How to Sell Stuff on Craigslist: 5 Killer Tips

If you’re thinking of downsizing your belongings, you may not even have to leave the house. Below are 5 killer tips on how to sell stuff on Craigslist—fast.

There are definite advantages to living with less stuff. Benefits include: not needing to worry about losing/maintaining things, having the freedom to pack up and go, learning to be satisfied with what you have – and so on.

But how do you actually get there? There’s only so much you can throw out or give away (eventually, your friends/family will catch on and learn not to accept any more handouts from you).

It will come down for selling your stuff. 

How to sell stuff on Craigslist: better than a yard sale

Well, at least they got my attention…

If you have sold anything online before, you already know that:

  • Scams abound. As soon as there’s a hint of a future transaction, the scammers are usually first on the scene. Common scams include: unusual forms of payment (e.g. Western Union, third world escrow services).
  • Manners are a precious commodity. People will make ridiculous offers, suggest you change your prices, or even order you to meet them in unusual places.
  • The marketplace is constantly evolving. New sites pop up all the time, and policies change on existing ones. Methods of payment fall in and out of favor (e.g. Google Wallet over PayPal), and major shakeups expand possibilities (the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum).
Garage Space

How you know it’s time to declutter

So where does one begin? 


For selling your second-hand stuff locally, Craigslist is almost unbeatable:

  • The site gets a ton of traffic – chances are, someone will actually see your listing. More often than not, you will get plenty of interest (more on this below).
  • Craigslist forces sellers to categorize goods and services, making it easier for potential buyers to find what they are looking for.
  • There are protections in place to deter scammers and to protect the privacy of both parties – through anonymized e-mail, for example.
  • Unless you pay extra for premium listings (unnecessary), it’s free. No transaction or middle-man fees.

When it came time to downsize my own stuff, I did it exclusively through Craigslist—and with great success. All in all, I have done a fair bit of business through the site.

So how does one become a Craigslist power-seller? In a nutshell: by using the same tactics and techniques as the marketing/advertising industry.

The following is a 5-point checklist for getting the most for your stuff on Craigslist (these will apply on just about any online marketplace):

1.) Images are important – use them!

Always, always include at least one image with your posting. Many users (myself included) automatically filter out any postings that do not include images—it means the seller has put in minimal effort (an instant red flag).

The more professional the image, the better. If you’re a selling a large object (such as a piece of furniture), try to take a picture of it in natural light (without flash) for a more pleasing look. If possible, track down the original manufacturer’s images online and attach those too (Google’s Image Search works wonders for this).

If there’s an aspect of the item that’s particularly impressive (the finish and material, for example), include a closeup to highlight it.

It wasn’t long ago that one had to buy a digital camera to get decent images, even for web use. These days, however, smartphones are more than sufficient. See the article on phone photography for related tips and tricks.

Photoshopper on CL

Craigslist – good for goods AND services.

2.) Using pricing theory to your advantage

Without getting into the nitty gritty, the various pricing tricks can be summarized as:

  • If you’re trying to demonstrate a good deal, use odd numbers (ideally, with 9’s and 7’s). That is, $200 would become $190, $175 or $170.
  • If you’re trying to convey quality or highlight a premium product, use round (even) numbers with 0’s at the end. For example, $800 instead of $775.
  • If your offer represents a significant discounts or savings, include the original manufacturer’s price! Regardless of their net worth or position in society, everyone wants a good deal—it makes us feel good.

Don’t believe these work? Take a good look at prices in shops next time you’re in the mall, and compare luxury and bulk offerings. We all fall for it!


A good headline works wonders

3.) Grab Their Attention with a Compelling Headline

Have you noticed that the words in all the titles used on this site are capitalized? All capitals just work better (trust me on this one – I have verified it myself through split testing).

It’s called taking a page out of the ad man’s playbook – the headline is your first (and often only) chance to pull the reader in and convince them to click through to your ad.

On Craigslist, your headline should be crystal clear—try to include the full name of the item, along with the item category, and condition (there’s a separate field for price, which will be displayed next to the headline). Something like this usually gets the job done:

Brand New (Mint Condition, Original Box/Papers) Sony RX10 Digital Camera – $1150

If there’s anything particularly special or rare about the item, it’s worth calling out too:

Legendary Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux Lens for M-Mount Cameras (“King of Bokeh”) – $10,000

This headline immediately appeals to photography aficionados, many of whom are always chasing creamier and crisper “bokeh” (background blur). In the post itself, you may wish to call out that this lens will appeal specifically to portrait and wedding photographers for its ability to isolate the subject from the background. Which brings us to…

4.) Nail the description by speaking directly to your prospect

(This is where we get into Mad Men territory)

The more relevant details you include, the more likely you are to make the sale. Remember: people are just as wary of online transactions as you are, and a more detailed product description works to increase trust.

This does not mean you should simply copy and paste product descriptions from the manufacturer’s website (although it’s a good idea to include the basics, such as dimensions and weight, in a bullet point list).

Make it personal. Write about your experiences with the product, and how you’ve used it successfully in the past. If there’s something about you that could be a potential selling point, throw it in – for example, a professional photographer may mention that he has personally tested the lens to be sharp and accurate (this will reassure the buyer that they are buying a good copy).

There is no need to use big words or get creative with metaphors. Just get the message across, as if you were speaking to a good friend. Keep it simple and to the point – you’re here to sell the product

Scarcity is a powerful psychological trigger. If the product is a limited edition (e.g. “One of 20 sold worldwide”) or available in limited quantities (“Only 2 left”), this increases its perceived value and drives prospects to action.

Bonus: include a sentence or two about why you are selling it. This is easy to do, and builds trust. After all, if the object is so awesome, why would you part with it? Be honest and specific. People appreciate knowing what you plan to do with their money!


Is there such a thing as too much information?

5.) Be a professional (or learn to act the part!)

Firstly, make sure you check your post for grammar and punctuation. Use paragraphs and full sentences. Sound like a professional, and people will want to do business with you.

Second, show that you are an experienced seller by specifying your terms. Common ones include: “price is firm” and “will accept cash only, local pickup.” At the very least, indicate what forms of payment you’re comfortable with. It also helps to clarify how you’d prefer to be contacted—if there’s a phone number, indicate what hours work best for you.

Finally, know your market and competition! Before you make a post, look for similar listings to size up the competition and get a sense of how much others are selling for. Hint: instead of trying to undercut the competition, aim to dictate higher prices due to the quality of your posts and replies to interested prospects.

On Craigslist, this exercise also helps for generating keywords – at the bottom of your post, you may wish to include keywords that will help your listing get noticed. For example, if you’re selling a Sony RX100 camera your keywords may include similar products, whether from your item’s manufacturer or from a competitor:

Keywords: sony, digital camera, rx100, rx10, rx1, olympus om-d, sony nex, panasonic gh3

That’s all there is to it!

This may seem a lot, but ultimately all becomes second nature as you sell more items. Be careful: selling things on Craigslist can become addicting – there’s a certain rush that one gets when receiving cash for something that otherwise would have collected dust. As a bonus, you will learn plenty about human psychology along the way (and will have some stories to tell).

Important: be careful when meeting strangers through Craigslist. If possible, arrange to make the deal in a public place (cafes work great). If it’s a large transaction and an all-cash deal, you may wish to bring a friend.

PS. IKEA furniture (in decent condition) easily fetches 50% of the original price. It’s also quite easy to sell, as the common product lines are well known and people are always moving in/out of the city.


Add yours →

  1. This list is a good list. Some things I would add:

    -Instead of “Brand New (Mint Condition, Original Box/Papers) Sony RX10 Digital Camera” I would go with “Sony RX10 Digital Camera– Brand New, Sealed In Box” which puts the name of the product front and center for more visibility.

    -Include as many relevant words as possible in the title without making it too cluttered. This is in case the “title” box is checked during a search, which I’ve noticed it sometimes likes to do on its own. E.g.: instead of “iPhone 5,” use “Apple iPhone 5 Black Slate 32GB Verizon Mint Condition Smartphone.”

    -Better than including a list of keywords at the end is to incorporate them in the description for a cleaner look. For example, if I’m selling an iPhone, I’ll slip in the words “iPhone,” “i-Phone,” “phone,” “cellphone,” “smartphone,” etc.

    -Put an exact location. Not “Texas.” I like the map feature, but I personally move the arrow down the street from me where there are no houses, just in case.

    -Once you have exchanged a few emails with a potential buyer and you’ve agreed on a time, expect them to be ridiculously late or, more commonly, not show at all. This is why I personally will not travel to sell anything.

    -If they make a lowball offer online, it’s easy to just respond “no.” If they make a lowball offer in person, it’s just as easy for you to say no, and harder for them to accept it since they’ve now got time and transportation costs sunk into the exchange (and probably haven’t heard of the sunk cost fallacy). Use this to your advantage. My favorite line is “well, I’ve got several other people who are interested” whether it’s true or not. More often than not they’ll cough up the cash. If they don’t want to they’re welcome to leave.

    -Keep a weapon close by. I’ve done hundreds of transactions and never had a problem, but others haven’t been so lucky.

    • Thank you for all these tips, Scott!

      I too have not had a problem (with the exception of one close call), but I have heard some grim stories about transactions gone bad. If I even suspect that a weapon may be a good idea, I’d probably avoid the deal altogether. Alas, some parts of the city leave one with little choice…

  2. regarding ” Finally, know your market and competition! Before you make a post, look for similar listings to size up the competition and get a sense of how much others are selling for.”

    Question: how do you determine the asking price?

    example item: 100 per cent Egyptian cotton duvet cover manufactured in Italy in used, undamaged, excellent condition which was retail price of $340.00.

    I realize the location is very important, thus in a suburban location the above item may be deemed desireable.

    Is there a guide listing examples of items and suggested asking price?
    ( my attempts searching Internet were unsuccessful, as garage sale price lists were located)

    Would $340.00 multiply by 40 per cent ( $136.00)be applicable due to the very high quality of item?


    • Hey, that’s a good question.

      I would begin by searching for similar items on Craigslist (all cities) and/or eBay to see what prices others are asking for.

      I took a quick look, and it seems a duvet cover is going to fetch you at most $50 (especially given that it’s used). There’s no hard and fast rule (such as multiplying by 40%), but generally you can start at 1/2 off the original retail price to see if anyone bites. $340 is a lot for a duvet cover.

      • Thank you very much for your response to question.
        Regarding ” $340 is a lot for a duvet cover.” = In my humble opinion; investment in quality.

        • Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am all about investing in quality, and would be open to paying that much for a quality cover. I was just suggesting that it could be hard to re-sell.

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