6 Reasons Why Used Is Better

by Kentin Waits on 23 September 2011 17 comments
Photo: ganesha.isis

This isn’t a case of sour grapes; I really do prefer to buy used whenever possible. Maybe it’s the result of being raised by frugal parents, maybe it’s a too-intimate understanding of arbitrary retail markup and the subsequent depreciation, or maybe it just makes the most sense in a world that produces too much new stuff and throws away too much old stuff. Whatever the reason, let’s explore my top six reasons why buying used is better. (See also: To Buy or Not to Buy? Criteria for Thrift-Store Clothes Shopping)

1. It's Less Expensive

First, and most obviously, buying second-hand is usually more budget friendly. From used cars to used jeans, the resale market can help you make ends meet. Garage sales, thrift stores, online classifieds, eBay, flea markets, and clothing swaps are all booming forums to source great used items for dimes on the dollar. You just have to know a bit about what to look for, be dedicated, plan ahead, and be willing to do a little digging.

2. There's Less Depreciation

Depreciation isn’t just the value you lose on an item over time, it’s also the value you lose on a new item the minute you remove the tags and toss out the receipt. I like to think of it as every consumer’s "thank you gift" for paying retail mark-up and sales tax...thanks for nothing. Used items have already gone through that initial (and sharpest) drop in value. Items circulating in the used marketplace are priced closer to their real value and may even appreciate in value over time. Dodging that first step in depreciation is dodging a real bullet to your wallet. Don’t underestimate it.

3. Items Are Tried and Tested

When I buy a shirt at a second-hand store, it may have been worn two or three months, a year, or maybe five years. It’s been stress tested in a way that no new garment can be. If it still looks good and has worn well, then I know that trend is likely to continue. The same applies to nearly every category of item in the resale marketplace. By choosing items carefully and knowing the indicators of a quality product, buying used can sometimes be less of a risk that buying new.

4. It's Greener

I mentioned earlier that we live in a world with so much “stuff” floating around. Do I really need to help foster demand for new toasters, new lamps, and new flower pots? Isn’t it wiser — and certainly greener — to use up what’s already been manufactured? Now, before I get blasted for generalizing too much, there are a few things that should never be purchased used: safety helmets, car seats for infants and children, and (with the bedbug epidemic) most bedding. But with those few exceptions, buying used may be the greenest thing we can do for the planet.

5. The Quality Is Better

Let’s explore this line of logic — if used items tend to be older items and older items tend to be of a higher quality, then used items have a better chance of being well-made. Still with me? Maybe I’m a cynic, but quality is slipping everywhere. Compare items made even just five or ten years ago with brand-new, and you’ll see what I mean. With the exception of some electronics, buying used usually means opting for a more durable and longer-lasting product.

6. You're Providing Local Support

Typically, buying used is a more local activity than buying new. There just aren’t many multinational corporations in the used-stuff market. Buying used is an activity more likely to take place face-to-face with friends and neighbors, and in a community setting. The result? When you buy used, you tend to support individuals, not companies. You toss just a little sand in the gears of the corporate marketing machine (and that’s not always a bad thing).

Don’t be fooled — buying used takes more work, a more discriminating eye, a nearly clairvoyant knowledge of what you’ll need down the road, and loads of patience. But the benefits are so significant that there are new converts every day. What better time to explore smarter spending strategies than in middle of a recession?

Has buying second-hand become second nature for you? Inspire our readers by sharing some of your most amazing finds and biggest savings.

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Guest's picture
Tim

Yes, it has become second nature for me and my wife and friends give me crap about it all the time. But when I'm able to buy used vehicles, furniture and other stuff off Craigslist, use it for a couple years and sell it for the same or more, they quickly become quiet!

Guest's picture

I agree with all of this. I try to buy my clothes at the local second hand shops such as Plato's Closet.

Guest's picture
Guest

On target on all counts. Now if I can just convince our 15 year old.... He told us he was embarrased by our "old" furniture. I told him they're not old, it's worse than that, they're antiques.

Guest's picture
Tanya

I especially agree with point 5 - my parents have been married for 49 years and still have the same toaster they got as a wedding present. Meanwhile, I am on my third toaster in about 20 years. Quality is slipping away, and a well-made appliance or piece of furniture is a terrific find.

Kentin Waits's picture

Tanya, I couldn't agree more. My parents bought a refrigerator when they first married (in 1964) and it lasted until 1998. I can't imagine that happening today.

Donna Freedman's picture

I always start with secondhand stores. And I'm with you on the "quality" issue. Seven years ago I paid 99 cents for a clock-radio from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. It's so old it has those little cards that flip over. But it sounds great and it wakes me up just as nicely as an expensive new clock-radio would.

Kentin Waits's picture

Great find. The other good thing about those older clock radios with the flip cards -- they don't have those glaring digital numbers that can be too bright sometimes.

Guest's picture

Hi I agree with all these points. I've been buying used since I was in high school. Everyone always made fun, but they can just stick it! nicely. :)

I do, however, want to comment about the outbreak of bed bugs. I recently shopped at the local Goodwill and at the end of my trip started to think about whether there were any there? And, whether I should stop buying second hand? Should I just buy at rummage sales where I can judge the people better - ha! right. The clerk told me they have seen them once or twice and take measures with new stuff. But, how can you be sure? Sometimes I buy items that can't be "roasted" in the dryer.

Any thoughts?

Kentin Waits's picture

Hi Jennifer, thanks for the question. I don't think you can ever be certain with soft goods. I'm erring on the side of being more conservative with things that can't be washed and dried and in a dryer. Maybe I've watched too many documentaries on bed bug infestations on TV. The good thing is that this approach still leaves a lot to choose from in the thrifting world!

Guest's picture
Guest

You have to be kidding. Waste a lot of time digging through garbage and pretend that it's better quality? Get real.

Guest's picture
Guest

I do not know...I am VERY good at buying used. I target things that were very high end a few years ago, realizing that the wealthy have things we have not seen yet. This stuff trickles down and becomes common after a while. ( Example: GPS & hi-def TV's) Of course, the build quality must be adjusted to meet the new price point. Its just common sense.

Most of the things I own were carefully selected; Hi-End or commercial grade. These things perform flawlessly and will continue to do so for decades...usually with far more class then commonly available, consumer grade junk.

Only a fool would walk in to my home and think my things are "garbage".

Although, I do have an idea what sort of things you own....

Guest's picture
Justin

I am definitely a fan of used or gently used items. I have bought many refurbished items as well that have lasted me for many years.

Goodwill, Salvation Army, yard sales garage sales, flea markets and so on are great places to spend less without sacrificing quality,

Guest's picture
Guest

After months of searching, I've finally been able to replace my muffin baking pans and some other baking gear with 30 or 40 year old (American made) aluminum and steel... after having pans with "non-stick" coatings peel and warp, vintage seems the only way to go. A little elbow grease and these babies clean up like a charm and I expect them to literally out live me.

Meg Favreau's picture

I hate those new baking pans and sheets! The bottom of my cookies always seem to burn on them, but on my older cookie sheet, they're fine.

Guest's picture
Matt

I work in IT, so when I'm out clothes shopping at thrift-stores, or garage/rummage/yard sales, I always keep my eyes peeled for electronics. I've been able to make a quick buck plenty of times. My two favorites: Bought a 30PPM duplexing Laser printer for $8 one time at a local mom-and-pop thrift, cleaned a paper jam out of the fuser area, and sold it on eBay for $150.00! Another time, bought a pair of Infinity Outdoor deck speakers for $12 and sold them for $125...then there are the smaller things: I know Motorola cable modems sell on eBay for $30 to $40 all day long, and lots of times they're marked $1.99 ...these very rarely go out, so I usually snag them up and flip them since they're so easy to ship.

Reason #7: Buy used for fun, frugality, and *PROFIT* heh.

Guest's picture

Nice list.. All 6 points are great ones! The Quality one I have never thought about and I'll be informing my clients of this point for now on when we start talking about buying new goods verses used goods.

Guest's picture
Guest

I always had to have everything new for years. However when I become unemployed and finding work was so difficult I realised that I just couldn't afford the things I used to be able to. It was hard. Anyway a friend of mine loves going second hand shopping at garage sales so I went along with her and was amazed at what great things I actually scored for nearly next to nothing. Thats when it gave me a great idea to start my own online business selling second hand goods and now I'm making a fairly good income (it's all rather new to me still). The bonus is that I'm doing my bit in reducing waste so less stuff goes into landfills. It seems such a shame that goods are are still in excellent condition just gets tossed away.