How to Negotiate a Deal on Craigslist

One of the most popular posts here on Debt Roundup is how to sell a car on Craigslist. I wrote it after selling a few cars via the free site, so I wanted to share my experiences. I didn’t know it would become so popular. Due to the amount of visitors to that article, I get a lot of questions on how to get a deal on Craigslist. Now, I’m not talking about finding a deal on there, I leave that up to the person looking. I’m talking about negotiating a deal. Today, I want to teach you my tactics for negotiating a deal when using Craigslist. It’s really not that hard, but felt it would be a great addition to the car selling article.

What to Look Out For While On Craigslist

I’m sure you have searched on Craigslist before. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for, there is a chance someone on Craigslist might be selling it. The key to getting a good deal is to search for people selling their items, not dealers. The one issue I have with Craigslist is the infiltration of dealers selling their stuff. I don’t have a problem with businesses doing it, but when it’s all mixed in with other sellers, it makes it harder to look through.

Craigslist owner filterLuckily, Craigslist does allow you to filter just for owners selling their items. If you want to get the best deal possible, you need to filter your search results for just owners. The reason for this is because you have a higher likelihood of scoring a deal and negotiating with an owner. Why? Dealers don’t really haggle over pricing, which is really the way Craigslist works. You see something you like, contact the seller, and then the negotiating is on!

You can see by the picture to the right that there is an owner button to press when you are searching and filtering for items you want. In this case, I was looking for a pressure washer, but only wanted to deal with real owners, not dealers. I click the owner tab and it automatically pulls all dealers out of the mix. Now it’s just time to find a pressure washer to haggle on.

What you need to understand about Craigslist is most people overprice their goods on there. There are two reason for this. One, they really don’t know the value of their merchandise. They know how much they paid for it and want to recoup as much as they can. Two, they know there will be negotiations with a prospective buyer. They key to understanding these factors is how to work a negotiation.

You need to look for someone who is willing to haggle on the price. This is the hard part. I can tell you that some people will put in “FIRM” or some other language when they talk about price. This means they have no plans on negotiating with you. These people don’t really care to haggle with anyone and just want the money. I’ve found most of these people will cave in if their listing sits too long and the item doesn’t get sold. Desperation leads to good deals.

The best language to look for is something where they say their product cost this much at the store, so they are offering it at this much. These people tend to want to recoup their losses. The item might not have been what they had hoped or they didn’t use it as much as they wanted. These type of sellers are what I look for. I know I can work them down to a deal.

Also keep you eyes out for sellers that say “best offer” in their listing. These people are wanting to get rid of their goods and quickly. This lends the advantage to the buyer in almost every case. Now, you can’t go in an low-ball the mess out of someone. That’s a terrible negotiation tactic and one that almost never works.

Related: The Art of Negotiation

How to Start the Negotiation on Craigslist

For the most part, when you find a product you want to buy, you contact the seller. This is either by email, phone, or text. It just depends on the seller. The best option for contact a seller is to tell them you are interested in said product.

Never talk about price in the initial conversation.

Never tell the seller you really want an item.

These push the negotiation back into the seller’s corner. You just want to tell them you found their ad and want to look at the product. That’s when you set up a time to meet*.

*It’s not a good idea to met at someone’s house. While this can’t always be avoided, try to request a meet-up in a public place. It’s safer for everyone.

The one thing to remember that cash is king. Money talks, so that’s how you need to work the negotiation. People love the sight of cash and you can pull any deal into your favor with it. Here is how I typically handle working through an negotiation on Craigslist.

First, I go to the bank and get enough cash to cover the asking price of the item I want. I don’t want to waste my time going out there and looking at an item and then not having enough to pay the seller. The key to the next step is what you do with the cash.

Make sure you research the item the seller has before you meet up. You don’t want to walk in blind. Knowledge is power and having it in your corner is always a good idea. If you can find what the model of the product is, then check to see what they are selling for new. Then, check around eBay, Amazon.com, and Craigslist to see what others are selling it for. It’s important to check the other Craigslist listings. You want to make sure the seller you’re about to meet is pricing their item near the competition. Armed with this information and the cash to close the deal, you are ready to meet the seller.

“This is All I Have” Tactic

While you went to the bank to get cash for the full asking price, you don’t want to show that cash to the seller. Only bring the amount you are willing to pay to the negotiation and leave the other cash in your car (not in plain sight, please). We all have our optimal price, so start with that first.

Here’s an example. If I wanted a pressure washer and the seller was offering $250 for it. Based on my research, I notice they are selling brand new for $275 at a big-box store. That means this seller wants to recoup all of his/her costs. Dropping the price $25 is not good enough. This needs to be dropped to below $200 if it’s going to be competitive at all. I don’t care how long this person had owned it, once you use it, the product is no longer new and is valued much less than when it was new.

I would bring $250 in cash with me, but only take $200 when talking with the seller. After looking over said product, I would provide my assessment, then talk about how new ones are going for only $25 more. This is providing the facts I need to justify my upcoming offer. I would then describe the competition for this product. Some people hate this, but it’s part of getting a good deal on Craigslist.

My first offer would be $180. I’m almost certain the seller would reject this, but you never know. You just tell them, if they are willing to take $180, you can give them the cash right now and the deal will be done. It’s basically speeding up the sale in order to close it.

People love quick sales and don’t like haggling with others. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth. I used to be that way, but now I don’t mind. If you’re armed with enough good information, you can easily start to enjoy the art of negotiation.

If the seller wouldn’t take my $180 offer, I would then go with the “this is all I have” tactic. I would pull out the $200 and tell the seller, “this is all I have on me. Can we work out a deal for this price?” The reason why I’ve had great success with this is because most people don’t want to lose a sale. If they have you on the hook, they want to close it. Allowing me to walk away to get more money to meet their asking price is a recipe for losing the sale. Once I leave, I might not come back.

Nine times out of ten, the seller will agree to the “all I have” price and the deal will be done. The other one time, you have to use a different method, one that I linked to above. It’s called the walking out method.

The “Walking Out” Method

This tactic has been perfected with car salesman, but I have seen it work with Craigslist sellers. As I noted, people don’t like to lose a sale. They would rather have the cash in their hand right then and there. This is why cash is king when negotiating a sale on Craigslist. It has a power to it and can sway people to drop their price just to get a hold of it. The more cash you have in your hand, the more negotiating power you have. Trust me, I have done it with small $5 trinkets to cars. Money talks!

If a seller is not willing to take your first offer and doesn’t want to go with your “all I have” offer, then you might need to employ this tactic. Walking out is basically calling the bluff of the seller. Will they risk losing the sale to keep their original asking price? Some will and some won’t. I’ve actually never lost out on a sale when using one or both of these methods combined.

When walking out, you have to describe your thoughts on the price to the seller. Tell them you don’t believe the product is worth that much and provide information to back up your statements. Don’t just say it’s not worth that much. Value is in the eye of the beholder, but when backed up with facts about other sellers and new products,  you can reduce the value in the seller’s eyes. You’re basically making the second guess their asking price.

Give the seller one last time to take your “all I have” offer. If they don’t seem to care, then say you would love to do the deal and can take the item right there, but if they aren’t willing to meet you there, then you will just go find another product from someone else. Then turn and walk toward your car. Do it slowly to give the seller enough time to think about the deal.

This method does have it’s place in negotiations, but it doesn’t always work. Some sellers are steadfast in their pricing and don’t want to take a penny less. Others are wanting to get the item sold and move on. If you do the “walk out” method correctly, you can close the deal before you even make the turn. They will agree and the deal will be done.

Craigslist Deal Negotiation Wrap Up

So, there you have it deal finders. That’s how you negotiate a deal on Craigslist. Though this article is really long, it provides detail into how I score a deal when finding products on Craigslist.

In a nutshell, you want to find deals that have the right language in the listing. You want to look for people who need to move quickly (“I want this sold this weekend“) or are willing to take your best offer.

Agree to meet with the seller, but never talk about pricing in the first contact. That will push the power back to the seller, especially if you tell them you really want to the product.

You negotiate best with cash. Get the cash out for the asking price, but only bring the maximum you’re willing to pay with you when talking with the seller. Give them your first offer. If they decline, give them your “all I have” offer. If they decline that, then try the walkout method still using the “all I have” offer. When these are combined with facts stating your pricing position, you can typically get the deal you want nine times out of ten (90%). That’s not a bad haul for scoring deals.

Negotiating is an art, but you can do it very easily on Craigslist. Just make sure to find listings for items being sold by owners (regular people) and keep the dealers out of it. They can’t negotiate as much with you or aren’t willing to do it at all.

Best of luck with your next Craigslist deal. I hope these ideas help you negotiate the proper way and you walk away happy!

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