How I Get Items From the Free Section On Craigslist


I no longer respond to ads on the free section by telling people I can come right away. I’ve given up. There are so many people sitting on there trying to get the items that it’s not worth my time competing to be the first to respond. The thing is, you don’t have to be the first to respond to get the item. You just need the best response.

If you want to get something from the free section on Craigslist, reply to the person offering to pay them what you would willing to pay for the item. (This only works if they don’t post their phone number. If they have already replied to the first person that contacted them, they will most likely honor that commitment.)

The key to success is to say “I will give you $20 if you still have the ….” and put that in the subject of the email. It doesn’t need to be a lot of money, just a fair amount that doesn’t open up too much risk for you.  If you don’t put your offer in the subject field, they will most likely not even see it and your email will look like every other response.

I’ve done this many, many times, with remarkable success. A few days ago, someone put a nice washer and dryer up in the Free Section. They didn’t put their phone number in the ad so I knew I had at least a chance. I sent them an email offering $20 for the washer and dryer if they still had them.

About a half hour later they responded and said the appliances were mine if I wanted them. I was the only person of the 80+ respondents in that first hour to offer the lady any money for the appliances. She was excited to actually get something for them, especially after putting them up in the free section.

After putting a $16 clutch in the washing machine, our total investment rose to $36. One day later, we sold the pair for $270 for a $234 profit.

The lady that posted the washer and dryer was happy, we were happy and the people that purchased the refurbished washer and dryer in the end were happy.

As more and more people start using Craigslist, the competition for the free items is only going to increase. So try offering a bit of money the next time a great free item gets posted. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Has this technique worked for you? I’d love to hear your stories and feedback.

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  1. Ryan you are officially the man. i found your blog randomly a while back and over time ready all your post. I am still working my normal job as a chef 60 hours a week and selling sppliances in my spare time but will eventually quit my chef job so i can focus mainly on this. I have always had an entreprenurial spirit but i guess i thought it was to difficult or that i couldnt do it. thats all bull. I replaced my first lid switch today and ive been slowly making money.
    heres a question i have for you? Whats stopping you from renting a garage in another city and hiring and training someone else to do this their and increasing your income? Also once i get to a certain amount saved i would like to invest it into something else… any ideas?

    Thanks Ryan

    • Thanks Ron. You can use two zip ties to repair that lid switch. Basically unscrew the two screws holding it in, and pull it around from underneath the lid of the washer, and fasten it back together with the zip ties. The glue usually just fails and the plastic starts to separate causing the contacts to not touch. Zip ties make it as good as new plus reinforces it probably better than even a new one.

      We’ve been thinking about expanding into other cities, one thing at a time though 🙂 We’re still building our operation here. I’ll definitely keep everyone posted.

      I would build a mini home and start renting it out as your next investment idea. That’s one my goals. Rent keeps going up, and people are moving into smaller and smaller dwellings.

  2. No, I have not used this technique, but I did recently post a free dryer on craigslist. I posted the ad, and just 30 minutes later the dryer was gone out of my home! I received a flurry of phone calls. I was amazed how fast it went!

  3. That is definitely the way to make your email reply stand out. I learned that a couple of years ago. There was an ad for a free bike at a town about 50 miles from me. The picture posted wasn’t very good but I could see it was a Trek mountain bike. The front wheel was off and they said they didn’t know if anything else was wrong with the bike. I emailed them that I would give them $10 if they’d hold it for me. The lady replied that she would after I said I’d be there in an hour.
    When I got there she told me that a bunch of folks had replied once they saw it was a Trek but since I offered her some money she took my offer. I asked her what was wrong with the bike. She didn’t know but said “I have 8 kids. My husband and I don’t have time to fix anything.”
    The bike was practically in new condition. It just needed the front wheel attached and some air in the tires. I used it all summer and in the Fall I sold it for $200. I’ve used the money offer a few other times and unless the item was grabbed right away I’ve been able to come away with it. I’ve also posted a few items for free but have yet to have anyone offer me money for them. Your posting is a good reminder that sometimes “it takes money to make money.”

  4. Ryan,

    Just found your blog. I am actually only 35 miles north of you in Cottage Grove. I work a full time job but for play money I’ve been buying and selling on CL. Mostly 3 wheelers, dirtbikes, and Garden Tractors. I don’t have a lot of time but I really enjoy working on the bikes and tractors and making a little cash. I don’t usually find free items, but I have offered $20 more for a good deal before when I see one. Like a tractor up in Salem, asking price $100. I offered $120 if they would hold it for me. She said she had several other emails, but I was the only offer above asking price so I got it. The tractor is worth $500-$1000 (kept it as a personal =)). Didn’t take any money to get running.

    I have also thought about starting a blog about my adventures of Craigslist. The funny stories, the shaddy stories, the successful stories, and the unsuccessful stories. Reading your blog makes me wanna give it a shot.



    • Steve, thanks for sharing the story. That is another excellent example of why it pays off to offer more than what people are expecting for their items. It almost always ensures that you will get the item.

  5. I love the idea of getting things for free on CL and reselling them for profit. Once upon a time, I bought a “broken” computer from a yard sale for $2, cleaned it up a bit (but didn’t actually fix anything), and sold it on CL a couple days later for $100. It’s so fun and rewarding to be able to make some money by buying and selling. Thanks for sharing your stories and tips. I am liking your website!

  6. I rarely look on the free section for the things that I sell, but I’ve used this technique time and again for getting first dibs on drum sets. I do what you do, but with drums sets and associated equipment. I just used this technique a few days ago to get a screaming deal. A guy posted a drum set for $40, not knowing what he had. I could tell it was worth at least 5-10x that, so I put in the subject line “will pay more for your drum set”. I went there and it was kind of a mess of parts, but I knew there was a lot more value there so I offered him $100. He was taken aback that a guy would come in and pay that much more, and was so thankful. I have a little repair to do and have to piece some things back together, but I’ll make $500 profit on it!!! My best deal in 6 years was a vintage set that was posted for $65 and I gave him $100. I cleaned it up and sold it for $1400. 🙂

    I love your site- you’re helping so many people.


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