Craigslist: Buy vs. Best Buy

Craigslist: Buy vs. Best Buy

Sarah Rae Smith
Aug 21, 2009

As people are busy keeping up with the Jones' they leave a wake of discarded technology behind them and more often than not those things are ending up on Craigslist. Everyone loves a bargain, but how do you know when to turn to Craigslist versus your favorite online retailer or you local Best Buy?

There are all sorts of home electronics to be had on Craigslist (or eBay or Freecycle). You can find anything from home theater systems and record players, to computers and cameras. But how do you know if you're getting a deal or someone else's junk? Check out our 4 tips, followed by a list of ins and outs below!

Do Some Homework: These days you have to have quick emailing skills to get ahead of the crowd when you find a steal of a deal on Craigslist. So to start, if it looks like a deal, email first, Google later. Depending on how long it takes you to read up on the piece you're looking at, it could have already been promised to someone else. In your searching try mixing up the name with words such as: problem, broke, broken.... you get the idea.

Ask For A Photo: Unless the description of the item says something like "Sparkling clean and never been used," ask to see proof. A deal isn't a deal if you drive across town to pick it up, only to discover it looks like it fell out of the back of a moving truck. Look for dust, dirt and signs of wear and tear, although signs of use don't always signal stay away, they can give you clues as to how much or how little the piece was used.

Why Are They Selling It?: Don't be afraid to ask, anyone who is interested in moving it will tell you (although it doesn't mean they will tell the truth, that one's up to you to decide!) why they are letting go of their things. They could simply be upgrading to something bigger, brighter, newer or better, or they could need the cash. But there are those who picked something up at an auction or thrift store thinking they could make a buck and try listing it. Most of those listings will feel like they are shy on information and have only quick responses. A piece that works great and was well loved and cared for will usually have a chatty owner, even if it's a guy. Yes ladies, men can be chatty about certain things.

How Long Will It Do The Job You Need It To?: Things like cell phones, computers and cameras outdate themselves almost as soon as they are released. Months later there's always something new coming out that's bigger and better and usually, not for that much extra money. If you can wait a few months and buy something bigger (more memory, speed, capacity) that will better serve your purposes, go for it! It it's something that gets the job done no matter how old they are (stereos, appliances), can be a sure bet.

Things To Buy Used With Confidence
Stereo Equipment: Assuming input/outputs aren't a priority, sound is sound as long as it's good. Receivers, Turntables and Speakers are all safe bets. • CPU's: Even if you aren't computer savvy, everyone has a friend who can help them out with upgrades without re-buying new as often.

SLR Cameras: Along with their darkroom gear, as long as the body and lens are clean, these are always great purchases. You can still find film online and from special retailers, but the retro/vintage pricing is officially staying put at basement prices.

Large Appliances: Washer, Dryer, Snow Blowers and Lawn Mowers are all things that can be repaired with little effort. Even if you end up paying someone to do so, most parts are available or a good machinest will be able to take care of it for you.

Gaming Systems: We had a hard time deciding which side of the line to put gaming units on. You never know how many Oreos someone's little brother shoved in them when they weren't looking, but at the same time, systems are expensive enough (accounting for gear and such) that they are usually well taken care of. Buy at your own risk.

Things That Are Better Bought New
Cell Phones: Cell phones are always getting slimmer and adding cooler features than the last. We put them in this category because you never really know what a phone has gone through in its short little life. The only exception to this rule is trading for a new phone. Often times people received them as a promotion and sell them, or bought it and just need to pay the rent. Because of it's super new status, they can be a great way to get the bigger, better and best for less!

Laptops: Laptops are the biggest loss leader for most retailers and are always faster, stronger and cheaper when you're shopping sales. Make sure to buy around a holiday, you'll find the best deals!

Home Entertainment Packages: You know the kind, where the receiver and dvd player are built in together and come with speakers? Move along friends, these are not the droids you're looking for as you can usually buy separate components for cheaper and have more versatility.

DLSR Cameras: Larger DLSR cameras are the new black and it seems like every high school kid has one now instead of just the pros. With bigger and better models coming out every few months, watch for killer sales on Amazon and keep your money in your pocket until then.

Small Appliances: Toasters, Blenders, Toaster Ovens, they are all things that are safer/more energy efficient if bought new. Plus, not being all that expensive to begin with, they are pretty manageable. The only exception to the rule is if someone was given double gifts, say for a wedding or graduation. New In Box is fare game!

(Image: Flickr Member Efigenia licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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