If you have been following my blog you have seen that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE http://www.craigslist.org/. Recently my dryer died and I was in need of a new one, but was determined to find a great deal. I am going to tell you how to do it.
First of all, do a search for what you want. We will use the dryer for an example. I searched Craigslist for "gas dryer". Found a TON of Kenmore dryers and some other options. I would find a dryer that looked interesting to you, then go to the next steps. (Hint, if there is a lot of a particular brand for sale, be weary of that brand, or really low ball on your offer because there are so many competing on the market.)
Then find the original price of the item by going to http://www.sears.com/ . If it is a non-appliance item go to a few websites that sell that item to see it's full retail.
Next, find out it's quality and consumer ratings. Do this by going to http://www.consumerreports.org/ to see their ratings, reliability, and consumer feedback. (This costs $25 per year but is well worth it. You can even share the cost with some friends.) You don't want to buy used things that are rated poorly so it is important to check this out. You can also see consumer ratings for a lot of things at www.Amazon.com.
Back to the dryer story....I figured out that I didn't want a Kenmore, plus the dryer that had just broken was a Kenmore. Not doing that again. So I decided that I wanted a Whirlpool, middle level dryer. So now I know what I want. (Hint: don't get sold on the fancy bells and whistles. Most of the time you don't use them anyway and they just cost more $$.)
Next, narrow your search on Craigslist. I go back to Craigslist and type in "Whirlpool Gas Dryer".
This next step is IMPORTANT. I start looking at the postings that are about two weeks old. This give the owner time to realize that their dryer may not be worth what they are asking. This makes them much more open to negotiations.
Next, email them, asking if the dryer is still available. If it is yes, give them a low ball, but reasonable offer, in my case I offered $150 for a dryer listed at $300. Start your negotiating price at or a little above 50% of the asking price (If their price is reasonable).
Usually you will want to start lower than you are willing to pay so that you can meet somewhere in the middle. In this particular case I couldn't afford much, and I knew it was going to come across as low balling. So I explained that all I could offer was $150, I could pay cash, and could pick it up the following day. My DH also had to drive for 1 hour to get it, so that helped in the negotiating as well.
This particular man was very gracious and took my offer, and even said he wished he could give it to me for free, but he needed something from it. (Remember I said that people will help you out if they can?)
So that is how I got a Whirlpool Dryer, 18 months old, used for 5 months, worth $550 new, for $150. I also got a 2 year old Convection oven worth $1500 for $45o this same way.