We love shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops. Who doesn’t? It saves us money! Buying used items is one of the top ways to consistently save money on things you need. Undeniably, though, there are drawbacks. You might save some money upfront, but buying used can come with hidden costs. From bed bugs to product recalls, things can go sideways sometimes. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy anything secondhand. But when you get that thrift store itch, know what to watch out for and which things you should never buy used. In this article, we look at 13 things you should never buy used and 5 used items to buy with utmost care.
13 Things You Should Never Buy Used
So what are the items you should never buy used? Here goes:
When it comes to toys, always check for safety recalls and make sure there’s no lead paint involved. If you can’t find out for sure, move on. You also should stay away from anything with missing or broken parts, or that’s wobbly when it should be stable. And remember that older products may not have the same safety features as new ones.
While it makes sense to buy used cribs because you want to save money, many have been linked to infant deaths due to old designs. Drop-side cribs used to be common, but they are now banned in most developed countries. Plus, the new designs come with stronger supports and hardware.
The problem with buying a used crib is the chance you might end up with one of the millions that have been recalled. It may be easy to avoid drop-side cribs, but unless the seller can provide the original sales information, you may not know whether your purchase meets the new safety requirements.
Better safe than sorry, so we say skip the used crib and invest in a new, safer one.
This means booster seats, too. While you can check for recalls, you don’t know a seat’s history. Even a little fender bender could have damaged it and keep it from protecting your child the way it was meant to. In general, they have a service life of about 6 years. After several summer heatwaves and winter freezes, they can break down in ways you can’t see.
Another safety item you want to buy new is a helmet, such as for riding a bike, motorcycle or skateboard. Here, the main concern with buying used is that the helmet’s ability to protect you could have been compromised in an unrevealed accident.
Third-hand Smoke Items
This is what smoking leaves behind in clothes, furniture, curtains, and pretty much everything else. It builds up over time and can last for weeks. Stay away from items you know came from the home of someone who smoked. Since you don’t always know for sure, it’s best to give everything you buy used a thorough cleaning.
A used computer is a giant question mark. You don’t necessarily know how it’s been used, and unless you are tech-savvy, you might not be able to see what programs are lurking on the inside.
Laptops in particular are prone to all sorts of abuse, from being banged around in a bag to being dropped on the ground.
There is one exception when it comes to buying used computers and laptops: refurbished computers, which have been inspected and cleared for resale. Buying refurbished items can be a safe way to get a bargain on used electronics.
Like laptops, a secondhand digital camera could also have been abused. It’s hard to look at one and determine how well its previous owner cared for it.
If you just need a basic point-and-click camera or video recorder, new models aren’t all that expensive. Or, you could just use your smartphone and skip the expense completely.
Swimwear or Underwear
While used clothing is generally fine, you don’t want these items used. Because of where they sit on your body, a whole other level of germs come into play. That includes genital infections and small amounts of poop. And swimsuits tend to wear out quickly, so you’re not really saving much money in the long run.
Although germs and bacteria on underwear and swimwear aren’t anything that couldn’t be killed with a hot water wash and bleach. The bigger question is why would you want to wear someone else’s stretched out, used undies when so many stores will sell you an inexpensive new pack? All except the most destitute among us can certainly scrounge up that much money.
Makeup or Makeup Brushes
It might seem like a good deal — until you have to pay for a doctor’s visit and some medication. Makeup and brushes touch your hands, eyes, and mouth. That makes those little containers breeding grounds for all kinds of germs. Even the testers in stores can be a bad idea. You can get skin rashes and serious infections. And used makeup may no longer have labels that list ingredients and warnings and tell you how to use them safely.
If you’re interested in having comfy feet and minimising back pain, you might want to skip past the used shoe section at the thrift store. Shoes often conform to their first owner’s feet, which can make them uncomfortable for you.
Like shoes, mattresses tend to conform to the bodies of their users. Buying used might mean you end up with a lumpy bed that leaves you tossing and turning all night long.
Even worse, a used mattress can harbor all sorts of nasty things like allergens, dust mites and bedbugs.
Stuffed animals are another item that can contain dust mites and allergens. In addition, some animals may have safety issues, such as eyes that pop off and become a choking hazard.
Buying used means you can end up with a toy that has been recalled or one that harbors unpleasantness that you may not want to bring into your house.
Like car seats and helmets, there’s just too much you can’t know about their history. Were they in an accident? Driven at really high speeds? Towing loads that were too heavy? All those can cause damage you can’t see. And every tire has an expiration date. They’re only good for 6 years, whether you use them often or not.
Used Things to Buy with Utmost Care
If you must buy some items used, then it’s best to take precautions by checking the items well, knowing the history, and sniffing the items as much as possible before buying. Also find out if there’s been a recall on any item you’re interested in. From washing machines to strollers, pretty much anything can be recalled for safety reasons. To find out if there’s been one for something you’re interested in buying, get the brand and model, then check the manufacturer’s website. Older products may no longer be on recall lists, so you may want to give the company a call to be sure. That said, here are some items you can buy used and with a lot of precaution:
Clothes and Linens
If you’re concerned about bedbugs — and most of the time, you probably should be — go straight to the dryer. Washing alone won’t kill them. Run everything through on high heat for 30 minutes. Take any bags the items came in to your outside trash right away. For things that can’t go into the washer and dryer, dry cleaning will get the job done.
If you’re allergic to dogs or cats, it’s probably the dried skin flakes, known as dander, that affect you. And they’re sticky, so they easily cling to clothes and other fabrics. Look for hair or fur to give you a warning sign. Washing clothes and linens will help. And furniture made of wood is a lot easier to clean than that almost perfect vintage sofa.
Strollers and High Chairs
Be careful with buying a used stroller or high chair. If you must buy them used, then make sure the safety straps are in good working order and that no sharp parts, like screws, jut out from anywhere. Also check the company’s website to be sure it hasn’t been recalled. Fold and unfold strollers to see if they’re sturdy. Test that high chairs aren’t wobbly and trays snap firmly into place. Keep in mind that some older models may not be tip-proof.
The bulbs in tall torchiere lamps can get twice as hot as your oven. If a curtain touches it, it can catch fire. Look for one with a wire or glass shield over the bulb. And even if the label says otherwise, don’t go any higher than a 300-watt bulb. It’s also good to check for a polarized plug, where one side is wider than the other. And make sure the cord isn’t frayed and that the lamp doesn’t have any bent, rusted, or loose parts.
These critters can crawl into the tiniest seam or crack and go a year without eating. Once you have them, they’re brutal to get out. They can be in most types of used furniture, but you’re more likely to find them in mattresses or items with soft fabric, like sofas. Check these things very closely, looking for bugs, eggs, and signs of their poop, which looks like tiny black dots.
Water and electricity are deadly together. As long as it’s plugged in, a hair dryer has electricity raring to go, even if it’s turned off. Newer ones protect you with a bulky plug that has red and yellow switches on it. It cuts off the supply of electricity if it gets wet. Don’t buy older models that don’t have this feature. And check that the cord is in good shape.