How I approach Craigslist
So, if you have hung around LJ’s enough, you have all probably gotten used to seeing craigslist forums and hearing craigslist references. I am a pretty devout craigslist user and have come to realize what an interesting source it is for buying, selling, and trading. Craigslist is sort of like one of those girlfriends you have that bothers you a lot of the time, but every once in a while totally redeems herself. I’ll explain.
I have bought three major tools on craigslist: my tablesaw, my planer, and my bandsaw. All were bought on relatively short notice, so I didn’t really haunt craigslist for a really long time like some of you. But, I’ll tell you why I feel that buying on craigslist on short notice isn’t always bad. There is something I like to call “Craigslist Syndrome”. It is a temporary psychological condition that results from checking craigslist 4 to 5 times a day trying to find that deal. Side effects are depression, a fatalistic view of the world, back pain from sitting down to check your computer too much, frustration when you miss out on a deal, frustration that you cannot find a deal, and driving all over tarnation to look at machines. That may sound weird, but I really do get into a kind of funky mood when I am really looking hard for something on craigslist. Like I said, most of my tools were bought because of a relatively immediate need. Many of your approach the site differently as a sort of long term investment opportunity, but I know there are still plenty of you who have been in my shoes. Through my three purchases (well I actually got lucky with the planer), I have sort of come up with a battle-plan for craigslist every time I approach it to make a significant purchase on a 1 to 2 month timeline, which is usually the time frame I have in which to buy a tool.
My approach is this:
Step 1- Figure out what specific tool, brand, and model you want or make a list of acceptable tools, brands, and models. If you are new to craigslist, this means taking a look at pricing to see what is in your price range. If you are a CL veteran, you probably already have a decent idea of prices. BUT, once you decide what you want, don’t back out and pick something else just because it is available. Get the tools you want, but you must use your jedi-patience to do this.
Step 2 – Freakin check your computer all the freakin time. This is the part that drives me bananas. I really dislike this part of the CL experience, but it is what we must do, especially for those highly sought after tools. My bandsaw, for instance, is a 1965 Powermatic 81, a 20” throat and a 12” resaw. Big saw that doesn’t come around much. That is the sort of tool that you have to hop on because there are other people out there watching closely. So, keep on watching and don’t forget your jedi-patience.
Step 3 – When you see the tool you want, go out to see it ASAP and take all the cash you need. This is where what I do probably differs from what many of y’all do. If you are standing in front of a great tool that is exactly what you want, don’t be too picky about the price. It is hard to be the first one there, and odds are it will be a while before another one comes up (at least for a lot of the tools I buy). Haggle a little bit, but don’t go crazy and lose yourself a great tool. For me, it is worth getting the exact tool you want that you can see and test in person even if the price is a little higher than you would like. You are still getting a hell of a lot better deal than you will almost anywhere else. Obviously there is a line, but for me, ending the search and getting a great tool is my reward. If I lost out on 5%, oh well. 5% of the total tool cost is usually worth it to me to not have to keep watching, driving to see more tools, and be out of a tool that I need until I can find another good one.
Now, I know a lot of you see things differently than me, and that is no problem. My timelines typically rush my CL searches a little more than I would like, but by no means do I ever feel like I get the short end of the stick. Maybe when I retire, I can become one of those toolheads that is constantly turning over tools, buying and selling off tools for a little profit and fun. For now though, I am building my collection of users.
I know a lot of you dabble in auctions and things like that and great deals can be had. I know that can be a really good route, but I just haven’t gotten into that yet. I’d love to hear about that side of the used tool market from any of you who do it.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Comments welcome!
-- The Wood Is Your Oyster