming equiptment, along with musical intstruments are all good items to look for on craigslist- kids will be too excited about the new present to notice if its second-hand, or if it has a scratch somewhere on it. If your a family strapped for cash during the holiday's, this is one of the smartest ways to give amazing gifts at a fraction of the cost.

Guest's picture
Nick G.

I agree, bikes and instruments are great items to buy on Craigslist. I think a lot of people that are looking to get rid of a bike or guitar are just looking to find someone that will appreciate what they are offering.
If a bike is worth $300 used, they will sell it for $125 to a buyer that will use and enjoy the bike.
If a guitar is worth $200, they will sell it for $75 to a musician that wants to use the guitar.