Should You Buy New Or Used?

Buying used items can save a great deal of money, when done properly. Personal finance guru Gregory Karp suggests several factors to consider before buying items with wear and tear:

  • Savings. Above all, consider whether the savings justify buying used.
  • Buying quickly depreciating items can be the best bargains. Cars can lose 30% of their market value in one year.
  • Ewww factor. Toilet seats, for example, should be purchased new.
  • Used quality. Books and movies usually age well.
  • Trust. Do you trust the seller? Consider if the item has been cared for or neglected.
  • Uncertainty of use. Buying used is perfect if you are starting a new hobby, but aren’t yet sure if it will keep your interest.
  • Complexity. Simple items with few breakable parts, like hammers, are ideal.
    Sites like Craigslist and eBay have made many of us experts on buying used items. What tips do you have? Tell us in the comments. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
    Buying used saves dollars, makes sense [Chicago Trib]
    (Photo: Mussels)

  • Comments

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    1. spanky says:

      Get over the skeeve factor. I had a serious problem with buying used kitchen stuff until I decided to look and started finding really badass kitchen knives in thrift stores for almost nothing. My trick is to clean them thoroughly with bleach, then let them sit for a week or two so my cooties have time to thoroughly annihilate any stranger cooties. After the cootie war is over, I clean them again, sharpen and true, clean one last time, and then start using them. I’ve paid about $5 for a bunch of knives that would have retailed for close to $500 new, so it’s worth the big production.

      Also, repurpose and customize things. I’ve refinished or torn down and rebuilt furniture, scavenged parts, and even unravelled sweaters for their yarn. Of course, this only really works if you actually like doing things like that, but if you do: SCORE!

    2. spanky says:

      Oh, I want to clarify something: I mean get over the skeeve factor for things that are worth it. Not underwear and toilet seats. Some things are too gross even for me.

    3. jamesdenver says:

      My neighbor had a co-worker selling a huge 6 person hot tub, asking $800. After $500 for electrical and buying crates of beer for by buddies to help me move it (long day), I’ve been enjoying it for almost 3 years.

      The 1997 model is in perfect condition, the only resaon the owner was selling is to upgrade to a newer model with more jets and a stereo system. 10 grand for that? No thanks. Being patient netted me a hot tub I use a lot, for about $1,500

    4. clarient says:

      Used is great. My porch is currently occupied by a fantastic set of outdoor furniture that someone was just throwing away.

      There is a nothing better than a garage sale – people just don’t want that stuff anymore and will give it to you for the most ludicrous prices. Even if it’s in good condition and worth more than a fistful of bills (like this black end table I got for a dollar), to them it’s not worth the hassle.

    5. superlayne says:

      My dad once found about 20 pounds of bathroom towels some guy was just throwing out. After washing them with bleach a few times, we had incredibly cheesy cream-colored, shell-decorated bathing implements, for free.

    6. skittlbrau says:

      Just as a warning, if you live in a major city buying a used mattress is probably a bad idea – you certainly don’t want bedbugs, and used mattresses are a big way they spread.

    7. JohnMc says:

      Tools: Practically any used tool is probably worth their money. And the good ones retain their value. I have a whole shed full of tools and probably paid only $1000 for the lot. Rust? No problem! Google for a electrical reduction technique. It works. [Caution you are mixing water and electricty. Act accordingly and you do so at your own risk.]

      Bathroom: If you are remodelling a house look for recyclers. Many times you can find fixtures that work perfectly that can be up dated at a good price. Tubs, sinks and vanities come to mind.

      Yard: I have found 2 electric mowers over the years that were going to the trash. All they need were new contact bushings. Elec. yard trimmers are a different story, not worth the effort. I have actually retroed to hand trimmers since our yard is small. Yard sales are full of them. With a good sharpening job they work with little effort.

      Kids: Ask around for baby items. They are heavily recycled. [No puns please on the diapers, that’s not what I mean…] Clothes certainly as they grow out of them quickly and don’t get much wear.

      Cars: Do buy used, I do. Do your homework. Buy models that have been on the market for 3-4 years so the kinks are worked out then buy a model 1-2 years past new. Buy models that have a large fleet size, that guarantees parts and at good prices. Consider rental fleet cars. My wife’s first car was a fleet w/22k on the Odo. Its now at 80k and still going strong. For the price we got it was a great deal with little maintenance. Tires — Inquire at auto dealers about take offs. A lot of times some kid will come in buy a car but want some custom wheel package that requires new tires. The OEM ones, prefectly good, can be had for 30% off retail. Parts — If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and spending a Saturday looking good deals can be found on used parts at the junkyard. Electrial can be a little iffy but mechanicals can be found servicable.

    8. He says:

      Don’t buy used if you can’t show up when you say you will with the right amount of money.

      That said, I’m furnishing a new house almost entirely off craigslist and the only thing keeping it from being super cheap is that my gf likes antiques way too much. If I had a pickup truck of my own, we’d be done already. It doesn’t take long to find a sweet deal on exactly what you want.

    9. tigerjade says:

      Try freecycle.org. It’s just a bunch of regional Yahoo! groups, but we get and give the neatest things.

    10. catchthefever says:

      I guess you can say I purchased a used dog from the pound. It was the best $63 I ever spent. It’s too bad that some of the local agility people feel otherwise. In February, I was told that rescued animals should be euthanized.

      I freecycle lots of stuff I don’t want anymore. It’s a great tool.

    11. br549xt93 says:

      If you live in a college town, like I do, good stuff at second hand stores is hard to come by. I go to them when school is out for the summer. There’s a big difference in the goodies you can find when school is out. My town only has a few second hand stores, so pickin’s is slim to begin with.

      Used bookstores are wonderful, as is the library!

    12. Artki says:

      Video Games. They’re (the ones on discs, don’t know about cartridge based) are as durable as DVDs or CDs. If you’re patient you can save 70-80% on most games. There are a few that actually get more expensive over time but you don’t have to have EVERY game – make a list of the ones you want and buy the cheap ones. You won’t miss the few that are rare and expensive.

    13. hop says:

      salvation army and church thrift sales……local librarys for used books……i picked up a nikon fe with zoom lens,flash and a couple of filters for 3 bucks at a church sale…..i could go on, but i won’t……

    14. KatieKate93 says:

      One word – eBay. I don’t buy much without at least checking there first. If you are educated and know how to spot the fakes, you can fill your closet with Marc Jacobs and Prada at a fraction of retail. Things like couture handbags, which are very well made to begin with, can be found in excellent used condition.

      Also, estate sales and local thrift stores can be an absolute goldmine. I’d trade a Sunday in front of the TV for a little leg work and a great used item any day.

    15. Kurtz says:

      Apparently the ewww factor isn’t a dealbreaker for some people. We do quarterly block garage sales in my town and used underwear is always a big seller. Strangely, the people who typically buy them don’t look particularly creepy either. Bizarre indeed…

    16. ElizabethD says:

      Kids stuff: All those Little Tikes and Playmobil toy sets = cheap cheap cheap at yard sales and rummage sales.
      Kids clothes: For toddlers and elementary-school age children — i.e., the ages when they’ll still wear what *you* pick out — “gently used” is the way to go. Look for upscale kids’ consignment stores (the nearest one to me in Providence is called Small Change) where you can get high quality, durable cotton clothing like Hanna Andersson etc. for a fraction of their usually overpriced new cost. Savers, Sally Army, Goodwill, yard sales are goot too. The kids outgrow clothes in a month or two anyway.

      Cars: If you shop carefully and enlist a mechanic to do a check, a slightly used car with fairly low mileage is THE way to buy.

      Furniture: I swear, half the furniture — or maybe more — in our house came from yard sales, classifieds, auctions, and picking the curbs on garbage night. I got some wonderful plants that way (curb=picking), too. If you live in a college town, you won’t believe the amazine stuff students put on the curbs when they move out of their apartments — the month of May is a good time to pick. Also watch Craigslist for furniture bargains.

      I was raised by a Depression-era mom who bought almost everything used or on sale. :-)

    17. ElizabethD says:

      Re: “goot” in above post of mine — LOL! Phonetically channeling the German half of my ancestry. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

    18. mac-phisto says:

      @br549xt93: dude, you just brought back so many memories of “dumpster diving” in college.

      every lease in town ended in the same week & virtually all rents were vacant for a two-week period. all the thrift shops became inundated with stuff & had to start turning things away, so ppl would just haul the stuff to the curb. we drove around apartment complexes with a p/u & got our hands on some really nice stuff – the best find was a virtually brand-new leather ez-boy recliner. some trustafarian probably couldn’t get his hands on a moving truck.

      i used a friend’s garage to store the stuff & then sold whatever we didn’t want on college boards two weeks later. i swear i must’ve sold a few ppl their own furniture.

      wish i’d actually done something constructive with that money…

    19. pestie says:

      You can get some amazing server hardware on eBay, actually. We’ve bought some 8-processor IBM xSeries 440 servers with gigs of RAM for well under $1000, for example. The only thing to watch out for is packaging. Servers are heavy, and if they’re not packed well, they get banged around in transport and the little metal bits that stick out tend to get bent, and plastic bits tend to get broken. But although I’ve had some servers come in pretty beat up, none has failed to work. And there’s still a hell of a lot you can do with equipment that, just 2 or 3 years ago, people were paying 5 figures for.

    20. br549xt93 says:

      I used to dumpster dive around and on campus every May. Man, I could get some GOOD shit! For some reason, the university removes the dumpsters from the dorms and dumps them somewhere (I need to find where). I think they do this a couple times a day. Last May I tried to do some diving, but every time I went to campus all the dumpsters were empty! I have no idea why they started doing this, but it really sucks. It’s not like a few dumpster divers were hurting anything! This kinda pisses me off, can’t I get a little freebie courtesy of the university? As if they didn’t get enough of my money already!

    21. etinterrapax says:

      Used everything! I was raised by inveterate yard salers. I only buy new if I am very particular about what I want. Used books–I just scored one from Amazon UK for less than a fifth of what it costs on the secondary market in the US, even factoring in shipping and the poor exchange rate–DVDs, CDs, clothing, art, you name it. I went through a phase in my early twenties where I had to have everything new because it seemed like I spent my whole childhood being the fifth owner of everything I had. But I could never afford high-quality new things, so I ended up having a lot of crap. Buying used improves my standard of living. And things, especially good things, just feel right when they’re worn in.