photo of craigslist website where some are looking for a CPAP machine

6 Reasons not to buy a CPAP machine on Craigslist and how else to get one on the cheap

By Jason Wooden, PhD | August 11, 2022

The downsides from buying a CPAP machine on Craigslist include risks to your health from a poorly sanitized machine, the wrong pressure settings, and getting a unit beyond its life span.  Fortunately, there are affordable alternatives for getting a reliable setup worth a try and practical things you can do for free.

Looking on Craigslist for a good CPAP machine near you…

I get why you’re looking on Craigslist for a CPAP setup.

I remember what a downer it was when my sleep apnea was in full force.  Frustrating nights and miserable days stumbling around as a sleep-deprived zombie.

What’s even more frustrating is not being about to get your hands on one of the most effective treatments, CPAP.

It could be you don’t have insurance coverage and you’re strapped for cash…

Or it maybe you’re stuck between a rock and hard place because of the worldwide shortage of CPAP machines caused by the Phillips recall…

Regardless, you have to do something to keep sleep apnea from ruining your life.

Besides not being able to function and cope with everyday issues, it can increase your risk for serious life threatening health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Sleep apnea can also increase your risk for anxiety and depression.

And then there’s the toll it takes on relationships.

Given everything that’s at stake, I understand why you feel you need to do something sooner than later even if it’s getting a used CPAP machine.

However, there are definite downsides when you get used items online, especially if it’s something health related.

We’re going to take an honest look at the downsides and some alternatives you might want to try before getting a CPAP machine on Craigslist.

Reasons NOT to get a CPAP machine on Craigslist

For starters, it goes without saying that you get what you pay for when buying things on the cheap.  There’s a reason they’re putting their CPAP machine up for sale on Craigslist.

The best case is that they no longer need it because they got better or they’re trying a different sleep apnea treatment.

 

While getting a CPAP machine on Craigslist may seem like a bargain and the best option for you, there are some serious downsides you should be aware of:

photo of sign saying risk ahead

1) You could be putting your health at risk

When you buy a used CPAP machine, you don’t know much about the previous owner’s health history and how clean they kept their setup.  (It’s not unheard of for users to skip the recommended regular cleanings!)

The mask and hose is the perfect warm moist environment for breeding germs.  If the CPAP machine hasn’t been well maintained and properly sanitized, you could be exposing yourself to harmful bacteria, mold, viruses, and yeast.

Learn more

photo of pressure gauge

2) Wrong pressure settings

Typically, the pressure settings for a CPAP machine are programmed according to the prescription given by a sleep specialist.  This is based on your apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) and lowest oxygen saturation scores measured in a sleep study.

If your CPAP pressure is too high or too low, your therapy won’t work as well.  It can also be discomforting.

You’ll continue to sleep poorly and be at risk for health complications linked to untreated sleep apnea.

cartoon illustration on letter X depicting the wrong CPAP machine on Craigslist

3) Wrong machine

Not all machines are equal.  For example, there’s standard CPAP machines which blow air at a steady setting.

On the other hand, there’s BiPAP machines which blows air at two different settings.  It’s often prescribed for patients with special medical needs such congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or neurological medical disorders.

Your used CPAP machine might not be the right one for your symptoms and health challenges.

4) Machine may be beyond its life span

Like anything else, CPAP machines wear out.  According to ResMed, they can be used for roughly 3 to 5 years.

Eventually, plastic, materials, and other components will wear out over time which means a CPAP machine won’t work as well as a sleep apnea therapy.

On top of this, you don’t know how well the machine was maintained by the previous owner.  For example, were they pretty good about refilling the tank with only distilled water or did they regularly used tap water instead?

5) Accessories may not be included

You’ll need the right mask, tube, and other accessories for your machine.  Preferably new since these should be regularly replaced.

Depending on the age and model, getting these accessories may be a challenge.

photo of expired warranty indicator which is a risk from getting a CPAP machine on Craigslist

6) No warranty

Newly purchased machines come with a warranty that allows for repair or replacement.  With a used machine and expired warranty, if something goes wrong you’re on your own.

That’s a big risk which can be costly.

At time of writing this article, I could find used CPAP machines on Craigslist from $100 to $500.

However, after reading through this list, it should be clear that getting a setup on Craigslist may seem like a good idea but may not really be worth it if you take into consideration all of the downsides.

Before pulling the trigger on something you’ve found online, let’s take a look at what your alternatives.

Other ways besides Craigslist to get a CPAP machine on the cheap

If you’re strapped for cash, Craigslist isn’t your only option to get a CPAP machine.  Even if you don’t have insurance, you may be able to get a setup for or at a lower cost that fits within your budget.

Free and Discounted CPAP equipment:

Keep in mind that natural actives such as CBD haven’t been as well-researched as pharmaceuticals.

ASAA CPAP Assistance Program

The American Sleep Apnea Association assists sleep who cannot afford their CPAP mask supplies.  Website

The Reggie White Foundation

The Reggie White Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides CPAP therapy equipment to those who might otherwise be unable to secure the needed equipment.  CPAP equipment is given to individuals who qualify for the foundation’s assistance and who have a current prescription.  Website

Second Wind CPAP

SecondWind CPAP works with clinics, hospitals, and doctor’s to provide donated equipment to needy individuals at a discounted price.  Website

Breathe California

Breathe California offers low cost medical equipment and supplies to qualifying Californioa residents.  Website

Buy a refurbished used machine:

You can also find online outlets that sell refurbished used machines at a discounted price:
1800CPAP.COM
Repap.com

Payment plans:

If you can afford it, many online sellers and in-home sleep testing companies will sell you a CPAP setup once you have a valid prescription.  Some offer payment plans.

Other things you can do on the cheap for your sleep apnea

Regardless of whether you decide to get a CPAP machine through Craigslist or some other way, there are some pretty simple things you can do on your own that can help get your sleep apnea under control.  

Many of them are things you should be doing for your sleep and health even if you didn’t have sleep apnea.

 

Some of the things you should think about doing are:

Sleep hygiene

This is what you do during the day and at bedtime that affect sleep.  It includes things like your bedtime routine and sleep environment.

Go through this checklist and make sure you’re doing the right things for sleep hygiene

Lifestyle changes

Avoid substances like alcohol that may relax your throat muscles too much or smoking which can have harmful effects on the lungs.

Sleep position

Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, sleeping on your side instead of your back may help keep your throat more open and improve symptoms.  Some people even claim that sleeping upright in a recliner helps.

Lose weight

About half of people with sleep apnea are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can help improve symptoms.

Exercise

Besides helping with weight loss, exercise is known to promote deeper sleep and there’s evidence it can help reduce sleep apnea breathing disruptions.

Change your diet

Eating healthier can help with weight loss. A low carb anti-inflammatory diet may help also help with lower inflammation in the airway and body linked to obstructed sleep apnea.

Learn more

Mouth and throat exercises

As simple as this sounds, researchers have found that designed for speech therapy may also help with managing milder forms of sleep apnea.  The way this is believed to help is by toning up the mouth and airway so your airway is less floppy and obstructed.

Learn more:
Mouth And Throat Exercises to Help Stop Snoring and Improve OSA (SleepFoundation.org)
Using Breathing Exercises to Help Sleep Apnea Symptoms (S. Florida Sinus and Allergy Center)

Try a wedge pillow

Recent research has found that elevating your head can help improve symptoms in some sleep apnea patients. You can try doubling up with a couple pillows.

However, for better results try this foam wedge pillow listed here.   (It’s the one I use every night to help my sleep apnea.)

It’s more comfortable and designed to elevate your head at the right angle.

Learn more

How to get a sleep apnea diagnosis on the cheap

So, you suspect you have sleep apnea but haven’t gotten an official diagnosis?

If you’re strapped for cash and lacking insurance, there are things you can do for free or at low cost to confirm your sleep apnea status:

Free questionnaire:

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, there are simple online tests you can take for free such as the ones listed below:

Sleep Apnea Risk Assessment (Sleep Care Online)

Screening Questionnaire (CleveMed)

While this is no substitute for a diagnosis from a sleep specialist, you’ll learn whether you’re experiencing symptoms linked to sleep apnea.

Free screenings:

Dental Sleep Solutions® offers free sleep screenings and consultations for anyone interested in learning more about snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.

Free Sleep Screening or Consultation

Participate in a clinical study:

You may be able to get a free overnight sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram) while taking part in a sleep-related clinical trial that’s looking for participants.

ClinicalTrials.gov – This is a government database of clinical studies.  Try entering search terms such as “sleep study” or “polysomnogram”, look for a study near you that’s recruiting, and contact them about your interest in being a participant.

MyClinicalTrial.com – This is a non-government website where you can register to participate in clinical trials.

CenterWatch Volunteer Sign-up – Another place you can sign up to be notified when clinical trials are posted that match the medical condition(s) you specify.  For conditions, try entering “sleep disorders” and “sleep apnea”.

Shop around:

Talk with the different sleep clinics in your area to see what their options are for people with no insurance.   Speak with a manager and explain your situation. 

They may have reduced rates.  Some sleep centers have federal funds or private grants to provide services to uninsured, low income, or unemployed people.

Find a sleep center near you

In-home sleep study from online company:

Some online companies offer remote lab testing which can be a cheaper alternative to an overnight test in a sleep clinic.   An in-home test kit currently costs $200-$300 and can include a prescription if needed.

Why it’s still worth seeing a doctor

Even if you decide to get a CPAP machine on Craigslist, it’s still worth seeing a doctor.

As tight as money is, sleep apnea is nothing to play with.  We’re talking about something that can really increase your risk for serious life threatening health complications.

Also, you need to know what you’re really up against health wise. Many people are surprised by how many different health issues are linked to poor sleep.

The list includes asthma, allergies, acid reflux and heartburn, heart issues, and diabetes.  They can all make it harder to sleep.

And it’s pretty common for sleep apnea patients to struggle with chronic pain, a major sleep killer all by itself.

Dealing with sleep apnea is tough enough.  Why make things harder than they have to be?

Besides getting an official sleep apnea diagnosis, a doctor can look for other underlying issues and help you come with a plan to get you on the road to healthy sleep.

Sources:

1. CPAP and BiPAP: Which One is Best For You?, American Sleep Association website

2. CPAP life expectancy: How long do CPAP machines last?, ResMed.com

3. Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 May 15;179(10):962-6.

4. Chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and the relationship between sleep disorder and pain level, quality of life, and disability. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Sep; 27(9): 2951–2954.

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