Craigslist has been around since 1995. In that time it’s swiftly risen to dominance in the online classified ads world. Aside from personals ads (which human trafficking legislation has made very risky to provide), Craigslist is the world’s leading place to browse, access, share, and post classified advertisements of all sorts. Whether you’re looking for job opportunities, housing, goods and services, local events and news, or items for sale, Craigslist has ads in every category (except for personals). Some readers might remember that Craigslist had a devastating impact on local newspapers, where the paid classified section was usually the paper’s main source of revenue.
Today Craigslist functions as a local list of everything for sale and anything being requested in a specific area. Even with competition from LetsGo, Offerup, and Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist is still one of the best sites to use if you’re trying to buy or sell used and new items, look for work, or get a job online. The site is great at finding deals located in your area. With specific Craigslist listings in each market, it’s easy to shop for items that are available in your area without having to worry about shipping.
Craigslist has a founding philosophy built around serving local communities. The founder of Craigslist wanted people to use the site for local transactions, not as a way to access a statewide, national, or global market. For that reason, Craigslist does not include any kind of cross-location searching. In fact, it keeps its various city sites in their own domain. If you’re on the St. Louis Craigslist, you won’t see anything from the New York City area listed. From the very beginning days of the site, however, people have tried to use Craigslist in ways not in keeping with its founder’s vision, and that’s OK. As users, we are not under any obligation to keep Craigslist the way its creators want it to be.
The simple fact is that it’s highly useful to be able to search all of Craigslist at once. True, you’re not likely to fly across the country to buy a few Beanie Babies, but you might be able to work out a long-distance deal with someone. Craigslist is also invaluable when trying to research prices and values. A relatively rare item might not show up on your local Craigslist site, but you can find it in a few places nationwide, and from those ads, you can get an idea of what the item is worth. Results from a nationwide Craigslist search help you cast a far wider net across the country or globe, searching for brand new items for sale without having to pinpoint the specific location you want to search.
Although Craigslist itself does not natively support any type of cross-location searching, third parties have created a plethora of tools for bypassing the site’s self-imposed restrictions. There are several services that allow you to search through the entirety of offerings on Craigslist without limiting yourself to a single city. By casting a larger net, you’re more likely to find the item you’re looking for, especially if you don’t mind driving for it. We’ve got a wide variety of sites here to choose from, complete with some recommendations on which sites are great for which services. Take a look below and let us know what your favorite is in the comments section!
In this article, I’m going to show you how to use web-based Craigslist search engines as well as Craigslist search apps for iOS and Android. I’ll also introduce you to a really powerful way to do multiple-region searches on Craigslist using Python scripts. (If you’re looking for the opposite situation, you’ll want to see our article on how to advertise on Craigslist on multiple sites at once.)
Web-Based Craigslist Search Engines
It goes without saying that much of the browsing done on Craigslist takes place on a good, old-fashioned desktop computer. While browsing on the go can be handy—and Craigslist has a mobile site just for that—there are plenty of reasons why you’d want to browse at home over browsing on your mobile device.
For one, it’s far easier to navigate through Craigslist with a mouse and keyboard than with a touchscreen, especially if you’re looking for specific items, looking to browse through a lot of listings at once, or simultaneously recording your findings in a database or spreadsheet. For that very reason, we kick this list off with some web-based Craigslist search engines that make it easy to browse through listings outside of your general Craigslist area. Some of these sites can even help you find listings on lesser-known Craigslist alternatives, making it easy to find that special item you’re on the hunt for.
This site narrows your search results a bit more than what you may expect from something like Statewidelist, but for many users, SearchTempest may be the most usable site of all. Instead of searching the entirety of Craigslist regardless of location, or limiting your returns to one single state or province, SearchTempest allows you to search by a general distance from your zip code or city name.
That means that shoppers who live near the border of states or Canada can easily search content close to them instead of searching by a general state area, similar to the Buffalo-Toronto connection we pointed out above. You can exclude or include US and Canadian city listings, search by category and sub-category, and even include search requests like filtering listings without photos or limiting a price request.
SearchTempest also has options to search by state and worldwide, making it truly one of the most powerful sites on this list. Once you search your listing, SearchTempest will group your results by location, making it easy to browse based on mileage and the distance you’ll have to cover to pick up your gift.
We used to be big fans of Statewidelist, as the site made the process of searching the entirety of your state for a specific item far easier than the traditional Craigslist site. The site’s homepage had you enter your search term, select a category of your choosing (by default, this setting is left to search all categories), and then select the state (or Canadian province) you’re searching.
Below the option to select your state was an area to choose between searching the title of the post only or the entirety of the post, as well as a selection for showing all results in one long list. Statewidelist showed you relevant search results from eBay below your Craigslist returns.
Unfortunately, a change in the way Google served up search results has broken the Craigslist functionality; we are leaving the information on how it used to work here, in case Statewidelist figures out a way to get the useful portion of their site back online.
Those two options are our top web-based search sites, but if you’re still looking for some more listings, here are some of the honorable mentions that are worth checking out as well.
- Search All Junk: This search engine allows you to consolidate your results from Craigslist with results from other classified offerings, including Pennysaver, Recycler, and more.
- ZoomTheList: The interface isn’t pretty, to say the least, but ZoomTheList can make searching through Craigslist a breeze with its advanced filtering.
- DailyLister: This site’s pretty similar to ZoomTheList, with a full list of options using a Google Custom Search offering. Check this one out if ZoomTheList isn’t doing it for you.
- Onecraigs: Another “Search All Cities” Craigslist site, this one seemed more focused on major cities throughout the United States like LA and New York City. If you live in a major metropolitan area or you travel quite a bit, this one may be the site for you.
- Search Craigslist: This site accomplishes exactly what most users looking to search the entirety of Craigslist want. It has a simple interface and an even simpler premise: searching every Craigslist listing regardless of your location. Using a custom Google search engine, Search Craigslist loads every result from the site based on your search terms, with sorting options for relevancy (by default) and date posted. Since the site is searching active Craigslist offers, everything is up to date and active on the site. Clicking on each listing simply retrieves the information for you, making it easy to load the links inside your web browser. The site does a good job of giving you exactly the content you’re looking for, but remember that, without being able to limit the location to even a state-level setting, you might be traveling for that special item you’re looking for.
iOS Craigslist Search Engines
If you’re on an iPhone, using a mobile app on your iPhone or iPad can often be a much better way of browsing through Craigslist to find that special item you’re looking for. If you’d rather do your classified browsing while on the move, using a mobile app for iOS is the best way to do it. But while Craigslist hasn’t offered users an app of their own, there’s no shortage of applications on Apple’s App Store that make it easy to browse through your favorite content. Let’s take a look at the apps you should be using on your iPhone.
- CPlus: In many ways, CPlus is the must-have app for iPhone users looking to browse through Craigslist. The app looks good, especially when compared to most other Craigslist services on the market today, with a color-based interface that makes everything feel a little more simplified while browsing through listings. CPlus has a ton of features, including, most importantly, the ability to search through multiple cities at once within the app. CPlus can even show your listings within a map view built right into your phone, making it easy to find out just where your item is located in comparison to the rest of your searches. And of course, CPlus also offers the ability to post and edit your listings, so it’s easy to make it this app the main interface for dealing with Craigslist on a day-to-day routine. Our favorite feature: CPlus will grey out listings you’ve already viewed, making it simple to pick up your searches later on in your day.
- Qwilo: This app is trusted by millions of users on iOS to make it easy to search through the cities and neighborhoods near you all at once, all while offering a modern iOS-based UI that looks great on your brand new iPhone or iPad. Qwilo got even better this year thanks to the exclusion of ads from the app, though you’ll need to upgrade in-app to the Pro version to save your searches or to get alerts to new listings on your mobile devices. Qwilo allows you to search through multiple regions at once, which means it earns its place on this list as one of the must-have iOS apps for searching through Craigslist. Don’t sleep on this one, especially if you’re looking for a powerful, all-in-one mobile Craigslist experience.
Android Craigslist Search Engines
The Play Store on Android has dozens of listings for Craigslist apps, with some quality listings making the top cut. If you’re looking to search multiple cities or regions for your items on Craigslist, starting with a quick search on your Android device might be the best way to go about it.
- CPlus: This CPlus is just copying the name and design of the successful iOS app of the same name, but it gets plenty right on its own. CPlus ranks at the top of our list for Android as well as iOS, largely due to its powerful search engine features that we outlined in our iOS guide above. CPlus’s interface on Android is largely the same compared to what we’ve seen from the likes of the iOS version of the app, with options for easily browsing different markets all within one search. Overall, CPlus on Android does lack in some of the visual polish of the iOS version—which wasn’t exactly the best-looking app to begin with—but you’re likely to find the utility here works all the same, complete with the map ability we loved on iOS. Grab this one today.
- Postings: In terms of visual design, everything about Postings works for us. It’s a gorgeous application that matches much of the graphical interface we’ve come to expect and appreciate on Android, making it one of our favorite ways to search through Craigslist regularly. Seriously, this app looks great, with curved edges and a material design that makes it easy to browse the service while also using the powerful search engine provided by Postings, which allows you to search multiple cities at once. Just note that you can’t search the Personals section of Craigslist on this app, due to issues with the app being pulled off of Google Play.
There’s a lot to love about shopping for items on Craigslist, even if you aren’t looking for something specific. Really, the major problem with Craigslist is that its search functionality is largely limited to what you can find in your area. While that works well for broad searches, plenty of Craigslist users have the means to travel to find the items they really want—and sometimes, you can even put together a way to ship items without having to rely on Craigslist or eBay, making the distance between locations a non-issue for most users. These websites and apps make it quick and easy to search all of Craigslist from a single page. While it may still take a little effort to find exactly what you want, these sites help you use Craigslist to its full potential to help you find that special item you’ve been looking for online. It’s simply the smartest way to browse the site, no matter whether you’re using your mobile phone or a desktop or laptop computer.
Using Python scripts to scrape Craigslist
Let’s get one thing out of the way upfront: Craigslist hates scrapers, and so you have to be careful using this technique because if their security system figures out that you’re using automated means to pull down information from the site, they’ll block your IP. That may not be a dealbreaker (most people who can use this tip and write Python scripts can also figure out ways around an IP block) but it’s something to keep in mind. Be a good Net citizen and limit your searches using these scripts.
Another thing to get out of the way: this is not an introductory-level technique. This is programming, and although most of the work has already been done for you, you’ll still need to modify some code to get the scripts to do what you want them to do.
Credit where credit is due: this script was originally created by Ravi Shankar, a great data scientist and programmer, who generously shared it with the world on his blog and on his LinkedIn page. Ravi isn’t looking for work, otherwise, we’d link his pages. I’ve modified his script a little bit to perform searches across multiple cities. This script actually sends you an email with links to items that it finds that match your search requirements on various Craigslist sites.
You’ll need to install Python; the latest build for Windows is here. You will also need the Selenium web driver for Firefox, located here. You can modify the scripts to run with different browsers, but it works fine with Firefox. You will also need Firefox to be in your system path.
Looking to make the most money possible on Craigslist? You’ll want to read this great volume on maximizing your Craigslist profit.