New and used tools and other construction materials are doing a brisk business on the online auction block, as struggling contractors — and others, including manufacturers and dealers — tap sites such as eBay and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers to monetize little-used inventory.

Online selling has a different appeal for ESB Contracting, in Toms River, N.J. By selling used (but very functional) high-dollar tools on Craigslist, the high-end remodeler and builder offsets the expense of buying new tools for most of its major projects. Using new tools such as table saws and chop saws, in turn, fosters precision cutting and safe practices.

In fact, says owner Eric Borden, some of his company's heavily used tools have four lives. For instance, table and chop saws are used first on interior trim work, where the company's $500,000-and-up remodels “require the utmost accuracy,” he says. After a year or so of use, the saws are rotated to exterior trim, then onto framing.

After a few years in this cycle, Borden offers the tools to his staff or sells them on his local Craigslist Web site, typically at 30% to 50% of their new-tool price. He posts photos of the tools, accurately describes their condition, and sells them (pick-up only, no delivery) complete with their guards and other safety features.

Borden has never gotten a bad check or otherwise had a sale go awry. Plus, he adds, giving staff first dibs “is a great incentive for them to take care of tools.”