13 things to avoid buying on Craigslist

While the savings can be great, shopping on Craigslist is not without its potential pitfalls.

By Rebecca C. Walden, Reader's Digest

Skin care

You may think you've found the deal of the century on that pricey, name brand moisturizer, but think again.'From an unvetted source, you have no way of knowing if what you are buying is the actual product or if it is a duplicate made with different ingredients,' says Kourtney Bullard, a makeup artist based in Dallas-Fort Worth. 'You also won't be able to tell how old the product is. With skincare items especially, there are ingredients that can go bad quickly, including acids and SPF.'

Vintage china

If you've thumbed through the pages of home d├ęcor magazines, you've likely seen wall displays of beautifully-styled vintage china. This antique china, also known as transferware, hails from England and has a huge collector following. Sellers know this, and there are a large number of reproductions in circulation, which creates a 'buyer beware' situation. 'Authentic pieces will be stamped on the back to indicate their age,' says Leanne Cates, interior designer. 'Making a purchase online sight unseen is too risky.'


Cates also cautions against purchasing paintings or other art from Craigslist. 'If the seller is not an authority, they may be misinformed, unintentionally passing off a piece of art they believe to be authentic when, in fact, it isn't,' she says. One example she shares are antique and reproduced botanical prints. 'Original botanical prints will be date-stamped back to the 1800s, and the paper will have little spots, also called foxing, as further evidence of how old they are,' she says.

Silk drapes

If you're holding out for true silk drapes, don't fall for ones listed at rock bottom prices on Craigslist. As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. 'There are a lot of faux silk materials out there, many of which look like the real thing,' Cates says. 'You want to know exactly what you're buying.'

Photography equipment

For photography hobbyists—new or experienced—buying used equipment on Craigslist can seem like a way to get an easy bargain. But, Jennifer Hagler, an Alabama-based lifestyle photographer, says it can be worth the extra money to buy from a reputable seller. 'Most people don't know how to properly store and use their equipment to prevent dust and scratches,' she says. 'The equipment might have been dropped and may not be worth the asking price.' Hagler recommends searching for certified resellers on eBay or Amazon and asking for a seven-day trial period so you can ensure everything is working properly.

Bicycle helmets

Whether for a fast-growing child or as a one-off purchase for yourself, a used bicycle helmet on Craigslist is never a good idea, no matter what the price. 'You don't know its back story,' says Trae Bodge, consumer advocate and smart shopping expert. 'If the previous owner was in an accident while wearing it, the internal structure could be compromised.' In fact, that's why as a general rule, you should never buy used safety equipment of any kind, including children's car seats.

Designer label goods

Luxury label goods are often advertised on Craigslist and they can generate a lot of buyer interest quickly. But smart buyers know how to tell the real deal from the fake. 'You can save yourself a lot of trouble, disappointment, and cash by doing your research first,' Bodge says. Telltale signs include variations on logos, poor quality zippers, and asymmetrical patterns. 'There are plenty of convincing-looking fakes out there, none worthy of your hard-earned cash.'

Contact lenses

If contact lenses eat up a sizable chunk of your monthly budget, the upfront savings you'll find on Craigslist can hold appeal. Even so, Bodge says you're far better off sticking with savings clubs like Sam's or Costco, and to keep in mind websites like


When it's time to spring for a new mattress, skip Craigslist entirely. 'This category is a hard no across the board!' says Bodge, 'You don't want to mess around with what could be lurking in a used mattress, from bed bugs to dust mites.' To find a mattress for less, take advantage of a holiday sale; Bodge says you'll find the lowest advertised prices around Memorial Day.


For larger appliances, proceed with caution, Bodge says. 'If your stove is completely broken and you need one now and the price is rock bottom, sure, it could work as a temporary fix.' Ask the seller for the original product handbook and receipts for any repairs—that way, you'll know who to call if and when there are any issues. If you do have flexibility on timing, fall is the best time to score deals on major appliances, Bodge says.


When it comes to any item you on your head, Bodge's recommendation is clear. 'If it's made of a soft fabric, with a structure that can easily be tossed into the washer and dryer to kill any germs that might still be there, go for it,' she says. 'Otherwise, skip it, as sunhats and headwear with more structure are much harder to disinfect.' Invest in a new one for the warm weather days ahead, like this wide-brimmed sunhat; it has a UPF of 50+ and includes the all-important chin strap to ensure the wind doesn't blow it away.


Whether you're buying your very first set of pots and pans or are needing to replace an old set, investing in cookware can become costly—quickly—incentivizing you to search for savings on Craigslists. But you have no idea how old the seller's set is or how well it was—or wasn't—taken care of. One exception: If the pan is made from copper or cast iron, and you have fully vetted the seller, that may very well be a prudent purchase. But for anything non-stick, Bodge says to steer clear. 'The coating can wear off, making the cookware itself less effective and increasing the risk of contaminants in your food.' No thanks.


Walk a mile in their shoes? Maybe, followed by a long list of 'ifs.' 'First of all, no matter the type of shoes or their condition, if you don't have an effective way to disinfect the pair, forget it,' Bodge says. 'Running shoes and any other type of athletic footwear endure too much wear and tear; even if someone only ran in them for a couple of months, the cushion and interior support can be compromised.'


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Finance Magazine: 13 things to avoid buying on Craigslist
13 things to avoid buying on Craigslist
While the savings can be great, shopping on Craigslist is not without its potential pitfalls.
Finance Magazine
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