10 Best Things to Buy and Sell on Craigslist

March 7, 2013

General, How-to

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I get a lot of emails each week asking me what the best things are to buy and sell on Craigslist. Where’s the money at? Show me the money! I email some tips back, each time wondering why in the world I haven’t written a post about the subject. Well, here it is.

The best items to buy and sell on Craigslist are the highest priced items, in the least efficient markets, where there is sufficient supply.

Why higher priced items?

Higher priced items provide more leverage for profits than lower priced items, as long as the total amount of work is the same. For example, you could buy a $40 bike, fix it up and resell it for $60. Or you could buy a $400 bike, fix it up and resell it for $600. The same amount of time went into acquiring both bikes, fixing them, and reselling them. The difference in profit was $180 for the same amount of labor and time. However, when buying higher priced items, you increase your chance for loss. I recommend gradually working your way up towards higher priced items. Slow growth is usually the best growth.

What is an inefficient market?

It’s where buyers may not have enough information about an item to make informed decisions about what to buy or the price to pay.

Basically, it’s a market that people know very little about. For example, Apple products are more difficult to make money flipping than say a piece of furniture. The value of a used iPad can easily be determined on eBay by searching for iPad, then checking completed listings. Poof, you know exactly how much the last few hundred iPads have sold for. So, because it’s very easy for people to find out what the market is paying for an iPad, they are less likely to under price it.

What is a sufficient supply?

There needs to be enough of product you’re trying to buy and sell to reach your income goals.

So with these three factors in mind, here’s my list of the ten best things to buy and sell on Craigslist.

10. Cell Phones
Cell Phones, especially many of the new smartphones sell for a lot of money on the used markets. There is a very large supply due to people constantly upgrading their phones. The demand is high because of how expensive it is to replace a lost or broken phone. The cell phone market isn’t that efficient because most people obtained their phone via their cell carrier subsidizing it, therefore obscuring it’s real cost from it’s owner.

9. Power Tools
Power tools are a great because of the large supply, and frequent fire-sales that occur when contractors change professions and dump all their tools on Craigslist. Also, one can get the most out of a trip as usually the seller is often getting rid of many tools at once. Bonus is to be able to use the tools while you are waiting for them to sell. Buy them for a remodel project, and sell them for a profit after you’re done!

8. Yard equipment
Lawnmowers, weed eaters, leaf blowers, chainsaws, chippers/shredders, power washers and generators. This can be especially lucrative if you learn how to repair small engines, especially during springtime. People often leave their equipment with gas in it over the winter which leads to the carburetor clogging up and machine not starting. So people throw them up on Craigslist for free or very cheap. This last year I helped a friend get dozens of lawnmowers for free.

7. Computers
Laptops, netbooks and desktop computers can be great buys, especially if you repair them as well. When something goes wrong with a computer, people will often unload it for cheap on Craigslist. People are always upgrading to the latest and greatest, even with lots of life left in their existing computer.

6. Electronics
High-end electronics sell pretty well. For example Bose products always sell well as the supply of them is smaller and it’s an item where the initial price keeps many from buying new. There are also a lot of sub-categories within the electronic field where people buy the product on a whim, and get rid of it a few months later after barely using it. They also store easily inside a house and can be used while awaiting for them to sell.

5. Furniture
Furniture can be very expensive and often holds it’s value fairly well, especially high-end furniture. Any solid wood furniture will usually have a pretty high demand. Desks, all types of chairs, nice couches, bookshelves, dining tables, dressers, mirrors, etc.

4. Bicycles
There is very good money to be made in buying and reselling bicycles. The value of a bike will also increase quite a bit with a few repairs.  Also, with the younger generation being saddled in so much debt, bicycles are becoming more popular as an alternative transportation mode. Just make sure you get rid of your inventory a little quicker than the man above.

3. Motorcycles and scooters
Buying and selling Harley Davidson motorcycles, and other motorcycles and scooters, can be a very lucrative business. These bikes can sell for $5,000-$15,000, which leaves a lot of room for play. They are another frequently distressed sale item where very good deals can be found. Also, if you can sit on the bikes over the winter, you can often buy them for cheap in the winter and sell them for more in the summer.

2. Appliances
(*UPDATE* If you are interested in learning how to buy, sell and repair appliances for either a part-time or full time income, we’ve built an entire training course/community at ApplianceSchool.com)

Everyone has appliances, so the supply and demand for them is very high.  It’s fairly easy to make $75-$150 profit per appliance, and more if you are dealing with high end appliances. This the category that I spend most of my time in. Check out How I Earn My Living Buy and Selling Appliances on Craigslist or our go ahead and learn the business at ApplianceSchool.com 

1. Cars
If you really know what you’re doing, and are willing to get a dealers license, you can make a lot of money buying and selling cars. $500-$1000 profit on a car is probably average, but there is the potential to make a good bit more than that. Sellers will often under price a car because of a small flaw, and after observing it closely every day, becomes bigger than it actually is. The small dent on the bumper becomes a reason to drop the price significantly, when the market could care less. I also wrote 5 Things to Remember When Buying a Car on Craigslist.

You still need to buy and sell what you know best. If you don’t know a category very well, spend some time doing research. With some effort, you can learn to make money buying and selling just about anything on Craigslist. Best of luck!

Also, for more helpful tips, see 5 Ways to Make Money on Craigslist

What categories or products have been best for you? Which have you had the best success with? I’d love to hear your comments and stories.

 

 

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30 Responses to “10 Best Things to Buy and Sell on Craigslist”

  1. Sabina Says:

    Thanks for your post Ryan. Great information. I enjoy reading your blog so keep posting!!!

    Reply

  2. Jordan Says:

    Great post Ryan. Keep it up! Do you see contractors changing professions often and getting rid of all their tools?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I was one of them! :) Construction is one of those trades where you have a lot of capital tied up in tools, and when times get tough, or there is a transition to another job, it’s easy to liquidate the tools. They will often hold onto all the small hand tools, tool belts etc, but the air compressors, nail guns, chop and table saws, duplicate tools etc get sold. There are a lot of good deals on tools on CL.

      Reply

  3. J. Says:

    “The value of a used iPad can easily be determined on eBay by searching for iPad, then checking completed listings. Poof, you know exactly how much the last few hundred iPads have sold for.”

    True! Also, if you’re buying and selling appliances and you’re not sure what a certain make / model is typically selling for, you can go to the main CL directory and search other cities for posts advertising the same item. It’s not quite the same as checking the “completed listings” of items sold on E-Bay, but if you throw your net wide enough and take an average of at least ten+ prices in several different cities (i.e. NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas, etc.) you can get a good idea of what that appliance is worth, and how much money you stand to make off of it if.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I also will use Google, and search for “kenmore washer craigslist” and it will search all the craigslist markets across the country at once. Another one is Priceonomics.com, which is very helpful. The downside to all this Craigslist data is that it doesn’t tell you what it actually sold for, as most people overprice their appliances and have to drop the price or accept a lower offer.

      Reply

      • J. Says:

        “The downside to all this Craigslist data is that it doesn’t tell you what it actually sold for, as most people overprice their appliances and have to drop the price or accept a lower offer.”

        Hence, the taking of 10+ prices from different areas of the country to see what the appliance is generally going for.

        Reply

  4. nate Says:

    You were talking about inefficient markets by giving the ipad example

    “you know exactly how much the last few hundred iPads have sold for. So, because it’s very easy for people to find out what the market is paying for an iPad, they are less likely to under price it. ”

    But then you list cell phones as the first item on the list. Confused. People selling their high-end phones know the value and are usually very firm on the price because they know they will get multiple offers.

    That being the case, how is anyone supposed to buy from them AND have room for margin? Not likely.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Some people selling their high-end phones know what they are worth, many do not. Enough don’t in fact that there are many used stores that sell nothing but used cell phones. If there’s money enough for someone to open a used store selling an item, then there probably is money to be made from it on Craigslist.

      I put all the smaller electronic items down the list a ways, because the smaller the item is in general, the more competition there is going to be. People don’t want to work. It’s easier to deal with nice neat little computers than it is appliances or furniture. But thorns are often the guardian to riches.

      Reply

  5. Joel Says:

    As far as used furniture is concerned, I think there is a market for it if it had been used in an office. A few years ago we closed up some counseling clinic offices and had a bunch of chairs, couches and loveseats to sell. I advertised them as having low “butt-hours” as a measure to indicate how little they were used. I was able to hold sales in one central office location and then, after we’d moved everything to a storage unit, were able to sell off the rest. I see a lot of sofas and chairs in the “free” category as people must assume they were abused a lot more than in an office atmosphere.

    Reply

  6. Roman Says:

    Ryan,

    When scouting craigslist for appliances to buy, how did you check the market value of the items you would buy into? You mentioned priconomics, which is a great site, but my question pertains to the craigslist listings that do not specify the model number to find the item online (which seems to be the majority of listings). Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Best,
    Roman

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      A lot of it is learning as you go. Buy one item and then sell it for more than you paid. If you can make a good profit on it, buy another one. Each time you will learn more about what the market is willing to pay. The best way to learn about a specific category is to just starting buying and selling the items.

      Reply

  7. Matt Says:

    What do you think about buying and selling trailers? There seems to be quite the market for them.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I personally think trailers are a great item to buy and sell. Here in Oregon, you don’t have to license them so they can change hands without all the fees etc Like everything else, once you know how to inspect them to make sure they are in good shape, you could be in business. It’s something I will probably test out sometime soon.

      Reply

  8. Brian Says:

    Ryan,

    Just wanted to make this point for your readers. All markets are inefficient to some degree. “Inefficiencies” can be thought of in practical terms (from either side of the transaction, buyer or seller) as inherent obstacles to transactions in a particular type of product or service. For instance, your market of large used appliances is inefficient, for one reason, because of the inherent difficulty that the buyer faces in transporting the appliance. This means that many potential buyers will be limited to purchasing from an appliance dealer.

    If a seller can solve the problems (or biggest problems) that buyers in a market face, as you’ve done by making delivery available, he improves his position considerably over his competition.

    Since a significant competitor in your market would be relocation sales (or “moving sales”), garage sales, etc. and other private sellers who only sell something like a fridge or washing machine once in their lives and thus don’t have a reason to set up delivery, I must confess that I’m a bit surprised that in your article about Craigslist ads it looks like you don’t include something like “can deliver”. That would seem to me to be one of the headline “features” (not of the product, but about the seller) that would lock eyeballs onto your ad as much as anything about the item itself.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I need to update the How to make your listings stand out post. I wrote it quite a while back. I now put Free Delivery in the title of every one of my listings. It’s been a huge boost to sales. You’re right on about the inefficiencies, especially in the appliance market.

      What you said about solving a problem that buyers face is dead on. Sadly most people approach it from the angle of how much money they can make, and not how big of a problem can they solve. Solve a problem, add value and the money will come. Thanks for your comments!

      Reply

  9. Brian Says:

    P.S. I meant to say “…include something about delivery in your headline.”

    I’m sure it’s in the body of your ad, but it’s ability to immediately jump you ahead of sellers who can’t deliver clearly to me says that it needs to be in your HEADLINE, as well as anything further on that point that you want to put in the body of the ad.

    You’ve solved a major inefficiency in your segment of the used appliance market (private sellers as opposed to dealers, the other segment) – and that’s headline-worthy.

    Reply

  10. Scott Sutherland Says:

    Just leaving a positive comment over here! Love the articles Ryan. I have only discovered these articles within the last couple hours, but cant leave the computer because they are just great. I have always been craigslist friendly as i used to work for a junk removal company and people would always be throwing away stuff worth money on craigslist, so i nickle and dimed lots of things, which was a 100 percent profit margin due to the fact that i got it for free. it was great, but now i been working a different job for a couple years and could use some side cash and craigslist was the first idea that came to mind. Again, great job with the articles. I hope i can have the same success as yourself. Also, i look foward to your book. Ill definitely be getting myself a copy. I am right above you in Seattle, Wa. Look foward to your upcoming articles Ryan!

    THANKS,
    Scott

    Reply

  11. Jonathon Says:

    I have a small yard maintenance business in So Oregon. I have tried advertising on Craigslist but I’ve run into a problem. There are other businesses and people offering similar services that over-post a lot. I get pushed down off of the first page in the listings by just a few people in a day or two. Do you have any suggestions? (Hopefully this was the right place to ask.)

    Thank you! This this a great site!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Hey Jonathon, You will need to create a number of different ads that highlight the various services that you offer. Spread them out over a handful of days and when they are eligible, just repost them. It’s a lot like fishing. Just keep dropping your line in the water and you will get some customers. If your ad gets buried too far, just come up with a new ad that is different from the others, maybe a different offer or special. Hope that helps!

      Reply

      • Jonathon Says:

        Thank you for your fast response! I think I will try that. It sounds like a great idea(and perhaps common sense that I should have thought of ;) ).

        And just a little hint for people that can use it: If you don’t already use the free bulletin boards at stores, you might want to start. I have had VERY good response–I advertise on about 10 or 15 boards. They are definitely worth the effort! Now with my new trick(thanks to Ryan)I might be flooded with business.

        Thanks again Ryan!

        Reply

  12. Mike Says:

    I actually have made good money in Music Instruments and Magic: The Gathering cards. I played Magic on and off since 1994 or so. I understand the fluctuation of the values of the cards. I can go buy a box of booster packs and open them, sort out the good ones, sell the commons in bulk on Craigslist…people jump on it quick if it’s bulk numbers and low price, even just the thrill of searching through the cards can be enough for them to buy the collection. Even if there is a tiny chance of finding a great one. I sell the expensive ones as singles (still throw in some good ones in the bulk, just to be fair and make it still worth it for them).

    My biggest success story…bought a Silver Series Yanagisawa Saxophone for $2,000 (retail $8,880). Sold it for $4,500. The seller thought the shoulder strap scratches lowered the value a lot more. But, the person who bought it from me only saw the great playability and sound, so they didn’t care about the minor scratches.

    Reply

  13. Nathan Says:

    Hey Ryan,I’m looking at buying a whirlpool top loader washer and a whirlpool dryer,I’m not sure how old they are but she wants 150$ for the set and I can probably get it for cheaper,is this a promising purchase if I wanted to resell?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      If they both work fine, you could make money buying it at $150 for the set, but it would be nicer to get it for around $100-$120.

      Reply

  14. John Says:

    As a construction contractor, I pretty much sell in olny two different sections… Tools, and materials, but mostly in tools.

    I sell the larger used tools like floor sanding equipment, chop/miter saws, and things like that.

    The great part is I always get my price asked even though I know I may be about 10-20% lower that other sellers, I still make very good money, and so much so that I’m leaving the construction industry behind to sell CL full time.

    Just another short note about selling 10-20% lower than other sellers, and who just can’t wrap their heads around this one fact, and that is that “sometimes less is more!”

    Reply

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