How to survive price negotiations on Craigslist

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“It’s just five bucks.”  said the man interested in buying an older refrigerator from me this past week.  This was after he spent a few minutes trying to build his case as to why he should get it for $60.  I replied that I wanted full price, as there were others interested as well.  He then went up to $70.  I held firm.  Obviously annoyed, he then told me he didn’t have the right change.  I opened my wallet and told him that I had change for whatever he could throw my way. (Tip:  Always bring lots of change with you into the garage so as to prevent you having to leave the person alone in your garage while you go in to get change. You don’t want things to show up missing.)    A few minutes later we loaded the refrigerator into his truck and he was gone.  I got full asking price.

That five dollars represented over 5% of my profit on the item.  That might sound insignificant, but if I allow each buyer to talk me down that much, it adds up fast!  Through my experience buying, I usually am able to talk people down 20-50% on their list price, sometimes more.  It’s kind of expected in the craigslist culture to get an item for less than the list price.  As a seller who relies on the profits from my sales for my income, I’ve had to rethink negotiating.  Losing even 5% per transaction, for me amounts to thousands of dollars in lost profit each year.

When I first started buying and selling I would give in a little bit almost every time.  I was probably losing 10-20% on each sale.  Part of that is due to inexperience and a lack of confidence in demand.  I used to be desperate for buyers, always thinking that the person in front of me was going to be the last buyer on earth.

There will always be someone else that will buy your item.  You must remember this.  It might take another day.  It might be an hour.  If you are getting calls on your item then you probably have it priced right. If it’s priced too high, you won’t even get calls.  Once this has become entrenched in your thinking, you will get to the point where you don’t need the first person to buy your item.  You don’t need the second.  What you need is your full asking price for the item.

“He who needs the other person the least is in control of the relationship.”  said J. Dobson, in his book, Love must be tough.

This is incredibly good  business and negotiating advice.  Whoever needs the other person (or goods) the least, is in control.  Why?  Because if this person doesn’t buy it for full price, someone else will.  That means you don’t need this person to buy your item.

What are my responses when people try to talk me down?  

I’ll give you more real examples.  Tire kicking is a common method that people use to get a price down by pointing out all of it’s flaws.  First, you already knew all of it’s flaws and priced it accordingly  and listed the most important flaws in your listing.  In spite of that, they are still interested enough to drive all the way to your house.  They want your item.  If you didn’t agree to a lower price over the phone, call their bluff and hold firm on the price. They have invested a lot of time and gas in coming over to your house, and I’ve found that even if you don’t lower your price, 90% of the time they will still buy it.  If they keep bringing up the issues, tell them you factored that into your price.  Don’t get too chatty with people when they are tire kicking.  Let them tire kick.  Just stand there looking at the item.  When it comes down to the moment of truth and they give their final offer, tell them that you might be willing to accept it….in a few more days, but not yet.  Remind them that you just listed it and are going to wait a little longer before lowering the price.

Another common occurrence is the low-baller.  They will come in, look at the item and ask you right away if you will take half price.  Your initial response is key.  Assertively reply that your not going to lower the price yet.  They will up their offer some.  Tell them no, sorry.  They might try a third offer.  Tell them you can’t do it.   If they have no shame, they will offer you a fourth offer at which point you need to tell them that you actually need to get back to what you were doing.  They will either break down and buy it at this point or they will leave.  Either is ok.

There’s also the “I’ve only got $13 with me.”  person.  To this person, just kindly point them to the nearest ATM.  They might have that much on them because they left the rest of their money in the car or hidden in their wallet.  Both situations I’ve seen multiple times.  A hilarious example of this was at our garage sale.  The couple was trying to talk us down on some clothes (which we really wanted to get rid of) and we countered their offer.  They responded that they only had $13  We told them sorry.  So they put some items back to bring the amount lower.  As they were about to leave 10 minutes later, they spotted a few more things that they really wanted!  It was then they pulled out a hundred dollar bill to pay for the newly found items, completely forgetting they only had $13!   Other times they will go out to “check to see if they have more money in the car” after I’ve called their bluff.  It’s amazing how often people will find large amounts of money hidden in their car!

“I’ll bring you the rest of the money when I get my paycheck.”  To which you tell them to give you a call after the money arrives and see if you still have the item.  Never sell after only partial payment.

“Would you take $50 and my Xbox?”  If you didn’t ask for a partial trade in your ad, don’t accept one when it’s offered to you.  You don’t need the item they are offering you anyway.

The next time someone says “It’s just $5”, picture your family in Hawaii surfing.  5-20% each time will add up very quickly and could pay for a very nice vacation for you and your family.  Are you going to let this person take away your vacation? 🙂

I’d love to hear some of the techniques people have tried with you guys, especially the funny ones!   Shoot me a message or comment and I’ll add them over time.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Great article (and site!) Since I quit my job back in January to pursue photography, I have spent ti e going through what I don’t want/need and selling on Craigslist. I also use it to find items I need for my business. Like you, I hate negotiating, and especially don’t appreciate people who lowball what you are asking for (which I always price fairly). This article was very helpful for dealing with these people, so thanks! I too have heard the story, “I only have x dollars on me”. I did fall for it once at the end of a garage sale because I wanted to move the item, but not again ;). Have subscribed!

  2. An old thread, I know – but there are two critical points here that deserve to be repeated:

    1. In financial matters of any kind (personal or business), you’re almost always going to make better decisions if you learn to think in terms of percentages, rather than in absolute monetary terms.

    2. Extend your negotiations on THIS transaction to ALL of your transactions. In other words, if you decide to overpay “just a bit” here, and you let someone undercut your price “just a bit” there, you wind up leaving a lot of money on the table, and it’s quite possible to go broke if you do that very often.

  3. I just found your site today and wanted to thank you for publishing it. Your help to me has already been immeasurable! I have already learned so much. God Bless you and yours.

  4. I deal with high end bicycles and i always have room to price it higher than i’ll actually take without pricing out buyers. I almost always get MORE than if i was to price the item at what I wanted for it or thought its current value was. Some people don’t negotiate so well and some people won’t buy unless they feel like they’ve “won.” So thats why I like to ask more than I’d take. So far, so good. I will resort to lowering the price and holding firm if a particular bike is sitting around too long though.

  5. Love your website. I own/operate a debris hauling biz & resell quite abit of stuff on Craigs List. I too encounter “low ballers” & here is my trick. If say I’m selling an item I want $75 for, I’ll post my price at $85-90 in the ad. They come by to see the item & ask if I’ll take $75 for it? I’ll look up to the sky like I’m seriously considering that offer & then say ok. They’re happy thinking they “beat” me & I’m happy knowing I beat them instead!

  6. Ryan,
    What about sob stories? When we sold our 1996 Honda Odyssey on craigslist, we listed it for $3000. This was $250 above the private party price for the vehicle. When the buyers called, they first asked if I would would come down on the price. I said I was would consider it, but they would have to come to see it in person. When they arrived, the whole family drove up in broken down beater that leaked oil on my driveway and offered me $2000.. saying that that was all they could come up with and they desperately needed a good-running vehicle. I countered with $2750. They then asked could I wait until they could get another $250 from the man’s father-in-law, and could we do $2500. But somehow they could only come up with $2250. All the while the father-in-law was tire-kicking and complaining about the vehicle. We ended up letting it go for $2250. What did I do wrong?

    • In my experience, those that truly need help, rarely ask for it. There is no area of Craigslist that brings out the low ballers like the car section.

      They always have a story. Then they will kick the tires on the car and find every chip, scratch or flaw and focus on it. When they do this, just shake your head and apologize that it wasn’t what they were looking for. Signal that you are done talking with them about the car and head inside. You have to decide, more resolve, to hold firm at a certain price for a certain length of time before dropping the price. No exceptions. Be up front with people, as you don’t want to waste your time. Tell them cash only and ask if they are going to bring the full 3 thousand.

      Then never accept checks, deferred or partial payments, money orders, cashiers checks etc. Cash only.

      The biggest thing is you have to prepare your self mentally before the car ad goes live. Once it hits the site, you will start getting calls from dealers almost immediately offering you 1/2 of your list price 🙂 Anyway, sorry you had to learn the hard way, but you won’t forget the lesson. Hope this helps. Thanks

      • Thanks Ryan. Fantastic advice that’s obviously from someone who’s been there and is not afraid to help others. Just found your site about 3 days ago and have read almost every post. Keep it up and God Bless, Will

  7. I’ve sold a couple of vehicles on Craigslist and can relate to others’ experience. Sold my Toyota Previa van last summer and put it on for under the price it could have been according to Blue Book. Had one guy come out to look at it, offered me half of what I was asking. Then he looked at a couple of bikes I was selling and offered me half each for them. I refused his offers. Then he went back to the van discussion. Finally, he agreed to my low-ball price and said he needed to get his money from his car. He came back and said he forgot his wallet but could offer me a check. I just shook my head in amazement. The next day a guy from Nigeria came by and wanted to buy it to send to his brother back in his country. I asked him why he would want to buy a van that would cost more to ship than the vehicle is worth. He said the vehicles in Nigeria are very poorly made because the U.S. requires higher standards from manufacturers. So my van would be worth more over there despite its age, mileage and assorted minor problems. Anyway, he met my price and I drove the vehicle to his apartment the next day. He was thrilled to get it delivered and I was happy to have the vehicle gone. I guess lesson learned is to be patient with an item. Due your homework in pricing your item. Almost always you’ll get your price unless your price is way out of line.

  8. i once bought a car from craigs list. I bought the car for 1600 the guy wanted 1900. I was not low balling the price. the car had low miles but it did need some work. One tire was bald later found out it was a balancing issue. the plastic interior part by passenger back area was hanging.The lights were dim needed new ones. Yea took a gamble. and the thing was dirty has heck cherrios from some kid. crumbs bugs. I was not nit picking it. I believed if the car was fixed up a bit better and cleaned up a bit. I would had paid the full price. I think if people sell cars on craigs list they should clean them up. fix it up, to get a good return. U can sell a dirty toy for a 1.00 clean it up and get 5.00. that extra time could be worth more money.Hope this helps someone else. this is a great site and its helping me about craigs list. keep up the good work…hats off to you

  9. I’ve found that a lot of cars on craigslist are priced way above blue book and if you offer them what the blue book is, they treat you as if you are low balling them when you aren’t. So, atleast for me, I find it easier to just set a price in my mind that I think is fair and that I’m willing to pay and then I just ask every seller if they will take that price no matter what they’ve listed it for… Eventually, I will find what I am looking for at the price I want to pay. If it annoys some people, that’s ok with me because you set your price and I set mine. I don’t need to buy it for more and you don’t have to sell it for less. There’s plenty of people out there buying and selling the same thing, we can both move on to the next one. By the way, I am willing to drive all the way over to your house to ask you if you will take half of what you are asking, I have no problem doing this. If you say no, I won’t argue with you, I’ll just say that I’m sure you will get the price you want, but if for any reason you decide to take less, this is the amount I will pay and please keep me in mind. Then I wish you good luck with your sale and hopefully you will wish me good luck with my search.

    • Hey AJ, I do have a problem with people showing up offering half price, and it’s this. If someone lists an item at a good price, and sets up for the first person to come over. Then they have 5 other people all willing to pay full price because the item is such a good value. It’s frustrating for sellers to sometimes waste half a day waiting for the first person to show up only to have them try to get it for half price, with no warning they were going to try to do that. It wastes people’s time. Sure they can say now, but they already had their time wasted, and that’s quite a bit more difficult to prevent. An obvious exception would be if you show up and find reasons to offer half price, like unmentioned defects etc.

  10. People always show up talking me down on asking price even if it’s a steal. That should be discussed before they take a look at the item. Since I describe every little detail about what I sell they should have no reason to talk me lower.
    Like last month I had a nice Sharp Aquos LC-46D64U 1080p TV in perfect condition listed for $150. I posted the manufacturers date, and every exact detail of the TV. He gets here and I have it powered up on display hooked up to a blu-ray player. I said he can even have the blu-ray player. He says $150 is too much to pay for a TV that old. He wanted to buy it for $100. I ended up selling it for $130 and he got the blu-ray player.
    I also said I’d refund him or offer repair service if he ever had any issues with the TV!
    However if you buy a new TV that breaks just out of warranty manufacturers you’re screwed. So my deal for a used TV is better than buying a brand new TV.
    So from now on I’ll have to be the jackass and tell them not to ask me if I will take less. Because unlike most people I actually post the price I want and not $1 or no price at all to bait people into clicking my ads. Next post is a 50″ LG 50LA6970 3D Smart TV. I paid $50 for it broken and $60 for parts to repair. My goal is to get $220 profit. Since I only got $25 profit for that Sharp Aquos even with the price of the blu-ray player.

    • Yeah, you have to be willing to let those people walk away if they aren’t willing to pay full price. You will get full price from someone else. Let them walk away. Also, don’t try to hard to sell the item in the ad by giving a long worded listing. Give a good basic description and let it go. Usually a overly worded description is a tip off that the seller is inexperienced and will attract sharks that will work you hard on price. Just my opinion. Hope this helps!

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