How to Buy an iPad on Craigslist

Getting the best price on an iPad and conducting the craigslist exchange

Craigslist provides a great way to buy a used iPad and potentially save a lot of money, but it can also be very intimidating, especially for those who haven't used Craigslist to buy an item. While most of us have heard eyebrow-raising stories of people being ripped off on Craigslist, and it is important to realize that this does happen, it is equally important to remember that most Craigslist transactions go through without a hitch. And Craigslist can be a great way to buy an iPad so long as you follow a few simple steps.

Man with iPad

Which iPad Should You Buy?

Before you jump onto the first iPad you see with a low price tag, we should go over some ground rules.

  • First, never buy an iPad with a cracked screen. Even a small crack can grow into a shattered display in a relatively short period of time, and replacing the screen on an older iPad model can cost more than the tablet is worth.
  • Second, do not buy an iPad model that has become obsolete. This includes the original iPad, the iPad 2, the iPad 3, the iPad 4 and the original iPad Mini. You may still get some uses out of an iPad 4 or an iPad Mini, but now that they are no longer getting updates or new apps, your money is better spent on a tablet that is a little newer.
  • Third, if you are getting last year's model, get more than $100 off the original price of an iPad Pro or $50 off the price of the 9.7-inch iPad. You still may be able to find deals for around $50-$100 off the previous year models in electronics stores or on Amazon, which will net you a brand new iPad rather than a used one. Compare the different iPad Models.

How to Get a Fair Price for an iPad

Just because someone is selling a used iPad on Craigslist doesn't mean they've priced it as a used iPad. Many times, people overestimate the actual value of electronics and anything else they are selling. Let's face it, we are going to Craigslist because we want a good deal on it. But at what price does an iPad become a good deal? 

A folded up wad of cash
 Andrew Magil / Flikr

Luckily, there's a handy website we can use to find out for how much iPads are actually selling: eBay. The popular auction site not only allows you to browse through products for sale, but you can also search for products that have already sold. This lets you see how much the iPad model you are looking at has actually sold for on eBay, which gives you a good idea of its worth.  

When browsing through the sales history on eBay, make sure you are looking at the same model of iPad. An individual iPad will have a model (iPad 4, iPad Air 2, etc.), an amount of storage (16 GB, 32 GB, etc.) and whether or not it allows a Cellular connection (Wi-Fi vs Wi-Fi + Cellular). All of this information plays a part in the price.  

Here's how to get to sold items on eBay: First, search for the iPad you want to buy. Include the amount of storage (16 GB, etc.) in the search string. After the search results come up, click on the box next to "Sold listings" in the left-hand column.

One thing to pay attention to in the listings is a "best offer taken" notification. This means the buyer made an offer for the item that is cheaper than what is listed. You will need to disregard these listings. You will also want to scroll through several pages worth of sales to get a general idea of the price range. 

Negotiate the Price

Now that you know the value of the iPad, you can negotiate the price. Many people who sell items on Craigslist will list the items for more than they would take for them. And most people who ask about the item are going to offer a lower price for it, so don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings by offering a lower price. Bargaining is at the very heart of the Craigslist experience.

Our suggestion is to offer about 10% less than what the item is selling for on eBay. This is a good starting point and allows you some wiggle room. You might get lucky and they'll take that offer right away. We wouldn't go over the eBay price. After all, if you are patient, you could always buy it on eBay. 

Meet in a Public Place

The most stressful part of a Craigslist transaction is the exchange.   This is especially true with small, high-value items like smartphones and tablets. The best place to meet is a designated exchange zone. Many cities have started offering exchange zones, usually in a police department parking lot or in the actual police department headquarters.

A picture of two safe exchange parking spots at a police station.
Your local police station is a great place to exchange used items for cash. Carrolton Police Department

If your city doesn't offer an exchange zone, you should make the exchange inside a coffee shop, restaurant or similar store. The food court of a mall would be a good place. It's easy enough to carry a tablet into a coffee shop, so there is no reason to do the exchange in a parking lot. 

Check Out the iPad Before You Buy It

This is very important. An iPad is an "iPad" no matter if it is an iPad Air 2 or an iPad 4. There is little on the box or on the iPad itself to indicate the model, so you will need to check the settings. This means you will need to be at least a little familiar with operating an iPad, which may prove difficult if this is your first iOS device.  

The iPad may also be reset to factory default settings, which means you will need to go through the setup process first. This is actually very easy to do. You can refer to the guide on setting up an iPad for first-time use to get an idea of the process. Remember: There's no reason not to do this during the exchange. If pressured about not setting up the iPad, do not go through with the purchase. 

Once you have set the iPad up (or if it was already set up and ready to use), you will need to open up the settings. This is an icon that looks like gears turning with a "Settings" label under it. If you can't find it on the first page, you can swipe right-to-left and left-to-right to navigate through pages of icons. (There are a few other ways to quickly open an app on the iPad.)

After you open the settings, scroll down the left-side menu and choose General. The General settings will open on the right side of the screens. The very first option is "About". After you tap About, you will see a list of information about the iPad. Pay attention to two details:

  1. The Model number. You can use this to refer to a model list to verify you are buying the right iPad. Before you leave for the exchange, you should check the model list for the valid model numbers for the iPad you are purchasing. If possible, simply print the whole list. Read: A List of iPad Model Numbers.
  2. The Capacity. This tells you how much storage so you can verify it. The capacity number will actually be lower than the advertised amount of storage, but it should still be close to that number. For example, a 64 GB iPad Air 2 may have a capacity of 55.8 GB. 

If possible, you should also connect to Wi-Fi and verify the Internet connection works fine by going into the Safari browser and navigating to a popular website like Google or Yahoo. Obviously, this may not be possible depending on where you meet. This is one advantage of meeting in a place with free Wi-Fi.

Remember: Check out the device before handing over any money. And don't forget to check out the physical device. Avoid any iPad that has a crack on the screen even if it is on the bevel, which is the area just outside the actual screen. A small crack can easily lead to a bigger and bigger crack.

Before You Buy

If the iPad wasn't already reset to factory default, which means you didn't go through the setup process, you will need to make sure you Find My iPad is turned off. You can verify this by going into Settings, tapping on "iCloud" from the left-side menu and checking the Find My iPad setting within the iCloud settings. If it is On, tap through the setting and turn it off. Turning off Find My iPad requires a password to be entered, which is why it is important to do this during the exchange. If the person doesn't know the password, do not buy the iPad. 

After You Buy the iPad

Everything goes good and you buy the iPad. Now what? 

If you didn't need to set up the iPad when you bought it, you should definitely reset it and go through the setup process. This ensures that everything is set up correctly. You can reset the iPad to factory default inside the Settings by navigating to General, scrolling down to choose Reset and then choosing Erase All Content and Settings

You can find out more about how to use the iPad by going through our iPad 101 training guide. You can also check out the first ten things you should do with your iPad

Don't Be Intimidated!

We know this article is long and seems complicated, but the process sounds harder than it is. If you aren't sure about going into Settings to check the model number, borrow a friend's iPad to use as a test. The process is the same on the iPhone, so if you don't know anyone with an iPad, use an iPhone. Or, if you have an Apple Store near you, go to the store and use one of their iPads.

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