Find great vintage furniture deals on Craigslist — 4 tips to help improve your search

4 tips to find great vintage furniture deals on Craigslist

Kate Have you ever wondered how some people seem to have all the luck finding awesome vintage furniture and accessories on Craigslist? I’ve had so many people tell me that I am extremely lucky to have found an item on Craigslist for a decent price so easily! Well, it isn’t always easy, and with the rise in popularity of shows set in the 1950s and 1960s like Mad Men, it isn’t getting any easier or less expensive. That’s why I am sharing my four tried-and-true tips to help you find the vintage furniture of your dreams on Craigslist.

1. Intentionally use typos and misspellings in your search.

I’m sure most of you type any number of the following search terms when you are hunting for the good stuff on Craigslist: Mid Century, Retro, Eames, 1950s, 1960s, Broyhill Brasilia, etc. but have you tried searching for variations in spelling? Craigslist doesn’t have spell check and let’s face it, many people either can’t spell, or are in such a hurry to get their posting up, that they make minor mistakes. This can work in your favor! Looking for a Broyhill Brasilia piece? Try searching for various ways that is could be misspelled like broy hill, broyhil, or broyhille. I found my $50 Broyhill Sculptra dresser by searching for “broy hill.” Also, be sure to try variations of common terms: for example, not just “mid century” but also “midcentury” and “mid-century.”

2. Search with vague descriptions.

This has worked wonders for me as well! I scored my Burke tulip style end table for $25 from an elderly couple who were downsizing. They listed their table as “small, white round table.” Funny thing was, they knew exactly what they had, but they didn’t want to sell it to someone who would just turn it around and make more money on it. They wanted to affordably sell it to someone who would use it in their own house, enjoy it and appreciate it as much as they had (and I do!).

3. Search early and often.

Another method that I use to score the awesome stuff on Craigslist is to seach early and often. I’ve had most of my success finding the good stuff between the hours of 7 and 9 a.m. Many sellers honor the first-come, first-served mentality. If you are the first one to contact them and set up an appointment, you’ll be the one to score their furniture. Just make sure you get there as soon as possible, so they don’t change their mind and sell to someone who contacted them second, but can get there first. (If you are on the hunt for something, always be ready to get there fast with cash!) If I am on the hunt for something specific, say my Broyhill Brasilia bedroom set, I will search Craigslist every day at least three times a day. By keeping up on the posts as they come in, it will only take a minute or two to check and see what’s new.

4. Ask for individual item prices on overpriced sets.

When I found my Broyhill Brasilia bedroom set, it was listed for $600 for the headboard/footboard, long dresser with mirror, one nightstand, highboy dresser and the mattress. I asked the seller if she would break up the set, and she said yes. After I heard what she wanted for each individual part of the set, I realized that she valued the mattress higher than the furniture (as it was nearly new and high quality). I ended up getting the set of furniture for $275!

With these helpful tips, some persistence and a little bit of luck, you too can find treasures on Craigslist.

Do you have other tried-and-true tips for finding great stuff on Craigslist? The Retro Decorating Gods are sure to reward you for sharing your secrets with the rest of the tribe!

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  1. says

    RSS feeds and a Craigslist folder in my google reader…search for any combination of terms, press enter, scroll to the bottom of the page, and there’s a small RSS button. Click and organize as you will. It’s really nice since I find actually searching Craigslist to be a bit of a time suck. This takes that bit of it out of the equation for me. You can do the same with ebay, though unfortunately not with Etsy. :)

    • Natalie says

      And now that Google Reader is going away, what will you use? I have been trying out several reader programs but none of them pull the feeds from Craigslist in quick enough (it is like hours after it has been posted). Any suggestions?

      I am pretty sad about Google Reader to say the least.

  2. Marta says

    I don’t know if it’s a colloquialism, or merely spelling how the accent makes the word sound, but I’ve noticed on the Rhode Island CL the word draw is used instead of drawer. So, if you’re not checking for six draw chest, or set of draws, you can miss out on a lot.

    Also, people frequently aren’t familiar with standard terminology for different pieces of furniture. Rod iron is frequently used instead of wrought iron, small couch instead of loveseat, rocker instead of glider, etc. If you’re on the hunt for something, it pays to spend the time to go through the complete listings a few times to get a feel for how items might be mislisted in any particular area.

    One other thing to keep in mind is an item might be listed in a completely different category than you would expect. My favorite category on CL is household. If someone has a dresser, a blender, and a lawnmower to sell, for instance, instead of listing separately under furniture, appliances, and farm+garden, they’ll just put a single listing under household.

  3. Amanda says

    In many major metropolitan areas, mid-century stuff tends to cost higher, just because the cost of living is higher and people there typically know what vintage mid-century pieces are in demand therefore they can sell them at a higher price.

    But if you have a good friend or relative, that lives in a less populated town, where mid-century stuff may be referred to as just old crap, follow the craigslist in that town. And hopefully your friend or relative will be willing to pick up and ship an item for you. I’ve done this on a few occasions with my hometown’s craigslist feed. Mid-century stuff pops up on occasion and the listing price is very cheap. I was able to get a surfboard shaped coffee table for $45 and I had a family member pick it up and ship it to me. The same table probably would have sold for at least $150 – 200 on craigslist in the metro I live in.

    Or alternatively, follow the craigslist in a smaller town that may be a few hours drive from where you live.

  4. says

    My trick for cheap yet great finds is to never search using words like “Eames”, “retro”, or “mid-century”… those usually indicate a seller who knows what they have and want to make some money. I only use those words if I’m searching for a particular vintage item that I’m willing to lay out some bucks for.

    For the best deals, I search with words like “old”, “dated”, “used” and the like. Sometimes the word “funky” brings in good results, too.

  5. Lee in Florida says

    There is, or used to be, a site called “fat fingers”, where you could enter search terms, and it would give you common misspellings. It was originated for ebayers, but would work as well for CL.

  6. TappanTrailerTami says

    Great tips Kate – I think early and often is the best advice though. Desirable items are put up on Craigslist everyday, and if they are even remotely well priced, they usually sell pretty quickly. The early bird gets the worm.

    As much as I love Craigslist – I have one major “despise” of their website. I don’t mind searching multiple times (plural, different spellings etc). My one beef is that sometimes people will put things in multiple categories, and then on top of that the cars/trucks/rvs for sale not being in a completely separate for sale section from the rest of the “for sale/wanted” is such a pain.

    Maybe it isn’t such a problem with furniture, but if you are trying to hunt down building materials it is. Try putting “interior door” in the main search box so it searches all the for sale categories and you get a jillion car ads. So, you have to go to the actual category like Materials, but some are also posted to “general” category or “household” category, so now you have to do three searches to avoid getting the car ads.

    Anyone else have that issue?

  7. Silvercat says

    There are Craigslist search engines that can make it easier – you can select multiple locations and categories, and some of them save your searches for you. Most of them can also search the Craigslist wannabes like Kijiji at the same time. I like, but theres, and at least a few others.

    • says

      Darn! you beat me to search tempest! I just posted it but really its awesome! I can’t craigslist without it! it cuts out all the junk!

  8. Stephanie says

    Thanks for the tips Kate! I am a little jealous of your bedroom furniture.haha. $275 is a STEEL!!!! Lucky gal!

  9. nina462 says

    love your bedroom set! I’d do anything to change out my Broyhill Fontana set from the 90’s.
    Thanks for the tips –

  10. says

    My great tip is if you have an IPad or even IPhone-Use the Craigslist Pro app. It has photos on the search page, so you don’t have to click every link to actually see the item!

  11. says

    I, too, do not find Craigslist user friendly. Many of the listings that come up when I search for something have NOTHING to do with what I am looking for :-( Maybe someone can tell me what I am doing wrong?
    Ebay, Etsy and the local newspaper are just much easier.
    That being said, I love your finds!
    Your dresser (also known as chest of drawers, chifferobe, wardrobe or bureau in some areas) is gorgeous!

    • beti1948 says

      Sometimes people with put a list of keywords at the bottom of the ad just so their ad will show up under a variety of keyword searches. Some are relevant but I’m sure some are simply to drive traffic to their ad.

  12. Annie B. says

    Great tips, Kate. Love that Brasilia bedroom furniture of yours, lucky girl.

    One of my recent favorite (mis) spellings on an ad was “vintage beer stain”.

  13. says

    List Alert!

    Here’s the site:

    You can put in your search terms and it will email you (with photos) of the new listings as soon as they are up! I am currently searching for a “new” vintage stove, so I have List Alert send me all new listings for vintage stove, antique stove, retro stove, retro oven, vintage range, etc. Every day I get listings sent right to my email.

    It takes all the hard work away! And, if you have emails sent to your phone, it will notify you ASAP with new listings :)

  14. Jeanne says

    Hi Patch. I’m in Dearborn! I got those same exact pieces for $450 in Livonia a couple years ago. I’d be interested in additional pieces, but not at that price, wow! No wonder it hasn’t been snatched up yet.

  15. lynda says

    Try searching for grandmother’s, parents, aunt, etc. The item is probably vintage if they are cleaning out a home of an older person. There are many ways to describe the same item. For instance there might be patio, garden, outdoor or deck furniture for the yard. Sometimes just putting in solid wood will pull up some of the older furniture too. I found a Conant Ball dining set that way for a friend. Also, I actually googled “rod iron” because I saw so many listings and I thought maybe it was a special kind of furniture I did not know about!

  16. lisa says

    Lynda, that is so funny you googled “rod iron.” I also didn’t realize at first it was a misspelling and spend several moments trying to picture what it might be.

    My Craigslist tip is to search “Ikea” because I realized after looking on Craigslist that what I like from there is pretty much the same as what most other people like, too. Any time I’m thinking of buying an Ikea item I search Craigslist first. Even if the CL price isn’t that much lower than Ikea, which is often the case given the low starting point for Ikea stuff, it saves driving to the store and often having to assemble the item.

    Also, when I need a generic item like a bookcase I put my neighborhood name in the search box — when you are not looking for a midcentury treasure but just something to store stuff on in your laundry room it is nice not to have to drive too far to get it.

  17. Zola says

    We have the same bedroom set, Kate! We found ours several years ago on Craigslist and paid $450, which we considered a steal. The only difference is that our set included a more traditional nightstand – with top drawer and open space below – while yours is a commode. And we just happen to have that same commode in our living room!

  18. Christine says

    Love these ideas! I like to scouring craigslist and just the other day i scores a triple wishbone dining table with leaves for $150 and a small hey wake buffet for $50! Both need to be brought back from the dead but that is how i like them. Goodwill is great too…found a hey wake side table for $5!

  19. Christine says

    Also try basic resale stores. We got a nearly perfect60″ steelcase desk for $200 at a warehouse that sells only office furniture. He sells cheap because he doesnt want to haggle with designers and such and wants to stay “off their radar”.

  20. ChristyinTN says

    I am ADDICTED to craigslist and have had nothing but great luck, and I’ve met some really cool people. I found a Broyhill Brasilia dining set-table 6 chairs, buffet and china cabinet..drum roll…….$300. Happy dance! I’ve done several happy dances, as well as almost peeling out of someone’s driveway from excitement and sometimes guilt..haha! One key search I have started using lately is 1960’s, 1960s, 60’s…even if they don’t know what they have usually they know its from that decade. I would love to see some pictures of people’s craigslist scores! It’s so much fun!!

  21. Kevin says

    I like using for a CL search and it seems to work better than tempest for local items. I found a great Danish teak bookcase in Coco Beach using dailylister. These two bookcases were listed under teak and the picture showed them all taken apart sitting in a garage. I recognized the braces and jumped on them. The seller was great and held them for me until I got there. I love CL!

  22. Karen says

    This isn’t furniture but when I was looking for a car, I searched cities where I had friends and got my Vibe in Tampa where it was about $1000 less than it would have cost me in Chicago. Plus I got a little vaca.
    When my mother passed away in Ft. Meyer, I searched for a sturdy inexpensive car. The seller met me at the airport, we finished the paperwork in a few minutes, I dropped him off at his house and I was good to go. I stopped in Virginia to drop items for my brother and in Indiana to leave items my sister wanted. When I got back to Chicago, I sold the car for enough over what I paid to cover the airfare.
    It’s a little extreme, but it adds a little fun if you can manage it.

  23. Mary says

    I found a Milo Baughman table on CL for $150 because A) the people thought it was Stanley because they had a china cab in the same room that was made by Stanley and B) they thought the table was something no one would even want so they didn’t even bother listing it. I saw it in the corner of the Stanley hutch post and when I went to look at the hutch asked how much for the table and 6 chairs and the guy thought he was playing hardball and said $150! I would have felt bad but I knew he just wanted to get rid of all of it since his mother had gone into assisted living and the family didn’t want to deal. And he was really happy someone took it. It was my favorite CL story to date.

    I also found a Tommi Parzinger table for $100 once which is among my prized possessions. LOVE CL. :)

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