Forget Craigslist: 7 Safer Alternatives For Buying And Selling Online

If you’re under 30 and appreciate the value of a dollar, chances are that you’ve used Craigslist. Started by a lonely San Franciscan in 1995 as a way to connect people, Craigslist has since become the web’s #1 destination for classified ads. The site welcomes a staggering 50 million unique visitors per month, connecting college kids to smelly couches in 70 countries.  

I’ve been using Craigslist since 2005 when I began buying and selling used airsoft equipment for gas money in high school. And while I love Craigslist for supplying me with phones and furniture throughout college, as an adult, I’ve broken up with Craigslist (and you should, too).

For head-scratching reasons I’ll explain later, Craigslist only employs 50 people to manage 50 million unique monthly visitors. By contrast, Zillow and eBay employ 5,250 and 13,300 people, respectively.

50 people just isn’t enough, as evidenced by Craigslist’s persistent rates of scams, fake listings, and crime. 

For the sake of your own time, money, and safety, it’s time to move onto a competitor. 

5 reasons to stop using Craigslist

Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark is a nice guy, but he’s not much of a leader (his words, not mine). 

For example, he’s a strong believer in Dunbar’s Number, a philosophy which states that humans can only maintain meaningful social relationships with a limited number of people. So to ensure team cohesion, he capped Craigslist at just 50 employees. 

So while Craiglist maintains a generous Glassdoor score, its users suffer greatly from the lack of innovation, curation, safety, buyer protection, and support that its competitors offer. 

Here are just five reasons to stop using Craigslist: 

1. It’s potentially dangerous

Each time a string of robberies (or worse) is linked back to Craigslist, the company is quick to defend themselves. Statistically, they say, for every Craigslist Killer, there are millions of normal transactions. 

True, but Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin points out that Craigslist is still an ideal hunting ground for two reasons:

  1. Users can operate in complete anonymity, never revealing their name, phone number, or any traceable information.
  2. Craigslist offers an ideal platform for premeditated crimes. There are cases where a “seller” will list a $1,000 phone for $800, and simply rob users of their cash upon arrival. 

While the likelihood of you getting robbed during a Craigslist deal may be “vanishingly low” (again, their words, not mine), it’s still higher than it would be on a competing site with basic buyer protection.

2. It’s rife with scams, fraud, and phishing

You’re far more likely to be scammed than robbed off of Craigslist. Craigslist scams are so common that there are .gov pages ranking them.

The most common scams are fake housing rentals, where users are more likely to make a virtual down payment and share critical personal information with a “realtor.” In 2016, these researchers shared their findings with Craigslist alongside recommendations for making the site safer, but little has changed. 

3. It’s choked with small business ads

Craigslist should be a place where you can go online and purchase a gently-used phone or couch from a neighbor. Instead, it’s become bloated with ads for pawn shops, used car dealers, and more. 

As evidenced by the screenshot, there’s nothing preventing these businesses from posting multiple times in a row, nor is there any safeguard vetting their legitimacy. 

Sure you can just ignore them, but competitors handle sketchy solicitors much better. Both eBay and Facebook Marketplace have built-in filters for C2C listings versus B2C listings, creating a much cleaner browsing experience. 

Speaking of browsing experience… 

4. Its UI is older than Post Malone

50 employees means that you can’t really keep up with the Joneses in the interface department. Craigslist looks like an HTML-based page from the 90s because it is; the site hasn’t experienced an overhaul since Sophie Turner was born. 

You could say that Craigslist exemplifies the “if it ain’t broke” philosophy, and that’s fair. The site functions at a basic level just fine. 

However, when you grow accustomed to features like Facebook Marketplace’s transparency and instant messaging, and eBay’s buyer protection and seller reviews, Craigslist begins to feel less quaint and simply outdated. 

5. There are much better alternatives

Craigslist reminds me of the Coolest: a Kickstarter that grew so popular that it failed. 

Craigslist hasn’t failed in the traditional sense, but it’s fallen behind competitors in usability, curation, and most critically, safety. 

7 superior, safer alternatives to Craigslist

If you haven’t got the gist of what I’ve been saying, I’ll demonstrate why there are multiple superior marketplaces you can shop through, rather than waste your time (and hard-earned money) on Craigslist.

1. Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is my #1 overall Craigslist replacement. You’ll find listings for electronics, furniture, temp gigs, home rentals, and more. Buyers and sellers can communicate and pay instantly through Facebook Messenger and are required to use their real profiles. As a result, Facebook Marketplace has significantly fewer scammers and sketchy listings. 

Plus, to encourage capitalism, Facebook will occasionally offer to ship your sold items for free. 

I bought my Kindle, sold my Xbox, and have done dozens of more sales through Facebook Marketplace and have only had positive experiences. Overall, it feels safer, kinder, and better than Craigslist. 

2. eBay

Tesla probably wouldn’t exist without eBay, who bought Musk-led PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion. 

Fun facts aside, eBay set an example for online classifieds that I wish Craigslist had followed. The classic auction site has gracefully evolved into a veritable global bazaar where you can purchase pretty much anything from anyone in any country. 

3D printed car parts from China? Carpets from Turkey? Rare collectibles from Iowa? They’re all on eBay, quickly accessible through a slick interface with deep search functions. Plus, seller reputation is everything on eBay, so most will work with you to make things right. 

3. Realtor.com

Realtor and Craigslist will share a lot of the same listings for housing and rentals, but I prefer browsing on Realtor because it has a better UI and is pretty much void of sketchy listings. Plus, listings themselves are more thorough, with photos, floor plans, and visiting hours. 

Realtor also allows you to connect with real estate agents and buyers and sellers in an easier, safer way. So, whether you’re looking for an apartment rental or you’re full-on buying your first home, stick with reputable marketplaces like Realtor.

4. Upwork

If you’re looking to hire or sell your services for gig work, especially for remote opportunities given the pandemic, Upwork is your friend.

It’s #1 advantage over Craigslist is that it keeps funds in an escrow so you’re less likely as either the buyer or seller to get ripped off. Plus, their UI is less clunky and just feels better. 

5. Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a neighborhood-specific marketplace and message board. You can filter to include households within roughly one, three, and five miles, and even though that can still be thousands of strangers, Nextdoor still feels more collaborative than Craigslist or even Facebook Marketplace. 

Nextdoor’s For Sale & Free section reflects this friendly vibe. Folks frequently list items for free or nearly free, simply looking to give them away to someone in their area. It’s a great place to find quality furniture, exercise equipment, instruments, and more and purchase them without having to travel anywhere unsafe or unfamiliar. 

6. Goodwill 

Good ol’ Goodwill. I myself recently discovered that Goodwill sells its most high-ticket items, mostly jewelry, through shopgoodwill.com. I thought that was interesting, but it’s not why I brought them up. 

Rather, I bring up Goodwill so that I can mention my #1 thrift shop tip: shop for clothes at Goodwills in wealthy neighborhoods. You’re much more likely to find real designer clothes there for under 10% of their original sticker price. If you shop for designer goods on Craigslist, you’re much more likely to get scammed or swindled. 

7. Habitat ReStore

Finally, if you’re shopping for appliances, furniture, or home improvement supplies, take a peek in your local Habitat ReStore before heading to Lowe’s or Craigslist. A hybrid of Goodwill and Home Depot, the ReStore sells surplus supplies and donations from Habitat for Humanity for a tiny fraction of retail. Best of all, the proceeds support future Habitat houses!

For new homeowners especially, the Habitat ReStore is a must-visit. Even if you leave with just a window and a sink, you’ve already saved hundreds and supported a 501(c)(3) in the process. 

Summary

Craigslist started with a noble purpose but has simply gotten too big for its britches. Its skeleton crew of 50 employees simply couldn’t provide much-needed updates to usability, curation, and most notably, safety for its 50 million users. 

Thankfully, if you’re looking to buy and sell online, superior alternatives exist.

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