How Does Craigslist Work?

Updated March 23, 2017

Craigslist (see link in Resources) is not so much one page but many, which are presented depending on your location, that offers a location for local classified ads in many areas, including jobs, housing, selling and trading items, personals and more. Additionally, the site has virtually no images or fancy layout -- it looks essentially the same as it did when it launched more than a decade ago. Craigslist is international in scope but works on a local level. The assumption is that things you are looking for need to be close to you. Craigslist will attempt to give you the page closest to your location when you visit the main site, but if it doesn't get your desired area correct you can find the geographic area closest to you by clicking on the links in the upper right of the page.

What is Craigslist?

Craigslist has a larger and more comprehensive scale than other classified ad pages. It is immensely popular because it is mostly free and works for many users. As of this writing there are more than 700 locations in more than 70 countries, according to the site, and it gets 30 billion page views per month and has an estimated 50 million users just in the U.S.

Create a Craigslist Account

You can view and post listings without a Craigslist account, but it is much easier to keep track of them with an account. Click the "My Account" link in the upper left of the page and then follow the prompts to create your account. It's free. Your e-mail address will not be released. Craigslist will give you a ghost e-mail in the posts that will forward messages to you.

View Craigslist Listings

Return to the Craigslist main page for your area and see what it has to offer. Click on whatever link appeals to you. It will take you to listings starting with the latest one posted. Some listings will provide phone numbers, but most will provide a link to a Craigslist e-mail address. You can use this to anonymously communicate with the poster of the ad.

Post Craigslist Listings

Return to the Craigslist main page for your area. Click on the "post to classifieds" link in the upper left. Pick the category where you want to put your listing, then choose a subcategory. Enter the information, upload pictures if you want and then post it. Craigslist will forward you e-mail from people interested in your listing.

What Happens to Craigslist Listings?

It takes a few minutes for listings to appear on Craigslist. Those that break the rules are removed. Otherwise, classifieds run for 1 week then are automatically taken down. Resumes, jobs, and gigs are listed for 30 days and events are listed until the event's date expires. You are welcome to re-post an ad once the old listing expires. You are not allowed to post identical listings at the same time nor are you allowed to post the same listing in multiple areas. Understand that your listing will move lower on the list as time passes. You are not permitted to re-post the listing just to get higher on the list.

Craigslist Fees

Almost everything on Craigslist is free. There are a few exceptions, however. As of this writing, job posts in the San Francisco Bay Area cost £48. Job posts in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, South Florida, and Washington DC cost £16. Brokered apartment rental listings in New York cost £6. There is no cost to respond to these listings.

Spam and Warnings

Many Craigslist ads are actually spam. If you click on a jobs category, you will see a warning that you should pay attention to that will help you learn how to not get scammed. Also beware -- especially with personals -- that not only are some of the language and pictures posted there quite questionably tasteful and even potentially pornographic, some individuals with malicious intent -- such as the famed Craigslist Killer Phillip Markoff -- have used the site and its ads to hurt and even kill others.

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About the Author

Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.