We have all heard the story of the guy who traded a paperclip up multiple times to get a house using the barter system. The power of bartering is not lost to history, it is alive and well and very useful on sites like Craigslist.  Some sites allow users to search all craigslist for people willing to trade, swap, and barter; making the process even easier.  Search for “Free”,  “Wanted”, “Willing to trade”, “Will trade for” and of course “barter” in the ads.




Bartering versus selling on craigslist.org is an intriguing argument, and everyone has their opinions. Is it better to offer an item on craigslist for sale, or better to try and trade? Is one actually much better than the other? Is there a much better chance of not getting scammed if money is no longer exchanged? How do you understand which method is best for you?

Wow– that is a lot of questions for what seemed like an easy topic. First, lets look at the primary distinction in between bartering and selling. Bartering is the exchange of items or services for an equivalent exchange of products or services. The most important point is that there is no money associated with a barter deal. It is the earliest type of trade, and it precedes cash.   A simple example would be offering a lamp you no longer want in exchange for a chair that you do want.

When people get into trouble with bartering, or claim that the practice is dead, it’s because those individuals do not totally understand bartering. You have to truly comprehend equivalent worth for equivalent worth. If you require a furnace system and it must cost $2500 and you wish to trade for services like accounting, then you have to be prepared to give $2500 in accounting services. This is how bartering works. The very best method to ensure that your barter transaction is successful is to get a written agreement for the barter. Everybody gets a copy of the barter agreement and there is now a written contract of exactly what is anticipated from both people involved. Putting a barter agreement into a written contract is the very best method to trade nowadays. A handshake alone is inadequate to deal with a conflict that may arise if one party does not live up to the barter agreement.

The more common system used on Craigslist is offering an item for sale.  In this scenario “offering” is the exchange of products or services for money.  Offering an item “for sale” is the transaction type that we are all most familiar with. You have a product or service that another individual desires; they offer you money, you provide the product or service. The benefit of “offering” is that the process is easy and it is exactly what we understand best in modern society.  However,  it too can have its fair share of disagreements and generally there are no written agreements to fall back on. It should be noted that your correspondence can act as a craigslist sales contract.

Prior to you participating in any type of deal on craigslist you should understand that unlike some auction websites, there is no safe harbor on craigslist. Purchaser and seller security does not exist as buyers and sellers are not confirmed, vetted, or licensed. Craigslist.org does not get involved in any way, shape or form in the deal. It is very important to understand that they will not assist you if a conflict were to arise.

Understanding that you are on your own in a deal, you need to make sure that you have some degree of comfort and trust with the other party. It doesn’t matter if it is a sale or a barter deal, you need to understand and comprehend the details of the deal, and trust that the other individual does as well.  A great way build trust is to meet face to face and talk to the person.

Craigslist.org is a regional neighborhood;  and this is an advantage as you can consult with the other party/parties face to deal with in order to exercise an arrangement.  Read their body language, and if the barter deal seems uncomfortable to you, walk away.

Is bartering better than selling:

When comparing bartering versus selling on craigslist.org is one better than the other? No. If you understand bartering, you can get a terrific deal with either method. If you do not understand bartering, or are uncomfortable negotiating a deal, then it is best to stay away from it.

When comparing bartering versus selling on craigslist.org neither method is allows you to come out ahead as you are still getting equivalent worth for equivalent worth as I stated earlier. Everything depends upon the parties included, and how well they comprehend (or do not comprehend) their agreements. As long as everyone agrees, it’s a successful transaction.  Bartering does have the benefit of being able to complete a transaction when you have no cash, and allows you the possibility to “trade-up”.

There is a greater danger of an unequal transaction when bartering, as cash has a permanent value, while products or services do not.   You could trade a great item for a service, but then have the other party do a poor job of their service – leaving you at a loss, or worse.  If a contractor does a poor job of their agreed upon service, you may be faced with the costs of having to remove the mistakes and re-do the work; especially if the work does not meet bylaws or building codes.  When trading service for service, it is easy (and overly simple) to believe that if you invest 3 days up on a hot roof repairing shingles, then the accounting professional you traded services for needs to invest a minimum of 3 days  working for you.  But in a barter, this is not so.  Everything depends upon his/her hourly rate and exactly what work you decided upon, and how specialized the task  is.  As long as both parties involved remain within a contract, bartering is great.

Not all bartering transactions of Craigslist are, or need to be, this difficult.  Contracts are great, and needed for high ticket transactions; but for simple low-cost transactions the process can be very easy and enjoyable.  Simply trading a lamp for a chair is a fast and simple example of a barter done right.  Ads that post something for free are essentially a type of easy barter transaction.  They are giving you an item, and you are paying them with your time and effort to come pick it up and remove it.  They want the stuff gone (in lieu of taking it to the dump), and you are offering a quick service for it.

Unfortunately, Craigslist does not keep data, or publish data on bartering.  It would be great to see exactly what the data is for deal fulfillment using the bartering method.  I bet its much higher than you think!