What Craigslist Is and How Its Online Classifieds Work

Have you heard of the Craigslist website? Want to learn more about what it is and how the site works? If so, you’re in luck. In this article, we’ll be telling you all about Craigslist to introduce you to the site and kick off our Craigslist course. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What Craigslist is
  • How safe it is to use
  • The three best features of Craigslist
  • The history of Craigslist
  • Its pros and cons
  • Alternatives to Craigslist

Let’s start off by talking about what exactly Craigslist is.

What is Craigslist?

Craigslist is a classifieds website – the online version of the classifieds section in a newspaper. It allows people to post ads to sell their goods and/or services, for local companies looking to hire, and to advertise local events. Other Craigslist users can respond to these ads if they’re interested.

When you open up the Craigslist website, you can choose your city so that you’re only viewing ads from your own area. Craigslist sorts ads into various categories, like housing, jobs, pets, and more, which makes it easy to browse classifieds ads around topics and categories that interest you.

Choose location for Craigslist

You might be wondering, is Craigslist safe to use? We’re going to answer that next.

Is Craigslist safe?

Craigslist is safe to use if you’re careful about using it properly. Some people may post listings on Craigslist with the intention of scamming people, so you do need to be cautious. If a post violates Craigslist’s terms of service, it will be flagged. Just make sure you trust someone before making a deal.

If you want to read more about this topic, check out our article on Craigslist safety. Now, we’ll get into how Craigslist works.

How does Craigslist work? 4 best features of Craigslist

1. A focus on the local

As we just mentioned, the unique thing about Craigslist is that it isn't just one website. It's split into over 700 websites that serve advertisements in major cities and urban areas around the world. This makes it easier to find what (or who) you want closer to home.

Craigslist homepage

2. Simple and free

Besides what its users post, Craigslist doesn't allow any other advertising on its websites. In addition, most advertisements are free to post, even without a Craigslist account. The main exceptions are for companies looking to hire or sell expensive items, such as event tickets or cars and trucks.

Craigslist also doesn't take a cut whenever a purchase or sale is made over the website. However, this also means that buyers and sellers are left to hash out a transaction's details on their own. This is why it's important to include at least some contact details with an advertisement, whether that's an email address, phone number, or something else.

Example of a listing for a clock on Craigslist

3. Cheap prices

When buying things on Craigslist, you’re usually going to find lower prices than you would on normal online shopping sites or in stores. Many things being advertised and sold through Craigslist are used, end of season, extra stock, etc., so you’re likely to be able to save yourself some money.

4. What's the word?

If you don't feel like using Craigslist for its advertisements, it also includes discussion forums where you can chat with other Craigslist users on topics ranging from arts and beauty to travel and writing.

Discussion forums

Those are three of Craigslist’s best features. In the next section, we’ll get into the history of the website.

History of Craigslist

Named after founder Craig Newark, Craigslist began in 1995 as an email distribution service, letting people know about upcoming local events in his hometown of San Francisco. Incorporated in 1999, Craigslist has expanded beyond event listings and now features listings for job openings, available housing, goods for sale, services for hire, relationship seeking, and general topics of discussion.

Craigslist now has local websites for over 700 cities or general urban areas in 70 countries around the world, and is available in 13 different languages.

Now that we’ve told you a little about the history of the site, let’s talk about some of Craigslist’s pros and cons.

Pros and cons of Craigslist


  • You can post ads for free
  • Ads you’ll see on the site are also based on your location, so they should all be available close to home
  • You can also use the site to chat with other users about all kinds of topics!


  • The site’s interface is almost too simple – it’s not overly professional or attractive to look at.
  • Since Craigslist only acts as a connection between sellers and buyers, it doesn’t give you any of the safety or guarantees that most online shopping sites would.

Does Craigslist not sound like your cup of tea? Don’t worry – there are lots of other alternatives available, and we’ll tell you about a few of our favorites next.

Alternatives to Craigslist

If you aren’t interested in using Craigslist, there are some other similar sites you might want to try instead. One of them is Kijiji, which is set up quite similar to Craigslist, but is only available in Canada. Another is eBay, which is a popular online auction and e-commerce website. A newer Craigslist alternative is LetGo, which is a mobile app for people to buy and sell items. Read about these websites and more in our Craigslist alternatives article.

Craigslist is one of the most popular online classifieds websites in the world – and there’s good reason for it. So, if you think you may have a need to buy or sell something you have lying around at home, or you are seeking a handyman, a new employee, want to meet someone, or just want to talk, Craigslist might be for you. Make sure you move on to the next article in our Craigslist course for our full review of the website, so you can learn about how to use it, and more importantly – how to use it safely.