How I Earn My Living Buying and Selling Appliances on Craigslist

August 14, 2012

General

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I’ve always been an entrepreneurial sprinkler, chasing business ideas in every direction. This drive was finally channeled three years ago. Some close friends of mine challenged me to pick a business idea and pour myself into it. I chose Craigslist.

Initially I had a hard time focusing on one product category. I was buying and selling anything I could make a buck on. As the months passed, I started noticing which items had a good supply and demand, and which had high profit margins. But this wasn’t enough. I wanted more for my business than simply flipping items. I needed to find a way to add value to each transaction, because where value is added, profits are made. So I chose appliances.

I now buy and sell appliances almost exclusively, selling anywhere from 20-30 appliances a week.

(I was being contacted so often by people wanting to learn the appliance business, we built an entire training course and community that teaches people everything about the appliance business at ApplianceSchool.com)

Why Appliances?

Supply

Supply is very important because I need something to keep me going year-round. Thankfully we are a funny people here in this country. You see, one household will get rid of their perfectly working white appliances to upgrade to stainless steel, and another will upgrade from stainless steel to black. Then another will go from black to “white ice” and then switch to “slate.” Meanwhile a family across town is upgrading from beige to white, and some poor college students are upgrading from the laundromat to anything that runs. I’m more than happy to help facilitate this rather bizarre phenomenon.

Demand

The used appliance market is red hot now. People are trying to save money any way they can, and turning to Craigslist can save hundreds of dollars on used appliances. Why spend $450-$1,500 on a washing machine that you can get for $150 or less. Why pay $500-$1,000 on an oven that you can get for $150-$200?  In general, people are getting their appliances on Craigslist for a quarter to a third of what they cost new. As long as appliances are needed in people’s homes, and there are people that would like to save money, there should be high demand for used appliances.

Profit margin

I wanted to find something that I could make significant money per transaction and I found it in appliances. On average I make between $75-$200 per appliance that I sell. I buy the highest quality appliances I can find at the lowest prices. I then bring them home, clean them inside and out, fix any broken parts, touch up the paint and repost them at less than the market rate.

Also, I haul away the old appliances for free which I often repair and resell. If they are not worth repairing, I will part the machines out and recycle the rest of the metal for money at the scrapyard.

What value do I add?

Fast Sales (to the seller) Quick Delivery (to the buyer)

I will go and purchase good deals immediately, often times buying multiple appliances at a time. I do all the work, including the unhooking of hoses, cords, vents etc and removal of the appliances from the sellers home. This makes for a very quick and pleasant transaction for sellers.

Clean appliances

Clothes dryers should be cleaned out every 2-3 years, and most are never cleaned at all. Dirt and lint starts building up inside the ventilation chute, slowly reducing the airflow and efficiency of the dryer until it actually fails. This is probably the most common reasons dryers break down. Providing people with a clean dryer saves them a significant amount of money in utility costs, drying time, and greatly reduces the risk of a dryer fire. When I deliver a dryer, I also inspect the ducting to the outside of the house, and provide duct cleaning if needed for an additional fee.

Quality appliances

Over the past few years I’ve learned which brands and models are the most reliable and which tend to have the most problems. I have made it my practice to only sell appliances that I would want to own myself.

Delivery and removal of old appliances

Most people are unable to transport appliances. Even if they have a truck or trailer, it’s not an easy thing moving around heavy appliances. I remove the old appliance, install the new one, and change out the dryer cord to match the receptacle. This can save people money and a lot of hassle.

At the end of the day

Sure there are hard days, but they don’t outweigh the fulfilment that comes from being your own boss, making your own hours, and having the freedom to build something you’re proud of.

I chose appliances, but there are fields of opportunities for anyone that is willing to work hard and exercise a little creativity. Sometimes we just need to pick something and run with it. You never know, the opportunity might be right in front of you drying your clothes.

Are you interested in starting an appliance business on the side or full time? I’ve been helping people all over the country start appliance business’s and have just started an entire training site and community at ApplianceSchool.com! It’s an awesome trade to learn and it can be done from anywhere. You can also email me if you have any questions.

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53 Responses to “How I Earn My Living Buying and Selling Appliances on Craigslist”

  1. Michael Says:

    I’m impressed you can remove a 200 lbs appliance from a cramped basement all by yourself – how do you manage that? Also, my (whirlpool) dryer squeaks like crazy, any advice? :)

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve got a dolly with stair skids on it that makes it easier to pull them up stairs. Now, that said, some of the old beast freezers that weigh 300lbs or so I cannot do by myself (without risking injury) unless the stairs are relatively flat. But most basement stairs are pretty steep.

      As for your dryer, it’s either your belt starting to go out, or it’s possibly the rollers. Either way it’s going to need some basic maintenance. There are video’s on how to repair just about everything that could be wrong with any appliance on YouTube and I recommend ordering parts off ebay as you will get them for 5 to 10 times cheaper than from Sears or a parts place. Another thing you could do is call a repair place and ask them how much they would charge to replace the needed part if you brought it in yourself and kind of shop around. Last case scenario, if you don’t want to repair yourself, if your Whirlpool dryer is all white and 12 years old or newer, you should be able to get anywhere from $50-$75 for it as is, squeaking. Go on and find another nice Kenmore or Whirlpool dryer of similar make for the same amount and simple swap them out and no cost but your time. Wait to sell your existing one till you have the new one. The squeak is just annoying and if you can put up with it, I would until the part eventually breaks.

      Reply

      • Michael Says:

        Thanks a lot for your advice on my dryer. Eventually it want from just squeaking to not working at all – the drum would not spin and it would sit idle in ‘sensing’ mode. I braved fixing it myself and it turned out I needed to replace the idler pulley that keeps tension on the belt. The old idler pulley wheel had snapped right off the shaft leaving the belt hanging loose so the drum could not spin. I wanted to fix it fast so went to a parts place but now that the dryer works like a dream I can’t complain about spending only $20 for the part instead of a $200 service call.

        Reply

      • Jack Says:

        Hi Ryan,
        I’m just starting out in the used appliance business it’s doing ok but I would like to sell more,do you have any advice you could send my way.

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          Selling items on Craigslist is a lot like fishing, you have to keep dropping items on CL to catch buyers. Where I’m at, thousands of appliances are listed each day, and even if you have a great appliance at a great price, it’s easy for them to get buried under the other listings. Think about offering free delivery in exchange for the old appliance and get a little more competitive on your pricing. Outside of that, try and see how much business you can drum up offline as well so you’re not entirely dependant upon online sales. Best of luck!

          Reply

      • Hilda Says:

        I am selling my stainless side by side fridge here in the Irving area. its 2 years old. I do not need it and just want to get it off my back porch. Can you give me any ideas? No calls from craigslist have come thru.

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          I would have to see the ad, but I would say price is probably a bit high, maybe better pictures and description. Side by side refrigerators are difficult to move for your average homeowner, so if the price isn’t pretty good they can take a while to sell. Try dropping the price a little and improving the pictures and description. Hope that helps

          Reply

  2. Shane Says:

    Hi, I just found this blog and love it, good job! I am an experienced reseller and not real familiar with appliances. Like you, I have specialized in unique markets but there is always a learning curve with anything new as far as pricing goes. How do you set your buying/resale price on different appliances. I’m sure you have mastered this through tons of trial and error/experience. I haven’t explored your entire blog yet, but you mentioned above you would discuss this. Feel free to email me any tips/advice as well.

    Reply

    • Shane Says:

      Also, one more thing concerning oven/stove/ranges. Do you prefer gas over electric, vise/versa? Do gas ranges sale as well as electric, or is it the other way around? Please let me know. Thanks soo much for all of your shared information.

      Reply

      • Ryan Says:

        I prefer electric over gas as there are far, far more people that use electric ovens/stoves/ranges. I will buy/sell nicer gas ones, but only if they are very nice and somewhat newer. Gas dryer’s don’t sell very quickly at all, leaving quite a few just sitting there on Craigslist. If you have an older one, it’s going to be the last to sell unless it’s priced really low and at that point it really defeats the purpose of selling them in the first place.

        Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Over time, I’ve learned how quickly appliances will sell at different prices. I’m not interested in overpricing an appliance and sitting on it and re-posting it several times if I don’t have to. I price the appliances significantly under the used appliance store prices, yet high enough that I don’t get re-sellers purchasing from me. In other words, you don’t want someone calling you immediately after you’ve posted the item. This only means you priced it too low. The sweet spot is a call within the first 2-4 hours so that the item might sell the first day you post it. Quick turnaround is nice.

      Reply

  3. Eddie Says:

    Good stuff! I can tell you know what your doing!

    Reply

  4. zeke Says:

    How do you go about paying taxes on buying and reselling items? Or is it just under the table sales?

    Reply

  5. Zeke Says:

    Thanks for the previous quick response Ryan. I started buying and reselling a couple of months ago, and like you, I experienced with buying and reselling just about everything imaginable. I too have found that appliances were by far the easiest to resell quickly and to make a good profit off of. I live in a city with the population of about 100 thousand people. Right now I am buying and selling on average about 5-10 appliances per week. I do this full time now and would like to increase the number of appliances up to around 20 per week. However, in the city I’m in appliances seem alot harder to come by, and even though I am constantly on craigslist looking for appliances, there just isn’t as many as I would like there to be. I was wondering if living in a bigger city would help increase my number of buy and resells?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      A bigger city can help, but I think there are ways around that. Are you doing any repairs yet? You really need to push free delivery in exchange for the old appliances. Then repair those and resell them. Repeat. Keep looking for low cost product, but also really push to get the old appliances.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Great site! Thank you for providing all of the valueable information for us. I have a couple of questions for you. First, primarily are you purchasing your gently used appliances ON Craigslist, fixing them and then reselling on Craiglist? I guess my main thought there is where your primary resource is for finding the appliances you end up selling. Secondly, how does one know what a “good deal” is on a used appliance or even a broken appliance? Is there a Kelley Blue Book of sorts for appliances?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for the questions. So I purchase all my appliances on Craigslist. It takes time to learn what a good deal is when it comes to appliances. I’ve spent the past few years learning and there is always more to learn. One thing that helps is focusing on a specific niche, even within appliances. I buy/sell/fix washers and dryers. Freezers could be someone’s niche. You could learn exactly how much all upright and chest freezers cost new, how much they sell for used and what the demand is. Once you know those things, when someone goes to sell one on CL or anywhere else, you will know very quickly if it’s a good deal or not.

      Priceonomics.com is a good place to find out what people are listing appliances for across the country. Hope this helps!

      Reply

  7. wanda Says:

    Just stumbled onto your site – thanks for your hard work in what appears to be a public service in educating the rest of us Craigslist seller wannabees. I see you pondered the question of whether to open a store front several months ago and likely have made your decision by now. My 2 cents on that – don’t, unless you have no other choice. I’m a CPA with 35+ years of experience – the biggest problem small businesses face is overcoming the cost of their overhead. You have a head start in that your business is already thriving but why incur additional costs if you don’t have to? One type of store front that I have seen work for similar businesses – storage unit facilities that offer office/whse locations for reasonable rent. There are several prominent service/sales type businesses in my area that operate out of this setting and do well. But still, I wouldn’t spend the $ unless necessary.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Thanks for your comment! I completely agree! I’ve been trying as hard as I can to prevent my overhead from increasing. I still haven’t opened a storefront and we are now expanding capacity even further. I really don’t want the stress and pressure that the increased overhead would bring. Right now, we can take off for a month and nothing happens. There are a lot of other creative options for expansion before I will rent any sort of space. Thanks again for your input!

      Reply

  8. Rob Says:

    This is exactly what I was looking to do. Currently own a warehouse and box truck. How do I know what a good deal is and if I will be able to make a profit reselling an item someone already had listed, as the original seller is probably trying to get max return already

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      A good deal depends on how much profit you want to make per transaction. If you want to make $100, then buy a washing machine for $50 and sell it for $150. You need to know how much the appliances sell for before you buy them.

      Sellers aren’t always trying to get max price. They often want the appliance out of their house as quickly as possible and don’t want to wait days. There are a lot of good deals out there for many different reasons.

      Reply

      • J. Says:

        Ryan’s right. Sellers sometimes just want an appliance gone. The fact that they’re selling it for far less than what they could get for it is inconsequential.

        The caveat is, you have to scan CL frequently in order to snag the good deals before anyone else does. Last Sunday (my day off), I was scanning all day, and scored a $50 fridge that resold for $150, and a stove for $35 that resold for $150. Granted, we had to drive a ways 60 miles round-trip, stopping at two locations north of our town to pick them up, but still, it was WAY WORTH IT.

        The fridge belonged to a guy who had to be out of his house THAT DAY. He put in his ad that he knew he could sell it for more, but that it was priced low because it had to be gone IMMEDIATELY.

        The stove belonged to a couple who had just moved into their new (to them) house, and the husband didn’t like the white stove so he bought a black one to replace it. The unwanted stove was in immaculate condition–clean as a whistle and no scratches, dings, or damage of any kind.

        In both cases, these people just wanted their appliances gone. So, yes, you can score some amazing stuff at rediculously low prices, but you have to watch the listings like a hawk looking for a field mouse. BE the first caller, and BEAT your competition to the goods.

        Reply

        • econobiker Says:

          Seconded on the sellers just needing an appliance gone fast.

          A seller may be trying to recover a $1000 rental deposit and having an appliance worth $250 still in the residence is going to screw up getting the deposit back from his landlord. And maybe the seller doesn’t have help to move the appliance or a truck to put it in etc so the seller is basically reducing the price as a cost of the utility of getting the appliance moved and moved very fast at that.

          Reply

  9. J. Says:

    P.S.

    Ryan, I’m just dying to ask, is that REALLY YOUR TRUCK with all the washers and dryers stacked in the back?!?!? And if so, HOW in God’s name did you successfully stack all those suckers?

    Please indulge me, I simply must know the “story” that goes with that pic!

    Thanks!
    J.

    Reply

  10. Carol Says:

    Hi Ryan

    I really enjoyed reading your blogs. I wish you lived in Illinois so you could come get my brand new GE washer. My basement flooded (I have no flood insurance) and ruined my washing machine that I only had for 2 weeks. GE said I need a new motor. Since I am still paying on the washer no way I have 388 dollars to fix it. Oh well maybe I will take your advice and try to sell it for parts or scrap.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Carol, I’m sorry to hear that. Yeah I would put it up for sale on Craigslist and see if you can get an appliance repair guy to buy it from you. If you email me at my ryan@recraigslist.com email address I can try to help you find another used washer on Craigslist. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

      Reply

  11. MichaelG Says:

    We are int he market to replace an old diswasher for a new one. SS to match the stove and Fridge. any tips on what to look for or stay away from?

    Do you deliver to Northern California? :)

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Whirlpool Gold dishwashers are great. Ha, sorry Northern California is a bit far for me :) Possibly in a year or two on the way to Disneyland :)

      Reply

  12. Justin Says:

    How do ensure that appliances you are purchasing are not stolen? Have you had any problems with that?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve honestly not once, ever suspected an appliance to be stolen. For one I’m picking them up from the person’s home. The other thing is I really don’t think appliances are a very trafficked item. Too big, hard to store and move, easily identifiable etc.

      Other items, especially smaller hand held electronics are a much bigger problem, but I don’t deal in that area quite as much anymore.

      Reply

    • Serhiy Says:

      Hey Ryan,

      I wanted to get into this business myself and make some money on the side. My question to you would be should i buy scratch and dent appliances then should I fix them and resell them or resell them as is? Do you see me making profit doing that? Thanks

      Reply

      • Ryan Says:

        Scratches are easier to fix (can be painted) than dents. It all depends on how much you can purchase the appliances for and how much the market is willing to pay for them. There is a lot of value to be added and thus money to be made in the appliance trade. If you are willing to work hard you should be able to make good profits.

        Reply

  13. Al Says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for a really interesting post, on lots of different levels. You might be able to help with some advice—hope I haven’t missed an answer you may have already posted if someone else has asked you this already.
    I have 2 kids and we’re looking to get a free or low-price deep-freezer to put in the garage. I’ve heard that some older ones use so much energy that they aren’t ‘free’ anymore at some point. Is there a certain year where energy saving became a sales factor across the market? Meaning, is there a rule of thumb such as ‘don’t get a deep-freeze made before 1987″.

    many thanks for any advice!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’m not exactly sure of the year. The old refrigerators, like the 50 year old ones really drank the electricity. I would just shoot for one about 15-20 years old, they were made much better than the newer ones. Biggest thing to look for, besides having it cold and frozen when you arrive, is make sure the seals are tight, no gaps. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  14. Darcy Says:

    Really enjoyed you thought provoking article. Can you share what brands of washer and dryers you do recommend (“Over the past few years I’ve learned which brands and models are the most reliable and which tend to have the most problems.”)?

    Reply

  15. Tyler Says:

    Ryan, I have a customer wanting me to replace a four prong with a 3 prong cord, but apparently that is against code:

    “The National Electrical Code requires homes built after the year 2000 to have 4-prong outlets. While these same codes prohibit changing a 4-prong to a 3-prong outlet, the code does allow changing the dryer’s cord to match the existing outlet regardless of whether the cord is 3- or 4-prong.”

    Do you still do these swaps anyways? Is this just an annoying code I can bypass without being worried?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      It’s not against code to switch the cord on the dryer, just don’t touch their receptacle at their house. What they have is what they have, just help accommodate their power cord style on your end by swapping it out for them. (if you have the right style cord.) If you don’t have the right one, you can always pull the cord of their old dryer and swap it out.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply

  16. Nicole Says:

    Hello i have a whirpool in good condition that needs i believe the part that makes it spin. I just bought a new one, you located in AZ? Would you be interested in purchasing it? Thanks Nicole

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      So it was working fine, but now won’t do anything? If so, it’s probably the coupler, which is a $5 part on ebay shipped. Let me know if that was the only symptom. I’m not in AZ, but if it’s just the coupler, you could swap it out yourself and get pretty good money for it. Hope that helps.

      Reply

      • nicole Says:

        Yes just the agitator and tub wouldnt spin and was making an awful sound. It happened in the middle of a cycle.

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          Sounds like the coupler is stripped out. That would be my first guess. It could possibly be the transmission, but it would probably have been a more gradual decline before such a loud noise. When couplers break they go from sounding perfect to horrible immediately.

          Reply

  17. Adonis Says:

    Hello, I start with de appliances business and I’m interesting in buy used appliances but I don’t know where I can find someone that gave me good price , thanks

    Reply

  18. charles Says:

    Hey, Ryan. Very inspirational; I’m an.experienced reseller of other things, but would now like to try my hand at appliances, too. Quick question, though: without unhooking my own washer and dryer and wrestling them out of my utility room everytime, how would I demonstrate the new pieces? Did you install hookups in your garage?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Having a place to test, and demo the appliances to prospective buyers is almost a necessity. I have a 220 outlet in my garage setup for testing the dryers/ovens, along with the other outlet types right next to it, surface mounted with mini 220 volt power cords that can plug into the live outlet. Saves a lot of time over changing out the cords every time.

      For washers you just need a hose, regular 110 power outlet and either a 2 inch drain pipe to drain the water into your yard, or a rubbermaid garbage can to drain the water into. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  19. Hélène Says:

    I just want to say I was an insurance agent recruiter for a national company and I used craigslist, along with some other sites, for my pool of job applicants. I worked for someone who paid me but she had incentives to make me work at best effort.
    This was a legitimate career offering. It was not a scam AT ALL. I worked at home often but also was at the brick and mortar office often where agents were making ALOT of money.
    CL is great way for a small biz to be out there in the community!
    Ad copy is SOOO important. The points Ryan made above are good. You will learn too what brings responses and what doesn’t. EVERY RESPONSE IS GOLDEN tho, don’t screw it up. They should be yours, once they respond. Only a few ppl respond for all the ppl who read your ad. Don’t drive away your own customer base!
    Knowing what you are doing is important too. You MUST deliver on your claims and promises. Say NO, before you promise something you are iffy on. You can say, I can look into that for you AND THEN get back to the person, even if you’re unable at this time.
    The internet is a great way to make a living nowadays. It’s not going to make you filthy rich, but you can support a frugal family so that the mom can stay home with the kids. :)

    Reply

  20. Connie Says:

    Hi, Ryan!

    I’m wanting to sell my 3 year old font load washing machine, because @ 2 yrs old, the tub was damaged (because I supposedly had too heavy of a load in it). The manufacturer said would cost same as brand new one to replace/repair. For the past 2 yrs, I’ve continued to use original $650 machine. But after tub problem, could only put 1 pair of jeans & rest had to be lightweight clothes (so could do loads). Now, can only be lightweight clothes & must watch timer or will stick (when open after sticking, there’s a burnt smell). I’ve given up on having it repaired, but how much could I get for it, as is (would you say/guess/estimate)?

    Thank you!

    P.S. Makes me sick that I paid so much money for a piece of crap.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Sorry you had to go through that. I would call a few used appliance stores in your area and ask them how much they would pay for it. Get 3 prices before you settle on one. It’s really hard to say. Depends on what they think is the problem, make and model etc. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  21. Danielle Says:

    This is so neat! I stumbled across this page when I was looking to see if it was viable to sell my semi broken Samsung washing machine to someone who’d fix it up and resell. Just don’t want to sink tons of money into repairs, but don’t want a 1.5 yr old machine to go to waste either. I’m sure it’s fixable, I just don’t want to drop half the price of the machine fixing it when I’m sure someone could fix it pretty easily if they knew what they were doing. :)

    Reply

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