How to Search Better While Using Craigslist

Woman searching Craigslist on laptop

Robyn Breen Shinn / Image Source / Getty Images

Tired of missing out on Craigslist finds because other shoppers spot the best listings first? You just need to improve your search skills. Try this guide to getting the good stuff on Craigslist.

Craigslist Search Tips

Learning to search Craigslist effectively and efficiently is the best way to increase your odds of getting what you want. If you can't find the good stuff, you can't buy it.

How Often Should You Search Craigslist?

Search constantly. The good stuff on Craigslist goes fast—and you won't get it by searching just once or twice per day. New listings show up as soon as they're posted. Your goal is to be the first one to see them. To make the process easier, follow these steps:

  • Save Your Search: Once you've created an effective search (more about that in a moment), save it for next time by clicking "save search" to the right of the search bar so you won't have to type it all in again.
  • Sign up for Alerts: Also to the right of the search bar, click "email alert" for notifications of new listings based on your favorite searches. Email alerts come in list form two to three times per day.
  • Use an App: For real-time notifications when sellers list items that fit your searches, download a Craigslist app, such as cPro.

Searching Craigslist for Something Specific

Whether you're looking for antique, vintage, or just old and cheap, finding something specific is always a challenge if you're shopping secondhand. But, Craigslist makes it easier than most sources—if you search smart.

Search by Keywords

In a big Craigslist city with thousands of new listings each day, searching by keywords helps you narrow it down to just the things you might want. The right keywords depending on what you're looking for, but they might include:

  • Item type (e.g. chair, nightstand, mirror)
  • Brand (e.g. Drexel, Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn)
  • Item style (e.g. Shaker, tufted, contemporary)
  • Period (e.g. Mid-Century Modern, Victorian, Art Deco)
  • Manufacturing material or finish (e.g. brass, leather, painted)

Check Similar Items and Synonyms

If your keywords are item types, search for similar items, too. After all, your ideal end table might be some seller's nightstand, night table, occasional table, or chairside chest.

Include synonyms (alternate names) for your keywords as well. Perhaps you're searching for a sleeper sofa. Sellers might describe it as a hide-a-bed, hide-a-bed, fold-out, sofa bed, sofabed, or a convertible sofa.

Misspell Your Keywords

You'd be surprised by the number of people who misspell crucial words in their Craigslist listings, both because of typos and because they didn't bother to look it up. That means those listings don't show up in keyword searches unless you include the misspellings.

Try to imagine all the ways someone could misspell your keywords, such as reversed letters, missing spaces, and phonetic spellings, and add those to your search. Or, take a shortcut by entering your keywords in Fat Fingers or TypoHound. Both are designed to find eBay listings with typos. But, you can copy their lists of misspellings for your Craigslist search. If someone misspelled it on eBay, they've probably done it on Craigslist, too.

Include Old and Regional Terms

Ever heard of Chester drawers or Chester draws? If someone is selling one on Craigslist, it's a chest of drawers. How about a hassock or Davenport? That's an ottoman and sofa. And a Castro sofa? That's a sleeper sofa.

Do some research to find out if the items on your Craigslist wish list are ever referred to by any old brand names or colloquial terms.

Craigslist Search Tricks and Keyboard Commands

Now that you've identified so many different words to use in your searches, it's time to make the searches more efficient. If you search every word or term individually, shopping Craigslist will be a full-time job. Here are some keyboard commands you can use to filter the results:

Pipe Key: The pipe key functions as the word "or" on a Craigslist search. Let's say you're looking for a headboard and a dresser. Enter your search as "headboard | dresser" and you'll get both results.

Hyphen: A hyphen lets you eliminate listings with certain words from your search results. If you're looking for a traditional desk and don't want to see listings for computer desks, enter "desk -computer" in the search bar.

Quotation Marks: Search for an exact phrase by putting quotation marks around it. Perhaps you want an end table and don't want to comb through listings for all the other table types. Enter your search as "end table."

Search Multiple Craigslist City Sites Simultaneously

What if there are multiple Craigslist city sites within driving range?

You can search them one by one, but that takes time. Instead, see listings for your entire state by entering your search on Then, use the drop-down menu to view listings one city at a time or select "List City View" to see all the state results on a single page. They're still grouped by city, so it's easy to scroll past those that are too far away.

Willing to drive to another state? You can use the site to search every state simultaneously, too.