How to Barter on Craigslist: 7 Important Tips

Keyboard – Searching Craigslist

When you boil it down, economies are based on bartering. The vast majority of the time, though, we “barter” currency for some particular good or service. Historically speaking, the majority of transactions throughout history have been what we would consider “traditional” bartering: trading one good or service for another. One of the added pluses of bartering is that, if done well, both parties feel they have gained something, not only in goods or services, but in a relational way. Both feel they have added value to someone else., due to its local listing appeal, has become one site to try if you are interested in bartering. Most people scan through listings on Craigslist for things to buy (and great deals can be found if you are patient), but you can also find those who are willing to trade some goods or services. That is especially true for those who have very tight budgets. They are trying to get something they need, but be able to give something back in return.

So, how do you effectively barter on Craigslist? Here are a few general suggestions to consider:

1. Use the “Barter” section.

I doubt many people even realize that this section exists, but there is an entire page of Craigslist for each locality that is dedicated to bartering. By using this section, you are appealing to those of like minds.

2. Be honest with what you have.

As with any listing on the site, be completely honest with the product or service you are offering. Don’t undersell, but also do not exaggerate. People will expect what you list, so list honestly. If you want to build a reputation as one who can be trusted, it needs to be built from the very first transaction.

3. List what you would like in return.

Many bartering listings on Craigslist just put a question mark as to what they want in return. While this works sometimes, you need to be honest if there is something specific you truly need in return. For example, if you want a working lawn mower in return for your item or service, then be willing to say that. I have had people throw a curveball when we started talking about what they wanted. That ended the conversation because it was unexpected.

4. Offer something useful to a lot of people.

Unless you are well known in your area for some niche service or product, you are going to have a hard time finding something in return for it. Most people need certain things (textbooks, lawn equipment, painting services, etc.) that can cost quite a bit of money. If you can offer something that is useful to a lot of people, you are more likely to find a match.

5. Be cordial.

Bartering turns many people off because we don’t like confrontation, and they see these discussions as confrontational. If you will be honest from the start, the discussions should be simple. Even if the barter is a bit more complex, continue to be friendly. Bartering is not a way to take advantage of someone. See it as a way to help someone out, and you will be glad you did.

6. Give what is expected.

Some can be tempted to “bait and switch” on a product, or to do a shoddy job with the service, since they aren’t receiving real cash in return. Christians, though, are to do their best at all things. And, remember, you have received something in return!

7. Be patient.

The other piece of advice I would give is true of any transaction, whether it is a traditional shopping purchase or bartering: be patient. When you barter, it can sometimes be out of a time of need, and you can fail to get something of good value in return. Just wait for the right match and then do your best to deliver what you have promised when you find it.

Have you ever bartered on Craigslist? What tips would you offer? What stories do you have? Leave a comment below!

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  1. [email protected]

    Adam, I’d really like to give this a try some time. Do you know if there are any tax ramifications when it comes to bartering?

  2. Marty

    I’ve tried for some time to barter on Craigslist, but have yet to have success. It seems the people on there all want to trade you their used sock with a hole in it for your brand new car. It’s crazy.

    However, I have had good luck just posting a barter offer on my blog and clearly explaining what I have to offer. (

    Thus far, I’ve been able to barter for some business services, and even a really cool present for my wife that she had just asked me for!

  3. Shannon

    I’m with George, I’ve sold things on Craigslist but I’ve never tried bartering either. I’ll have to try it!

  4. Karen

    I’ve never visited the Barter section in Craigslist before. I always knew it existed but I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work. I will give it a try one of these days. Thanks for the info!

  5. Mike Pearcey

    A Pastor’s father (allegedly saved) and churh elder/leader gave me his financial advise. ” When some is going to get shafted make sure its the other guy ” Classic middle class thinking and no place for it in the Christian Community. Tell me any one, just what crown do we get for that? The ” shaft the other guy crown “? Or maybe the ” I loved my neighbor ” crown. How about the ” I lead many to salvation with financial integrety ” crown? Market value always. And if some one is going to be shafted better to be the Christian if salvation of the lost matters at all to you.

  6. kathleen

    Mike, good comments.
    I work in an organization where many families are served by being having things they need funded, but we cannot fund faith-based items (trying to be vague here out of respect for all involved). When families use deception to get faith-based versions of them funded, never doubt that people are watching. It gets comments, eye-rolls, and overall does NOT make a good impression. What’s sad is that we look for ways to work with people and to say yes where we can, so deception is a complete communication stopper.

    I haven’t bartered on CL, but will negotiate. Just purchased a vanity that was apparently gnawed on by a dog. Presented on the listing as minor damage in corner, but it was more than that. I told him that the damage was a concern, and offered him half of what he’d originally posted it for (been listed several weeks, no nibbles). He took it, but I was left with the feeling that he felt ripped off. I didn’t know how to put that right, and it’s left a bad taste in my mouth about the purchase.
    I guess the lesson there is that if you negotiate on a price, allow the buyer to feel happy about having done right by you as well. If you don’t feel right about making the sale, don’t do it. I’d rather have had a polite refusal than be left with this feeling that I left someone simmering with annoyance.

    • Mike Pearcey

      Always best to wlak awy if both are not happy. However buying a damaged item for a lesser price than market value of said item’s undamaged value is lagit. This is proven via the cost of the repair. Generaly take market value less (minus) repair cost is fair dealing. Many a small ( mom & pop ) business make their living in this margin. However I have also seen many persuaade ( gain confedence ) a seller to sell an undameged item for less than market and then persuade ( gain confidence ) of a buyer to pay more than market value. I call this confidence profits or con man for short.

  7. [email protected]

    I think Craiglist is a lot bigger in the US, that over here in the UK. I also don’t think bartering is quite as popular over here but its something I will have a look at. The trouble is nowadays is that people want everything for nothing! I might run something similar on my site, thanks!

  8. Barter Sean

    Great tips! I love to see more and more people getting into the barter game. For the people who haven’t had success yet, don’t give up! I’ve had plenty of items that were slow to trade, but it only takes one person willing to trade and you’re off! Just keep in mind that it’s 100% possible to trade up and up.