I buy and sell a ton of stuff on Craigslist. If you’ve never been on the site, but know only of the more dubious publicity it has received, I’m here to tell you, “Craigslist is safe, and you probably won’t get kidnapped.” But seriously, I’ve met nothing but nice and honest people during my Craigslist transactions. To sweeten the pot, you can find fantastic deals on just about anything. There’s a blog-turned-book by a Canadian guy demonstrating the general goodwill of people and the good finds of Craiglist. Kyle MacDonald traded one large red paperclip up to a house in 14 even trades over the course of a year! Check it out at his website: One Red Paper Clip
Bottom line, Craigslist and a bunch of other online sites are a great way for you to find things you need on assignment for cheap and sell them when you’re done with them. In some areas, Craiglist isn’t necessarily the go-to site, there may be a better, local option – think about classifieds on the local paper’s webpage. In Maine, I’ve found that Craigslist has a good local popularity, but there’s also Uncle Henry’s, a long-time printed buy-and-sell listing that is now available online. If you’re on assignment near a military base, there’s a good chance someone has set-up a Facebook page to buy, sell, and trade on and around the base.
Here’s my hit-list of the best ways I have used the internet to barter for things I need on assignment:
My very first travel assignment, I had the staffing agency set me up with my housing. It was a great way to get out there on the road and do the traveling without having to worry about lodging. As I’ve gotten more comfortable over the years with how travel PT works, I’ve gotten better at finding my own housing.
The tough part is, and has always been, finding a place that is: (a.) Furnished; and (b.) available for a short lease. I’m yet to find something that has more in this niche market than Craigslist. Type in furnished and the town you are headed to, and you are bound to have a couple good leads on your pad for the next 13 weeks.
AirBnB.com is a newer site that allows people to rent out their places privately. I haven’t yet stayed in a place I found on Air BnB, but have heard of people getting great deals on this site. Depending on your tolerance to being a complete vagabond, you can find anything from a futon to crash on for a night in someone’s living room to a house all to yourself for the length of the assignment. The site allows you to filter your search well to fit your needs and displays ratings from people who have previously stayed at the crash-pad you may be considering.
For my wife and I, we find it very difficult to take long road trips in separate cars. Two drivers in one car allows us to drive longer hours in a day and travel more safely and comfortably. Our solution is to drive one car to our assignment and buy a car when we get there. This also works well in places you may fly into to work like Alaska or Hawaii. We have bought six cars on Craigslist and one RV… only one deal ended poorly. My wife ended up selling a beat up Passat for $200 and a bag of mangoes – true story. More often than not, we are able to sell the car at the end of the assignment for more than we bought it for. Speaking of which, anyone looking for a 1997 Honda Civic in Maine? With only 208,000 miles on it, it’s a steal at $1200.
The car I’m typically looking at is $3,000 to $5,000, but I have gone cheaper at times, like with the Civic. Two things I can recommend are to ask lots of questions, people are typically willing to be perfectly honest, and take the test drive into serious consideration. On that one deal that went south in Hawaii (the Passat and the mangoes), there were clear signs during the test drive that we shouldn’t buy the car, but got so wrapped up in the mentality of “we need a car now” that we ignored the lousy shifting and ended up transmissionless 2 weeks later.
With with all things bought online, but particularly with cars: BARTER! Everybody on Craigslist is listing their stuff for a bit more than they would actually take to let go of it. Find out how little money they will take!
I have this buddy who used to be a traveler, but fell in love with a dietitian on assignment. Now, they are married and have a great house in a cool neighborhood. This guy buys everything on Craigslist and isn’t afraid to walk away from anything but a spectacular deal. I was visiting him a few weeks ago and as I walk into his kitchen he’s really ( I mean REALLY) excited and blurts out, “Guess how much all the appliances in this kitchen cost!” This guy has gotten a full top-of-the line kitchen for chump change including a killer oven, fridge, and microwave.
As a traveler, you can’t get too weighed down with larger appliances, but any furnished apartment is going to be lacking something you need – a toaster, a microwave, a grill, a decent coffee pot. Hop online, see what’s available. You can typically get good stuff so cheap that if it doesn’t fit in the car at the end of the assignment, it won’t hurt to part ways with it.
I don’t have a ton of toys. They take up a lot of space in small apartments, and it’s much easier to travel light. But, come on, there’s some stuff you just need. In Hawaii, I bought a surfboard at the beginning of the 6 month assignment and bought a second board halfway through. I surfed three days a week on these boards, used the heck out of them, and was able to break even by selling them on Craigslist when it was time to leave.
In Colorado, it’s ski and camping equipment. For anyone who spends significant time doing outdoor sports, you know there’s always something better, stronger, more light-weight, more durable, and better than what you have. I have also found that the upgrade doesn’t need to be brand new. There is a huge marketplace online for gently-used gear. There’s a slew of auction sites like Ebay that will do the trick if you know exactly what you want, but if it’s something you need to get the right size or fit, you’ll probably find yourself right back on Craigslist finding someone local that you can meet, take a good look at what they’re trying to sell, and come to a price that leaves both of you feeling like you ripped the other person off. And when you’ve worn out whatever it is you bought, there’s someone out there on the internet looking for that very thing who is willing to give you money for your worn out junk. What’s more American than that!? Happy bartering and safe travels!
I had written this a couple months back for another travel website, so it needs some updates:
-The Civic sold 3 days after being posted on Craigslist.
-Using Craigslist, we found and bought a car that we hope will last us for the next several years. It has a small dent on the bumper, but got it for thousands less than we would have at a dealer.
-We started a new assignment around Boston this week. Found an awesome apartment just outside the city, across the street from the beach… on Craigslist.