Still, Craigslist is considered by some to be a bit shady, and perhaps with good reason. There are few rules, and the items people advertise rarely come with any guarantee. Buying some items on Craigslist can be a bit risky, but there are some relatively safe deals to be found on the site.
Used games are always a great deal because they don’t lose any value as they’re used. With the exception of nicks or scratches to the game disc, which you can inspect for before handing over your cash, a game that is ten years old is in the same condition as it was the day it was released. Indeed, it may be better if there have been patches released for the game.
Not everyone on Craigslist offers fair prices for games, but you can usually find deals that are better than what you’ll receive from your local Gamestop and about on par with what you’d find in the used section of online retailers like Amazon. You don’t have to pay shipping costs, however, nor do you have to wait for the game to arrive, so you usually end up ahead.
Buying new second-hand computers on Craigslist is a bit risky for my blood. The price tag associated with them is always high, and if you have a problem you may not be able to return the item to the store but rather go through the manufacturer’s warranty process, which can take some time.
Older PCs, however, are often sold on Craigslist. It’s not hard to find a two or three year old PC with a dual-core processor and two to four gigabytes of RAM for $200 or less. If you’re willing – or want to – go for even older hardware, it’s not hard to pick up a full system for under $100. While you can find comparably priced systems elsewhere, Craigslist tends to be advantageous because of shipping costs, particularly if you want to buy a desktop. It’s also reassuring to be able to actually see the system and at least confirm that it boots before buying it.
There is a lot of home theater equipment available on Craigslist, but I hesitate recommending the purchase of items liked used HDTVs because they can have hidden problems. A HDTV with aging capacitors, for example, may start to show the signs in subtle ways, like a slow power-on cycle or slight graphics errors. Six months later, the HDTV is dead.
Audio equipment, however, is usually straightforward. Speakers have few complex electronics and are generally quite durable. If there is a problem with a speaker, subwoofer or other piece of audio equipment, you can usually detect it by listening to the playback of the equipment for a few minutes.
Digital cameras are a great item to buy used on Craiglist, particularly if you’re looking for a Digital SLR or similar high-end camera equipment. They have two things going for them as a used item. The first is durability; cameras are built to be used frequently and need to be tough enough to jostle about in a camera bag regularly without damage. The second is passion; high-end cameras are expensive, and generally only usable by people with enough passion to learn some basics about photography. There’s a decent chance that the previous owner of the camera had some love for it, and since you’re going to meet that owner you should be able sniff out how well the camera was taken care of.
In addition to the cameras themselves, Craigslist is a great place to find accessories for the same reasons above. A well treated camera lens can literally last decades, so buying one second-hand from someone who squeaked a few years use out of it shouldn’t decrease the quality of the lens one bit.
Normally, I would’t recommend buying smartphones from Craigslist. Smartphones are another category of item that can easily have hidden problems, and they’re almost completely impossible for most geeks to work on, so even a tiny issue can turn into costly repairs. In addition, smartphones are sold used with their original battery, which is probably going to be in need of replacement in the near future. Finally, new smartphones are being released at an incredible rate, so buying a used smartphone will really put you behind the curve.
Jailbroken smartphones are different, however. They’re not immune to any of the above complaints, but jailbreaking voids your warranty anyway, so potential problems with the phone aren’t as big of an issue. In addition, jailbreaking is a task that not everyone will be comfortable doing, so in a sense you’re gaining a service when you buy a jailbroken phone. You don’t have to go through the hassle of doing it yourself.
Obviously, there are lots of things for sale on Craigslist. You can never be 100% certain that a used item is going to be everything as promised, but that’s simply the risk you take when buying used – and the reason why used items are less expensive. Have you bought something on Craigslist that was great, or were you burned? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Looking to get more out of Craigslist? Check out our blog post about 5 tools that make Craigslist even more useful.