For bargain shoppers, hitting up secondhand stores, garage sales and online resellers can be a no-brainer. But though buying used is a great way to save money and ease the strain on our savings accounts — as well as score some unique items — there are some things that are best purchased brand-spanking new.
Forget infamous online sales like a half-eaten piece of toast or pair of dirty socks; there are some cases where buying second-hand isn’t just gross, it can be downright dangerous — and maybe even an FDA violation.
Many parents fantasize about giving their babies the best — until reality hits. Baby stuff costs a fortune and most kids grow out of it before the credit bill even arrives. That’s why buying used clothes, toys and other accessories for babies and young children is a great option.
But there’s one exception: cribs and children’s furniture. That’s because the safety standards for these items continue to evolve. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Administration enacted new mandatory safety standards for cribs that went into effect in 2012, which means cribs purchased before that time might not meet them. Cribs are also occasionally subject to recalls, which can be difficult to determine years after the fact. Wear and tear as well as missing parts can also affect a used crib’s safety.
Does all this make a used crib a hazard? Not necessarily, but the problem is that it’s much harder to determine whether it’s safe enough for your baby.
Did you know that many car seats have expiration dates? Manufacturers often voluntarily stamp car seats with these dates (which tend to be about six years in the future) to ensure that parents are using seats that meet the latest safety standards.
Even if a car seat appears to be in good condition, it’s much like a crib: You just don’t know its history. If the seat has been in a crash, this can compromise its integrity, making it less reliable in a future collision. Used seats might also be missing parts and/or instructions, which can make proper (and safe) installation nearly impossible.
Couches and Other Upholstery
Whether you’re trying to save money or just looking for some cool vintage furniture, there are some pieces you shouldn’t buy secondhand. The reason? Bed bugs.
Unfortunately, bed bugs often gain entry into even the cleanest homes in couches, chairs, cushions and other upholstery. Then they spread like crazy. Bed bug infestations have seen a resurgence all over the country in recent years, increasing the odds of infestation. And, once bed bugs get into your home, a thorough, professional fumigation job is often required to stamp them out.
Just like furniture, mattresses can carry mites, bed bugs and (dare we say it?) bodily fluids. Ugh. And while the creepy crawly critters in your mattress could leave you suffering from allergies or bites, mattresses carry another risk, too: back pain. According to experts, a mattress should be replaced about every 10 years to ensure you sleep well and get proper support. Many used mattresses just don’t have much life left in them, which could make a new one a better value anyway.
Whether for a bicycle or a motorcycle, helmets are only designed for one crash. The problem is, many of them survive a hard impact with little or no visible damage. This is your head we’re talking about. Is saving a few bucks on a helmet really worth the risk?
eBay has infamously sold everything from dirty underwear to used dentures, but the site has a policy against the sale of used cosmetics because they present a health and safety risk.
Take that as a hint. For one, there have been concerns over lead exposure from cosmetics. But if using makeup applicators that have come in contact with someone else’s hands, eyes and mouth don’t dissuade you, also consider that most cosmetics expire in a relatively short period of time, especially when they’ve been opened. This means they might separate, clump and generally not perform as well as new, unused products would.
Electronics such as TVs, laptops and cellphones can be purchased secondhand at huge discounts. Oftentimes this works out just fine, but there is one danger here: that the items you are buying have been stolen. Online reselling in particular has allowed criminals to resell all kinds of items, no questions asked.
In the New York subway system, for example, stolen iPhones now make up more than half of all thefts. If the thief is caught, your phone could be confiscated by the police. Plus, the nation’s top wireless carriers are working on a system to deactivate stolen phones, essentially turning them into worthless hunks of plastic.
Problem is, by that time the thief could be long gone with your money. Consider that old saying about a deal that seems too good to be true. When it comes to expensive electronics, it probably is. In a culture where people buy so much stuff, buying secondhand just makes sense. It helps you save money, reduce waste and find some unique items you wouldn’t find at a typical retail store.
Just be aware that sometimes, the savings achieved through buying secondhand just don’t pay, especially when those items pose risks that could be avoided by buying them new.