How to Safely and Profitably Sell Used Gadgets on Craigslist

Craigslist has a reputation for being sketchy and an unsafe place to buy and sell higher-end items (don’t search for “Craigslist” under Google’s news search — really, don’t), but even though it gets a lot of bad publicity, it can also be a great connection to local buyers for used technology and gadgets.


Craigslist is great for selling technology that is just too heavy to sell on eBay, and for selling gadgets without incurring eBay or PayPal fees. Selling your nice DSLR body on eBay might get you your full asking price of $1,000, but you will then have to give eBay $100 (10% fee) and PayPal another $29.30 (2.9% fee plus $0.30). Then there are shipping fees and extra insurance fees to ensure your camera gets there in one piece.

Craigslist can be simpler and faster for many sales, you get to keep the full sale price of an item, and usually transactions can be done in less than 10 minutes.  Use these tips to cash in on your old gadgets while protecting yourself from thieves and scammers.

Don’t Even Bother With Trades

Many times you will get an offer to trade; these offers are not even worth replying to or considering. The trades are usually for items not worth the same value as the gadget you are selling. Even if the trade is for something you want, you could score a better deal on eBay or another online dealer. There is no guarantee that the product they want to trade is in excellent condition, and there is no protection or refund if the item ends up being faulty later on.

Meet In a Very Open and Public Place

Always meet in a very public place. No exceptions. If a potential buyer is not willing to meet you inside a Starbucks, then they are not worth dealing with. When selling tech items, I have been asked to meet at personal homes and the park. My answer is immediately “no,” because my safety is far more important than any potential profit.


Just Say No to Payment Plans

Several years ago, I agreed to take a majority of the payment for a DSLR camera and to accept the rest of the payment after the buyer got paid the following Friday. He owed about $300 more. It took almost two years of emails and threats to go to small claims court to finally get the rest of the money.

It seemed like a harmless transaction, since the man was very nice, and we had a signed contract. The man even payed the majority of the costs, and I was desperate to sell the camera for my full asking price. Lesson learned: if someone cannot afford the item now, they will most likely not be able to afford it later.

Avoiding Scams

Some listings will attract “international buyers” who offer to pay you extra if you will ship the item. These offers are scams to get access to your financial accounts. Ignore them all together. If someone really wanted to have a gadget shipped, they would have bought it through eBay.


You can still be at risk for Craigslist scams, but on a smaller level; some people will try to take advantage of a nice seller. It can be frustrating when your item is not selling as fast as you want, but you do not want to appear to desperate. If any buyer is making you feel uncomfortable, avoid them.

One time I had given a potential buyer my cell phone number because he seemed like a legit buyer. However, he then asked me to bring the laptop to his house in the middle of the night. Of course, this was a big warning sign. After he asked that, my plan was just to move on to a different buyer. However, this buyer had other plans. He texted and called continually until we had to block the number. No one should make you feel that way. Period.

How to Handle Lowball Offers

A lowball offer is an offer that is much lower than your asking price. If the amount is ridiculously low, it is best to just delete the email. Usually these buyers are not very serious, so even if you did agree to the sale, they might be flaky and never show.

Try to price your item $10–30 more than you would like to get for it. This leaves you room to negotiate, and the buyer feels like they are getting a great deal. For lower offers that seem genuine, you can tell them that there are several offers on the item, so you can only go as low as some specific amount, or ask them to meet you halfway and split the difference.

For example, if you are selling an old MacBook for $550, and an interested buyer offers $500, you can ask them to meet you at $525. Sometimes this strategy works, and other times the buyer might offer a different amount. Agree on an amount that makes you feel comfortable, while keeping in mind the true value of your item. You might have paid over $1,200 for your MacBook several years ago, but it is illogical to think you can still get close to that amount when new technology comes out each year.

When Buyers Try to Short Change You

Another strategy that sneaky buyers will use is to come with too much cash or not enough cash. For example, if you are selling an item for $25, the buyer might come with two $20s, with the hope that you do not have change, and they will get a discount of $5. To avoid this, come with change or meet at a place that is easy to make change.

If a buyer comes with less than the asking price, you could just walk away, which is hard, since you already wasted your time meeting up with them. Another solution might be to ask them to pull out more cash, either with a nearby ATM or through a debit card transaction at a store. If they have the Paypal or Venmo app, they can transfer funds to you directly. If the difference is less than $5, though, it might not be worth the hassle.

Watch out for buyers who ask for a last-minute discount. They will try to find the smallest thing wrong with the item when you are meeting in person. Perhaps they will just ask you straight out for a lower price. If I have already lowered my price for them, then I will remind them of that politely. Other times, I might say, “I’m sorry. I cannot go any lower, especially since I have had other offers at the full price.”

Tips to Increase Your Offers

When you sell on Craigslist, realize there are a lot of potential buyers who are leery about buying used technology. Many people want to score a great deal, but they also do not want to get burned. Being thorough with the posting process can attract more offers.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you post:

  • Pictures Are Gold: Take several pictures of the item. If it has any dents or cosmetic issues, be sure to take good pictures of them. Make sure that the pictures are in good lighting, and try to avoid getting your reflection in the picture. Depending on the gadget, take pictures of it powered up and the internals. For example, take a picture of your laptop’s desktop to show there is no internal damage.
  • Be Upfront with Issues: It is very important to be honest with any issues or damage, no matter how minor they may seem. Yes, you can sell your broken gadgets on Craigslist and recoup some of your costs, but don’t list something as “new out of box” when you have really used it ten times. Write a well-crafted paragraph about the item, including the specs, age, and use.
  • Wipe Down Is Necessary: Not only should you clean the exterior of the gadget, making it look like new, but you need to wipe the internal storage. It doesn’t matter if you are selling an old camera with pictures you don’t care about on the memory card. Wiping internal storage on all gadgets keeps you safe and is more convenient for the buyer. Wiping the internal storage varies by each device, so be sure to research how to do so properly.
  • Include Receipt and Packaging: If possible, include a picture of your receipt and include the original packaging with item. This will help potential buyers know they are not buying stolen goods.
  • Include Accessories: While you don’t have to include a lot of accessories, it is a good idea to include some. People are more likely to buy bundle deals that help them avoid going to the store. Who wants to buy a used camera only to have to then go buy a lens, a power cable, and a memory card? You will attract more buyers if your gadget is ready to be used right away.

Craigslist is a great site to buy and sell items. While you won’t get many people trying to scam you on your loveseat, there is a higher risk of being scammed when you sell higher-end items and technology on Craigslist.

Have you ever listed or sold a used gadget through Craigslist? We want to hear your stories — both the good and bad. Share your experience in the comments below!

Image Credit: Box of used items by moomsabuy via Shutterstock, Africa Studio via Shutterstock, Stock Rocket via Shutterstock, Minerva Studio via Shutterstock, chattanongzen via Shutterstock.

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