Your unfair advantage over lots of other Craigslist shoppers

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In the past I’ve written¬†about third-party services that will alert you to new Craigslist postings. One of the ones I have used over the years is Blogtrottr, and I have definitely gotten some good deals as a result. But now there’s an even better way – getting new ad alerts directly from Craigslist.

Craigslist notification


What’s the value in this? Let’s talk about an example situation.

In our example, I’m looking to buy a used car. I want to get a Honda Civic. My requirements are:

  • model year must be 2009 or newer
  • no more than 50,000 miles
  • I only want to see ads that include pictures of the car
  • automatic transmission
  • I only want to look at cars that are priced $11,000 or less

So I go to my local Craigslist site at, and I do a search based on those preferences. In that search, 5 cars come up. I call about a couple of them but don’t end up buying any of them.

Craigslist cars

Of course, people are listing cars for sale all the time on Craigslist. Sometimes they are overpriced because the owner thinks it’s worth more than it really is. But some are actually amazing bargains. Of course, it’s the bargains that you are really looking for.

But the key to getting a bargain on Craigslist is being the first (or one of the first) to see that ad. There are LOTS of people shopping on Craigslist for a good deal on a car. If someone posts their car for sale at a really good price, chances are someone looking for a car is going to just happen to search Craigslist a short time after the ad is posted, and go buy that car. They found it just because they were lucky enough to be searching right after the ad was listed, so hardly anyone else had a chance to even see that ad.

But if you check Craigslist each day at 8 am and 5 pm, what if the hugely-discounted car for sale gets listed at 9 am? That means it’s going to sit there all day, with tons of other people looking at it, before you even do your next check at 5 pm. That car would likely already be sold by then.

So you could just save that Craigslist search on your smartphone and keep checking it throughout the day, but your employer might not be too happy with that. Not to mention that it’s kind of a pain.

That’s why there have been some services that have popped up, to notify you about new Craigslist ads. That way you don’t have to keep checking it all the time. You just get an email when a new ad gets posted that meets your criteria. As I said, I have used Blogtrottr for a while. It was okay, but not perfect. The emails they send have third-party advertisements, and I can’t really fault them for that since they have to make money somehow.

But the real problem with Blogtrottr and others is the fact that it’s not really an “immediate” notification. Sometimes I would get an email and check the ad on Craigslist and see that it actually got posted several hours earlier. In some cases I didn’t get the email alert until the next day. That kind of defeats the purpose if you’re trying to know about a new listing right away in order to get there before anyone else can.

Well, I don’t use Blogtrottr any more, because Craigslist now offers this alert service directly. And of course it’s free.

Of course, I wanted to be sure that the notifications were immediate, so I checked it by creating a “test” alert request. Then I posted an ad on Craigslist that matched that alert. Within a few minutes, I was sent an email telling me about that new posting. Bingo!

One of the keys to this strategy is to make your search as specific as possible, based on as many criteria as you wish. In fact, it’s even better if you create multiple detailed searches and save them in your Craigslist account, and get an alert for each one. With a specific search like that, a bargain that matches that search might not show up in Craigslist very often – but when it does, you’ll be the first to know about it!

To set up an email alert, first you have to create the search and see the results of that search on your screen. Then look for the link at the top that says “email alert”:

Craigslist email alert


That will show you your list of saved searches, and you can toggle the email alert on or off if you want. You can always see all of your saved searches by clicking on the “Searches” tab when you’re logged in to your Craigslist account:

craigslist searches


As far as I know, there is no limit to the number of searches and alerts you can save in your Craigslist account.

For those people that are sort of “entrepreneurial” by nature, this alert service could present an opportunity to make some money. Do you have some type of specialized knowledge in a particular area? If you know about certain specialty items and their value, you could use that to your advantage. You could set up an alert for a particular item that you know is worth $500. But you only get notified if someone posts one of that item for sale for $300. So you go and buy it for $300, then sell it on Craigslist to someone else for $400. The person that bought it from you is still getting a bargain price, and you make $100. Sure, you might not be notified very often for something so underpriced, but when it happens you can take action. And it actually might surprise you how often things are posted on Craigslist at prices much lower than their real value.

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Suzanne van der Merwe
May 25th, 2015

Dear Scott

I am going to start looking for a second hand car a.s.a. my doctor gives me an OK to drive after my long “disabled” period(11/2 years).
Your very enlightening information as usually struck a chord this morning.
Next month (June) I can make an appointment for my first Tutoring lesson with you!
My list of things to become certain about is long!

I am happy that I discovered you, because no matter how hard I may battle with the whims of my computer, I always kept looking at your Monday tips and that kept my hope alive!

All the best and thank you
Suzanne van der Merwe

June 10th, 2015

Great tips! Thank you so much!