5 Home and Family Items to Avoid Buying Used

Gently used clothes at the local vintage shop or even a “pre-owned” car, as the dealers like to say, can prove a recipe for both savings and style.

But there are scores of important family and household items that should probably remain first-run purchases, dismal economy or not. Here’s a look at five in particular. (See also: The Stuff I Try to Never Buy New)

Car Seats

Buying a used car seat is like buying a used helmet — it’s just not safe. Once a car seat has been involved in one accident, the integrity of the car seat is ruined, and it may no longer be an effective mechanism for protecting your child. Don’t take a chance. Always buy a new car seat.


Cars are becoming more and more expensive to maintain. The rising price of gas is forcing car owners to come up with other creative ways to save money while driving, and some are choosing to do so by purchasing used tires. Tires that have been involved in a car accident suffer just like car seats do. But you can’t always tell if a set of tires has been in one. Consider new tires an investment in your safety.

Computer Software

Computer software is expensive, and buying a used copy can often reduce your costs by hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately, most of today’s computer software must be licensed in order to be used. Once the software is licensed it can’t be used again, which means that buying a used piece of software is essentially like buying a blank CD.


Although buying a used mattress may save you a few hundred dollars, it isn’t necessarily sanitary or the best for your body’s physical health. When you purchase a used mattress, you aren’t able to judge its overall cleanliness, as problems such as bed bugs are not always visible. Mattresses also generally only have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, and you may not be able to get an honest age from the seller. Buying an older mattress can also lead to back problems or antagonize existing physical ailments.

Pet Supplies

Purchasing used pet supplies may seem like a good idea. But buying used pet supplies such as dog beds or cloth-covered cat stations can be just as unsanitary as purchasing a used mattress. Plus, pet odors tend to ferment over time even if they have been cleaned, so that seemingly clean dog bed you bought at a garage sale could begin to stink the first day it lays out in the sun. The exception to purchasing used pet supplies is the kennel. A wire crate can be fully sterilized, and buying a used one can save a pet owner anywhere from $50 to $100.

Buying used isn’t always a bargain, and certain used items may actually cost you more in the long run in terms of maintenance or having to repurchase the same item only a few months later. If you choose to buy used, however, always make sure to properly review the items in person prior to purchase.

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Guest's picture
Bob Wilcox

Computer software does not have to be expensive because there is amazing freeware available; check out snapfiles.com/freeware/ for many great applications. Here are a few to get one started:
Microsoft Office Professional 2010 is about $500 but LibreOffice (libreoffice.org) is free and the office suite is amazing. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org) which is also free and very good but its future under Oracle is unsure.

Photoshop costs between $700 - $1000 but GIMP (gimp.org) is free and does everything Photoshop can do.

Scribus (scribus.net) is a free desktop publishing application.

Avast! (avast.com) is a free antivirus program

MediaMonkey (mediamonkey.com) is a great free audio player and media library application

VLC (videolan.org) is a free video media player

Operating System - Windows 7 cost $300 but Linux is free and does not have issues with viruses or spyware. There may be a small learning curve but that curve is much harder than going from XP to Windows 7 or Mac. There are a number of Linux operating systems but I would recommend Linux Mint (linuxmint.com) as it is very Windows like and works right out of the box. My family (wife, kids and father) have been running Linux for years without issue. My $300, 4 year old laptop boots and is ready to work in about 30 seconds.

Software is not expensive; it is free!


Meg Favreau's picture

Good reminder, Bob. I love both GIMP and Open Office.

Guest's picture

Children's shoes are a tricky thing to buy used. Children's feet grow differently and they wear out in places that may make it uncomfortable or even change their gate all together

Guest's picture

My house is full of used things. I just can't see spening money for things that I can get for 90% less by buying them used. I even got my one-year-old Ashley Furniture living set at an estate sale for $120. I know that set sells for $1200.

I did splurge on car seats. My husband and I did research on the safest car seats and bought two for our kids for $150 each. The car seats go up to 80 pounds so I knew I would get many years use out of them. When my child was a baby I did accept a used infant car seat from my best friend but I trust her.

We also spent about $1200-$1400 on a good mattress. It was tough to pay that much money for something but I had saved and was able to pay cash. I accepted two mattresses that were used for my kid's rooms but they were from friends and family. I knew that they were gently used and they were expensive mattresses. My husband does pest control so I totally know what you mean about bed bugs. That is one bug my husband doesn't even want to talk about. He says they are awful to get rid of because they get into your walls. It is not worth the free mattresses if you have to deal with those critters.

Guest's picture

I would never think twice of buying used tires for my car. To me that is absurd just to save a few hundred bucks, not worth the risk. New tires are sometimes not even the best ones to begin with, but that is just on the rarest occasions.

I really liked this article. I think some people take advantage of used products/services and don't realize the risk involved.

Guest's picture

I really thought that you couldn't buy a used mattress, like it was illegal. I feel like I read that somewhere else. Anyway, these are all true. I recently saw a small "store" advertising used tires and I was confused and shocked. Definitely not something to buy used.

Guest's picture

Software can be a good deal used. Although it is licensed, that license can be transferred. However, I agree, try the freeware first. If that doesn't work, check out shareware (and remember to pay for it if you continue using it). The trick with licensing is knowing if the software was removed. But if you but the original disc (with holograms, etc.) I don't think you are going to get prosecuted.

Another option is to ask if your employer offers "home use" software, such as Office. I was able to get Office 2010 for $35 for home use.

Guest's picture

I totally disagree about the tires. Some random craigslist person posting their used tires? OK, not so much. But a local tire shop with an extremely good reputation selling only very barely worn tires for $100 less and with a guarantee? A skilled technician can tell if a tire is damaged, and in a small town like I live in the last thing a tire shop can afford to do is risk the reputation damage that would come with selling unsafe, subpar tires.

Guest's picture

I agree with Katie about the tires. We have purchased many used tires but my hubby is a car guy.