When to buy second hand and when not to


They read just as well used as new. Image: Rev Stan/Flickr/CC BY

The recession has made second hand shoppers out of many of us. If something works just as well used, it makes sense to eschew status for frugality. But not all bargains are bargains. Some things, for reasons of safety or effectiveness, need to be bought new. But how do we know where to draw that line?


It is almost never necessary to buy books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and video games new. Between rental outlets, internet downloads, auction sites and thrift stores, virtually any mass-produced media is available for considerably less if you wait a few months and get it used. You might even be able to find it free at the public library.

The only real exception to this would be for gifts. A gift should be something somebody wants but would not buy for him or her self — at least not new. And unless it’s a valuable antique or collectible, second hand gifts are not the best way to say “I care.”

Baby items

Many would blanch at not getting the best for their new family addition. But baby furniture and clothing are items which have a relatively short period of usefulness, as infants quickly grow into toddlers. Rather than putting a small fortune into all new things, buy another parent’s gently used dream nursery for a quarter of the cost.

An exceptions to this is when safety and  health are concerned. Car seats should be bought new, as your baby’s life may depend on it. The same goes for mattresses. Mattresses can carry bed bugs and other parasites from previous owners.


Much of our social identity is determined by what we wear. It is important to impress with how we dress. This may be a gray area, depending upon a person’s needs and lifestyle. But vintage clothing stores have made it increasingly easy to be choosy, even while bargain shopping. At the very least, casual clothing for wearing around the house or when working in the yard can be bought used at considerable savings.


Entrepreneur Lynn Truong writes that, “Depreciation hits hard when you try to sell used jewelry, but as a buyer you can take advantage of the markdown to save a bundle.” She suggests pawn shops and estate sales for those seeking quality second-hand jewelry.


Cars depreciate the second they leave the showroom. Thus, the seller’s loss can be the bargain-hunter’s gain. Buying a quality used car saves a huge amount of money in one fell swoop. We all have different standards of what we will and will not accept in our rides. Unless you truly want to pay more for that new car smell, you can almost always find what you’re looking for used and save a bundle. Just be sure to have a mechanic check out what you are buying first.


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