Once upon a time, my friend Roxy and her husband were looking to buy a boat. So, off they went to Craigslist.
They found used boats in all shapes and sizes. One caught their eye and a few weeks later it was theirs. And they only paid a dollar!
I bought Roxy a cup of coffee in exchange for the details of this insane transaction. Here’s what I found out about getting serious deals on big-ticket purchases on Craigslist.
After trolling Craigslist for a few weeks, Roxy and her husband, Tim, headed out to see a bunch of potential boats in person. They liked one of the options, which was listed at $3,500.
Tim wanted it; Roxy wasn’t so sure. It needed some work and had outstanding slip fees (the rent owners pay to keep their boat at a marina). They decided to pass.
But Roxy kept stalking the boat on Craigslist, watching the price drop. As the end of the month neared, Roxy knew the owner would be in a hurry to unload the boat to avoid accruing another month of slip fees.
So, she offered him $1 for the boat. And, to her surprise, he accepted. He was relieved to be free of the boat, and she was happy to be its new owner.
Roxy and Tim put in a couple of weekends fixing up the boat to get it in useable condition. Luckily, they both have experience with automotive repair and were able to do the work themselves.
And as part of the deal, they paid the owner’s back slip fees, which totaled about $1,000. So, yes, the boat cost $1 but it look some elbow grease and a bit of cash to get things in order.
After a year or so of boat ownership, Roxy and Tim sold the boat for $3,000 and upgraded to a full-on houseboat. I’m still hassling her to invite me to hang out on it.
Roxy’s 5 Tips for Scoring on Craigslist
Want to score your own sweet Craigslist deal? Here’s what she recommends.
1. Be Patient
Good deals come along, but not every day. Roxy was surfing Craigslist for weeks before she set her sights on a specific boat. By that time, she knew what was out there.
Take it slow and get a feel for how much things cost so you recognize a good deal when you see it.
2. Don’t Wait Until You’re Desperate
If you’re looking for a new car, don’t wait until your current model is kaput. When you’re out of options, you’re at the mercy of what’s available at that moment.
Instead, start looking a few months ahead of time so you can afford to be choosy. For Roxy, a boat was a recreational purchase, so she wasn’t in a rush to make a choice. If the $1 boat hadn’t worked out, she would have kept looking.
This lack of urgency isn’t always possible, but if can make it happen, it will go a long way toward scoring you a good deal.
3. Set Up Alerts
If you’re looking for something specific, set up Google Alerts to let you know when something pops up. Be liberal with the alerts — they’re free!
Roxy set up alerts for each model of boat she was looking for, and got an email each time a boat matching that description was posted to Craigslist in her area. This eventually led her to the $1 boat.
Personally, I’m awful at this. It makes me feel awkward. But Roxy maintains you have to haggle if you want a good deal.
She suggests starting with, “Would you take [this amount]?” If not, they will likely come back with a counter offer. Even if they don’t take your first offer, you’ll still get a better deal than if you hadn’t asked.
Of course, don’t be afraid to walk away. Roxy and Tim looked at more than 10 boats before they decided on the one, and they were prepared to walk away if the seller didn’t accept their (insane) offer.
5. Timing is Key
People often list things on Craigslist in an attempt to get rid of them ASAP. Align your interests and help make that happen.
Especially when there are competing offers on a listing, the seller might pick the person who can head over that same day.
As Roxy discovered, timing is everything. She and Tim were able to swoop in and take possession of the boat because the previous owner didn’t want to pay the monthly slip fee.
Your Turn: What are your top tips for finding a steal on Craigslist? What’s the best deal you’ve found?
Lyndsee Simpson is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. She’s on the prowl for a Craigslist Patrick Townsend orbit chandelier. Her budget is $1.