When it comes to saving money, buying used is often a no-brainer. And with growing number of options for picking up used items online, there’s no need to visit a potentially grimy thrift shop or sort through a jumble of yard sale castoffs to find a bargain.
As buying used gets easier, more people are changing their shopping habits. A third of consumers say they’re buying more secondhand items than in the past, a survey by Marketing Week found. Used books, DVDs, and CDs were common purchases, with 70% of people saying they bought those items. Clothing, accessories, and jewelry were also popular. And there’s little reason to balk at buying used tools, bicycles, and musical instruments, provided you’re confident they’re in good working order.
Still, many people have a bias against already-owned items. Forty-one percent of Americans said they’d prefer a newly built home over a pre-existing one, Trulia found. Some people wouldn’t dream of buying a used car. Others get weirded out by the idea of secondhand clothing.
Ultimately, the used versus new debate often comes down to a matter of personal preference. Some people will happily buy anything they can used if it means saving money or keeping things out of the landfill. Others want everything shiny and new, even if it means spending a bit more. But there are some things that even the most committed bargain hunters should pass up on their next thrifting expedition. Here are 10 things you just shouldn’t buy secondhand.
1. Laptops and other gadgets
A new laptop, phone, or tablet can set you back hundreds or thousands of dollars. So, when you see an ad for a like-new iPhone on Craiglist for a rock-bottom price, you might be tempted to go for it. But proceed with caution. The phone you bought off a guy in the Walmart parking lot could be defective or stolen, and when you find out, you have little recourse.
Instead, consider refurbished gadgets sold by the manufacturer or your phone carrier to save money on tech. Or buy from a trusted seller on a site that has buyer protections, like eBay or Amazon, NerdWallet suggested.
Replacing all the tires on your car costs an average of $637, according to Angie’s List. Purchasing used tires might save you some green, but you’re gambling with safety.
“Used tires may have been exposed to improper service, maintenance or storage conditions and may have been damaged, which could eventually lead to tire failure,” noted the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Buy new, and drive safe.
3. Recalled products
We’re hardly that far into 2017, and more than a dozen products have already been recalled because of safety hazards, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Unfortunately, many of these recalled products will eventually make their way to garage sales and thrift stores where they’ll be scooped up by clueless shoppers.
“Before you buy a product, especially a used or secondhand one, be sure to check that the manufacturer has not recalled it,” USA.gov urged.
4. Car seats
Cutting corners with your kid’s safety is a big mistake. Car seats don’t last forever (most have an “expiration date” of six years), can be damaged in accidents, or might have been recalled, according to Consumer Reports.
Unless you’re getting a hand-me-down from someone you absolutely trust, pass on the secondhand car seat. “Safety advocates do NOT recommend buying used child safety seats,” noted the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. “There is no guarantee for safety when purchasing a used car seat at a garage sale, flea market, or thrift store. These seats may be expired, have missing parts, be damaged, or may have been recalled. There is no way of knowing if these seats have been in a crash and if they had received damage that can’t be seen with the naked eye.”
Unlike some items on this list, a used vacuum probably won’t hurt you or your family (unless it’s been recalled). But you could still end up wasting your money. Vacuums are one of those things that most people hang on to until they stop working. The one you see gathering dust at the thrift store may not be up to snuff. However, as with some other expensive items, you can save money on your next Dyson or Hoover by looking for a factory reconditioned model, Bankrate noted.
The idea of buying used mascara, lipstick, and foundation causes most people to go “ewww,” and for good reason. Makeup is a breeding ground for germs, and there’s no telling what’s living in that already-opened primer, even if it’s supposedly been sanitized.
“I question its overall safety,” Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist with BeautyStat.com, said of makeup reselling sites like Glambot in an interview with Refinery29. “It’s [very difficult] for Glambot to know how old the products are that they receive. So even if they sanitize the product, the consistency or performance might be compromised.”
Even the people selling used makeup think you’re kind of strange for buying it.
“It felt a bit weird to sell used makeup on Facebook, because I would not be comfortable buying used makeup for myself,” Kat Siddle wrote for xoVain. “I was comfortable taking her money, but I don’t think I could put her blush on my face.”
A vintage hat might seem like a cool addition to your wardrobe, but think carefully about what may be lurking on the inside.
“Hats are rarely cleaned before they are donated to thrift stores,” Reader’s Digest noted. “They may contain remnants of hair products, sweat, or skin infections.” Of course, some hats, like stocking caps, can be tossed in the washing machine on the hot cycle, which should get rid of any nastiness. But many other hats, like fedoras and even baseball caps, are harder to clean without damaging the hat or changing its shape.
8. Baby bottles
While used baby clothes and hand-me-down board books can save you money on outfitting a nursery, experts say baby bottles are one thing you shouldn’t buy used. Bottles made before 2009 may contain BPA, a chemical the FDA has declared unsafe. (BPA use in sippy cups and bottles has been banned since 2012.) MedlinePlus suggests buying new bottles to avoid any BPA exposure.
Used bottle nipples and pacifiers also pose a risk. “Through normal wear and tear, not to mention frequent washings and sterilizing, these plastics can deteriorate and pose a health and safety risk to your little one,” Pregnancy Magazine warned.
9. Stuffed animals
Cute and cuddly stuffed animals aren’t worth buying used. Just think about all the other kids who’ve drooled on that teddy bear (or worse), or the dust mites lurking in his fur. Plus, well-loved plush toys quickly show their age. Though some stuffed animals can be washed in the washing machine, many must be spot cleaned, making it harder to get rid of any lingering grossness.
10. Sheets and bedding
Here’s a thought to keep you up at night if you’re considering about buying used bedding: bed bugs. While it’s true that washing sheets, comforters, pillows, and other used bedding can kill bed bugs, these unpleasant creatures could still sneak into your home if you don’t launder your secondhand sheets right away, or you don’t clean them thoroughly. Plus, high-quality pillows and sheets can make for a more restful night’s sleep, which may be worth paying a little more for.