Should you be selling on Craigslist?

Friday June 1414th Jun 2024
6 min. read
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You would have to have been living under a rock for the past 5 years to not have heard of Craigslist. However, what you probably don't know is that Craigslist, with their 30 million visits per month, gets almost as much traffic as the almighty eBay, and for all us online retailers, it is 100% free to use!

Could this be the ultimate eBay alternative? Perhaps. Let's find out more...

What is Craigslist?

Often described as an online community, Craigslist is a platform for users to advertise products or services via online classified advertisements. It's a popular place for job or employee seekers, which is how the site earns money, but more importantly, it is also a platform where you can reach a potential audience of millions, and sell, sell, sell!  

While Craigslist has subdomains for over 450 cities all around the world, it has a strong local focus and encourages buyers and sellers to meet in person to exchange goods for cash, rather than shipping items and using payment processors such as PayPal, like we do on eBay.

Craigslist generates their income solely from job listings and a few adult entertainment listings, which aside from giving you a zero fees place to sell your items, it also means there won't be any flashing banner advertisements taking your potential buyers away from your postings!

For first-time users, one of the first things you will notice is that Craigslist takes a no-frills approach to its website. There are no fancy logos or colors.  In fact, it almost looks like a website out of 1998! Despite, the obvious shortcomings in design, Craigslist is super easy to use and is very easy for buyers to navigate.

💡 Tips: Being less commercially-focused, Craigslist allows sellers to list links to off-Craigslist websites, making it a fantastic tool to drive more traffic to your own personal ecommerce site.

Why sell on Craigslist?

Well, aside from the fact that it's free to list and sell items, it also widens your audience considerably and creates more selling opportunities for you. We've always encouraged sellers to sell on multiple platforms; when members ask us how to increase their sales, it's one of the first suggestions we make.

Of course, I'm not saying that you should give up selling on eBay, or wherever it is that you are currently selling, but it is certainly true that most experienced sellers find that selling on multiple platforms is hugely beneficial to their selling success.

How Craigslist works:

Unlike eBay, Craigslist does not encourage receiving payments via credit card payments or payment providers such as PayPal. Instead, when an item is sold on Craigslist, the buyer and seller will meet to exchange cash for the item. This is why Craigslist has an individual site for various American states and cities, as well as other countries and international cities.

Craigslist discourages transactions that involve shipping. In fact, I've heard from long-term users that using the word "shipping" in your posting might be flagged by a moderator.

The details of where and when you will meet with the buyer can be included in your posting description, but more commonly, this is discussed in post-sale emails between you and the buyer.

Getting started

Craigslist does not have a membership account system like other selling platforms. All you need to get set to sell is an email address. That's right; no need to enter your address or phone number, verify your address, come up with some abstract user name, or preload any money onto your account.

To create an account, simply click the My Account button and then the 'sign up for an account' link. Then simply choose a password and accept the terms of use, and you are ready to sell!

Posting items

Posting items is simple. Select your state, city or country then click the post to classifieds button on the top left hand of the page. Next select which type of post you require (for sale) and choose a category. You might find that the category structure is much less simplified than eBay's. For example, if you select Clothing and Accessories, you will not be asked to specify if you are selling men's, women's or children's clothing, nor will you need to specify if it is a clothing item, or an accessory such as shoes or a handbag.

Next up, create a posting title. Go beyond writing a vague title like "laptop for sale"; make sure you list more specific details. Because of Craigslist's broad categories, buyers will be doing more browsing than they would on eBay, so offer as much detail as possible in your posting title.

Next set your price and location of the item. Craigslist uses only fixed prices; there are no auction-style listings at all. It is recommended that you list the price a little higher than you expect, because many Craigslist buyers are used to bargaining.  

Once you have negotiated a deal with your buyer (this will be done via email, there is no question and answer system on Craigslist, or negotiating tool like on iOffer), you will arrange a rendezvous point to meet and exchange the item for the agreed upon price.

Meeting a buyer in person might seem like a lot more work, and it is compared simply shipping an item out to your buyer. But you can get savvy and arrange for all your buyers to meet you in the same place at around the same time so that you don't have to make multiple trips.

Make sure that you always meet in safe, public places.

Scam Prevention

Scams are rife on Craigslist. Your best protection is to know the signs to look out for, and to trust your instincts. Craigslist has said that when buyers and sellers meet to buy and sell, they both eliminate 99% of the chances of being scammed. Generally, scams which target sellers only occur when you are not meeting with the buyer in person

According to Craigslist, most scams which arise from Craigslist transactions involve one or more of the following:

  • An inquiry from a buyer from far away, or from overseas
  • Inability or blatant refusal to meet up to complete the transaction
  • A suggestion to pay via Western Union, Money Gram or other wire service, money order, check or a 'Craigslist guarantee'

A typical scam goes something like this:

The buyer enthusiastically contacts the seller and confirms that they would like to purchase the item. They inform you that regretfully, they cannot meet you in person, because they are either pressed for time, or because they are in another city.

They offer to pay you via a bank check, which you receive, before you send out the item to the buyer.

However after depositing the check, you are informed by your bank 3 days later that the check was a fake. And because you sent the item to your buyer before you had the check cleared by the bank, you are left without the item you sold, a fake bank check AND a possible law suit on your hands! That's right; the bank may prosecute YOU for attempting to bank a phoney check.

This kind of scam comes in all sorts of different variations. To find out other signs you should be aware of, check out Craigslist's About Scams page

Aside from informing yourself more about typical scams, the other thing you can do is specify in your listings that you will only deal with local buyers, and will only accept cash in person from the buyer in exchange for the item. You can specify these conditions in your listing.

My two cents...

I've a real soft spot for Craigslist. I love how they seem to rebel against everything that the likes of eBay and Amazon do in regards to buyer protection, membership accounts and policing of listings. Instead, Craigslist acts as an anarchic system where they just let people do their thing by buying and selling both products and services.

Craigslist rebels against all other platforms of its kind by acting solely as a platform provider for sellers and advertisers; It is almost 100% community moderated, and despite the fact that it is over 7 million visitors per week, is run by only 25 paid staff members. Furthermore, it does not certify any sellers, offer any buyer protection, handle payments or offer any Escrow or other payment services.

Instead, Craigslist takes the back seat and allows buyers and sellers to do their thing!

SaleHoo members are divided with their opinions and experiences in using Craigslist. While some have found great success there, others didn't appreciate the disorderly approach that Craigslist takes to online trading.

Whatever your stance, I recommend giving Craigslist a go; list a couple of items and see for yourself how it all works, and if the slightly more grass-roots approach works for you.


About the author
Agustin Federovisky

Agustin is a Senior Product Designer that specializes in Strategic UX & Visual Design. His passion lies in designing solutions to complex B2B product problems and has done so for many big and small companies across the world, such as Apple, Wells Fargo, Mercado Libre, and AT&T.

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  • cheerfred 12th of April
    Yeah, craigslist is a great site, there are many retailer site take good use of craigslist and gain lots of traffic and business. I love this site!
  • sergii 14th of April
    It is an excellent site, I shall advise it to all!
  • Erol Alici 25th of April
    What use it is if you have to meet everyone in person, you really think we have time to meet all our 100+ clients? :-)
  • Uncle Joe Adamson 28th of April
    Craigslist is great for anything that is - Expensive or hard to ship - Something a Buyer wants to see, touch, inspect before buying - Significantly used or missing a part, the kind of situation that really gets Sellers hammered on eBay's reputation system (DSRs, Feedback, Opened Cases metrics) - High local demand. If your neighbors will pay top dollar for your thing, why enrich an e-Com platform, PayPal or other payment system and such? Support your community. - Market Value without much room for profit. In other words, you have to get X dollars, but you can't get that with the fees to sell on an e-Com platform. Or the competition on eBay is such that you might not even be seen, whatever the fees and such do to your price point. - Cash leaves no electronic paper trail. - All sales are final. There is no Big Brother coming in after the fact if a buyer has Buyer's Remorse or tries to scam you got a Gypsy Warranty/
  • edward ferland 28th of April
    I am a new to salehoo,but have done quite a bit of business on ebay and Craigslist. One advantage to Craigslist is money in hand without going through paypal. It also depends on the item. I would not want to be meeting customers for a pair of slipper,but I sold quite a number of exercise machines. The dollar profit of the sale is what I use as a guide when determining which service I will use. Also--NO FEES
  • Kim 28th of April
    I would be careful about using this website you posted. The name brand products are from China and are not authentic. Jimmy Choo does not manufactor his shoes in China.
  • 28th of April
    I have been uncomfortable with the idea of selling on Craig's List because of some bad publicity. However, I have a Yamaha electric piano that I paid $ 3,500.00 for 8 years ago and from what I can tell is worth $1500.00 today. Craigs List seems to be a good option for a sale. Thanks for the article and suggestions. I still don't know how I can sell it without someone coming to my house. Any suggestions?
  • Justin Golschneider SaleHoo Admin 1st of May
    Hello! If you’re uncomfortable with having someone come to your house, you can arrange to do the transaction at a public location. The parking lot for a public park is a popular choice, and I’ve even heard of some people using police station parking lots. Just check your town’s rules and regulations first—this may not be allowed everywhere (my own police station would immediately have you towed).

    I don’t recommend trying to do this on property owned by a business—they tend to be pretty touchy about this kind of thing.