There are certain things you just know not to buy secondhand — hats, swimsuits or underwear come to mind. While you might make it a point to steer clear of those items, you’re likely still open to scoring a great bargain on used goods at a thrift store or random garage sale. After all, if you buy used, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.
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However, not all used items are good buys — especially if you rely on them for safety. Before you head out to your favorite secondhand store or hit the next yard sale, check out these tips for items you should never buy used, no matter how much it hurts your wallet.
While you can find a used car seat for under $30, it’s not a wise choice when you consider that it’s an item you’ll count on to protect your child in an accident. Plus, if you shop around, you can likely find a quality new seat for around $70. Like canned food, car seats expire, and their typical “shelf-life” is about six years. An older car seat won’t likely be up-to-date on the latest technology. Plus, the parts that maintain its structural integrity may be worn and fail your child in a crash. If the seat has been in a car crash previously, you may not be able to tell because the damage to the seat and its components may not be noticeable without a thorough inspection.
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Finding what seems to be a good, used nonstick pan for sale for less than $10 may be a deal you’re not willing to pass up — but you still should. Until 2013, Teflon — a nonstick coating — was made with the suspected carcinogen perfluorooctanoic acid. And while most manufacturers no longer use PFOA, nonstick cookware isn’t normally date-stamped, so it could be difficult to determine if a used piece is safe or not. If you want a nonstick pan, you’d be better off paying around $40 for one that’s PFOA free.
While you can find used vacuums for under $30, you can also find new ones for as little as $60. And when someone is selling a used vacuum, you have to wonder why. Simply put, it’s a tool, and if it works, why get rid of it? Vacuums suck up all kinds of things including dust, toenail clippings, animal dander and dead bugs. They can also develop suction issues or accumulate hair and other debris on their brush rollers. While you may be able to take a used vacuum apart and clean it to bring it back to life, isn’t it worth the extra $30 not to?
Secondhand baby cribs can be found at thrift stores, garage sales and listed online for as little as $40. Meanwhile, a new baby crib costs at least $150 for an economy model. But saving $110 or more by buying a used baby crib can be risky. Cribs are subject to recalls, which you won’t likely know about as a secondhand owner. For example, a crib made before 2011 could be a drop-side model, which is no longer considered safe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A used crib could also have loose or weakened parts. Loose pieces could be a choking hazard, and weakened parts of the crib could fall apart, putting your baby in a dangerous situation.
You can expect to spend around $1,000 for a brand new, comfortable and supportive mattress, which could tempt you to consider buying one that’s used. If you look online, you can find used pillowtop king-size mattresses for as little as $150, which could save you $850 dollars. But mattresses don’t last forever — only about seven to 10 years — so if you’re buying used, you run the risk of bringing home a mattress that has diminished in quality over time. If that’s not enough to convince you, used mattresses can also harbor dust mites, mold or bacteria (like E. Coli) from the previous owners.
Buying new tires can put a strain on your wallet. You can expect to pay $80-$170 for an all-season tire, while you could get a used tire for around $30. But buying used comes with plenty of risks. Tires are one of the most important parts of a car, as they provide the vehicle’s traction. When they have been used for an extended period, their tread wears down and can lead to an accident in wet weather conditions. Plus, used tires can have sidewall weathering from excessive UV exposure, low inflation or lack of use, which can result in hairline cracks in the tire that you may not notice.
If you’re desperate for a laptop and it’s not in your budget to buy a new one, you may turn to the used market, which can be a big mistake. Yes, it’s true you can save money. In fact, used laptops can be found online for little more than the shipping cost, while new ones of the same brand start between $500-$700. A used laptop, however, could have problems that prevent you from using it as expected, such as a virus, hardware issues or a weak battery. Plus, you won’t have the option to claim the repairs on a warranty, which means you’ll have to spend even more money on something that may not even work.
While you might be able to pick up a secondhand bike helmet for as little as $5, you can also find a new one for as little as $25, which is a small price to pay to keep your head safe. Bike helmets should be replaced every five years, according to Consumer Reports, and by buying used, it’s unlikely you’ll know how old the helmet is. Plus, if the helmet has ever absorbed impact from a crash, the expandable foam inside of it won’t likely be as effective if you happen to get tossed from your bike while wearing it.
It’s no secret that a new blender can be expensive — a mid-range model can cost $75-$150 — which makes a used one seem like a bargain at around $25. However, one of the main things that makes a blender useful is its blades, and years of use could have worn them down. It’s also possible that you’ll buy a blender with missing or broken parts, which means it won’t work at all.
You can save 50% or more on high-end used speakers. Yet, buying used speakers can put you at a financial disadvantage. The speakers may look perfectly fine on the outside, but it’s the inner components that can be compromised. Unless the seller allows you to plug in the speakers and listen to them until you’re satisfied, you won’t know what kind of abuse they may have suffered.
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