Buying Used: Which Items Are Worth It?

Buying Used: Which Items Are Worth It?

She had been such a good little vacuum for us. She was a purple, upright Dirt Devil, the first decent vacuum I ever owned. We bought her for $16 on a half price day at Bargain World. She even came with 2 packs of extra bags. I thought it was a steal!

purple dirt devilTwo and a half years later, she’s reached the end of her days. My husband has been cleaning out jams of dust, pine needles (and the odd paper clip or shiny bead) repeatedly. She no longer stands up on her own (the locking mechanism broke), and the rotating brush floor head just doesn’t want to rotate anymore.

We made the sad realization two nights ago, and are now scouring Craigslist for a replacement (we actually found a fun one- a Roomba for $80, although I doubt we’ll actually buy that one as it’s a bit impractical). When you look at the price of new vacuums, it’s a bit crazy.

New ones seems to start around $150 (except for the very bottom of the barrel cheap ones, which I would doubt are worth buying), and easily up to $500-600 or more. If we can score a higher quality used vacuum for $100 or less (our ideal budget is closer to $50-60), it just doesn’t make sense to consider new at all.

It got me thinking about how many appliances and other household items we buy that are just not worth it to buy new.

They cost so much more more, they quickly lose value, they’re often more expensive because of a “new, improved feature” even though the previous model was perfectly fine, not to mention that by buying new we are using up resources, requiring more shipping and transportation of goods, and filling the landfills with the endless junk that we throw out.

It just makes more sense to buy used!

Here’s a list of a few items I thought of that we prefer to buy used whenever possible:

1) Car- Most vehicles lose something like 65% (this is an average- some cars hold value better than others) of their value in the first 5 years, and many can lose up to %30 percent the very first year (practically the day you drive it off the lot).

With so many good resources out there for buying a used vehicle, it just makes good sense. We purchased a used Mazda this time last year, and after doing diligent research on consumer reports, speaking to many people who were knowledgeable about cars (as we are not!), and getting BCAA mechanical inspections on the cars we were most interested in (the best $130 we ever spent in car shopping!), we feel very satisfied with our purchase and know that we got a much better deal than if we had purchased new.

2) Vacuum cleaner– As I’ve already been stating, good quality used models can be found for a fraction of the price, and will give you many good years of cleaning, plus help to keep another cleaner out of the dump.

champion juicer3) Smaller kitchen appliances– There are many small items, such as blenders, bread makers, food processors, hand held mixers, coffee makers, etc. My coffee/espresso maker (it’s a side-by-side machine) is a Krupps, and I paid $25 at a garage sale. My citrus juicer was a couple dollars at a thrift store. My heavy-duty Champion Juicer was under $50 at a garage sale- in fantastic condition.

4) Large kitchen appliances– Did you know that the used ads are full of great washers, dryers, fridges, dishwashers and stoves? Often, people are renovating their homes and will get rid of appliances for a reason as simple as the colors don’t match the new cupboards, so you can grab a high quality machine at a fraction of the price! We are looking for a fridge for the suite we rent out, and we will probably end up finding one for free- all we have to do is pick it up!

We have also found that deep freezes are a popular item to find for free or next to nothing. They are large and difficult to transport, and people often just want them off their hands. Our first two came from the side of the road, and our current one was left behind by the family who lived in this house before we did.

5) Clothes– Although my husband and I do buy new clothes (primarily from outlets- we are all about clearance racks), I also shop for myself and my kids used as much as possible (Ryan is just too tall- he’s so tough to find used clothes for). I only buy my children’s clothes new if I’ve been given a gift certificate, or if I notice a clearance item as cheap as I could buy it used. Otherwise, I rely heavily on a local kids swap meet and the thrift stores, and I find plenty of good quality (usually brand name) clothes for very low prices.

stacks of books6) Books– Being the book-a-holics that we are in this family (we currently have 4 large bookshelves plus one smaller one absolutely packed, including more books in boxes in the garage), and as we are starting to home educate our children (can you say “bring on the books”?), we rely on used books.

We buy them primarily from used book sellers on Amazon. Often, a particular book will get as cheap as $.01, and all we pay is the $3.99 shipping. Books come even cheaper at the thrift store and garage sales (usually $0.25 up to about $4), although you don’t get to choose the particular books you want, but rather just have to keep your eyes open for good ones.

7) Furniture– A great way to get high quality, solid wood furniture is to buy it used. You can even look for specific items such as your favorite Ikea chair on Craigslist (we love the Poang), and you will often find it! Last summer we scored gorgeous solid oak bunk beds for our kids from a garage sale- we payed less than half of what something of that quality would retail for and they were quite lightly used.

Get your used items from local buy and sells, Craigslist, Freecycle, thrift stores, garage sales, newspaper ads, the side of the road (literally!)- the possibilities are endless!

8) Your turn

What are some of the things that you buy used? Where do you find your items? Are there any items that you would never buy new? Or vice versa, that you would never used?

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  1. I was going to let you know that I have a Eureka Boss Smart Vacuum. I love it. I have 2 big dogs and it does amazing with the dog hair. Consumer Reports said that it was one of the best for pet hair. Amazon sells a lot of used and refurbished vacuums. Hope it helps! God bless.

  2. You are a girl after my own heart! Almost all of our furniture is used (or Ikea!), most of our kids clothes are hand-me-downs (or bought on super clearance at the end of a season for next year), our major appliances were bought used (except for the fridge b/c we had a “emergency broken fridge” situation), etc. New car? I doubt that will ever happen. The other thing I like getting used is TOYS. Since they seem to get tired of them quickly, I really don’t feel bad giving them away when I only paid $1!

  3. I would have to (respectfully) disagree with you on a used cheap vacuum cleaner – I bought my Oreck for about $300 brand new … 7 years ago. I’ve not had one bit of trouble out of it. It’s light and easy to store, and if it doesn’t last me another 20 years I will be very surprised.

  4. I buy everything I can used at garage sales or thrift shops, and have found alot I can sell again at a profit at consignment shops and on ebay, and Amazon. (we sell books on Amazon) But “used” is not a term I use at my house (if I’m bringing it home)as my husband has an aversion to “used” items. However, I do say that I bought this particular item “wholesale” which means I really got a great deal on it and I might even sell it at a profit making it “retail”, of course.

  5. Things we buy used:

    furniture (but I’d only buy fabric type furniture if I felt good about the cleanliness of the sellers)
    linens (tablecloths/blankets – only if washable of course)
    books/magazines/homeschool stuff

    so pretty much everything is 2nd hand…though things I don’t like to buy 2nd hand – pillows, underwear, socks/tights, gifts for other people (unless they are brand new and look brand new and have tags on them).

    Surely there is more that I won’t buy used… I laugh b/c sometimes I’ll look at what I’m wearing and realize almost everything I have on (excluding underwear) is used!

    Find stuff mainly at the thrift store and garage sales.

  6. I buy pretty much everything used, if I can. We even have a used building supplies store in town, which means good prices for home renos etc. With kids clothes I find you have to be careful with second hand. Value Village and even the swap meet can be more expensive than a very good sale at Please Mum or even. the Joe brand at Superstore. I often buy a nice outfit at the end of the seaason for the next year. (Buy in August for next spring, and buy in January for September.) I can only do this on things I know will fit like t-shirts, shorts, skirts and dresses.

    Freecycle is good (we just got a free lawnmower!!). We also have a Cheapcycle yahoo group for our city.

    I never buy undergarments, footwear, sheets or mattresses used. I’m sure there are other things too….?

  7. The one thing I would be careful about is buying second hand are freezers or fridges where i didn’t know where it came from. The cemicals can leak out if it is old or has been mistreated. I would also never get carseats and cot mattresses second hand. (the mattress is because of the germs etc left by the previous owner. The car seat because you can’t always see damage.)
    Having said this I am a big fan of second hand. I love a good bargain.
    I also love belonging to a church that passes things on. We have been given so many things,one of which is a sofa and lots of childrens clothes. When we are done we just pass them on. A really good way of caring for each other and letting things get worn out instead of chucked out for no reason. Int he case of the sofa it meant that we were then able to pass our smaller one onto someone else in need.

  8. You have to be careful with furniture. Bed bugs can infest the furniture leaving you with an expensive problem. Many parts of the US are dealing with bed bugs. They can get into the wood and you would not know. Our paper had a long article about this.

  9. I am ALL for used stuff. When I was pregnant with my daughter almost 6 years ago now, I started discovery yard sales and focussed on sale items. I have never to this day bought 10% of her wardrobe new. It is getting a bit harder now, but I try to go to thrift stores. Otherwise, I only get things on sale. It’s to the point that if a friend is looking for something, they will call me to look out for the cheapest I could get. I also find that the internet has been a blessing for deals. It’s incredible the things you can get!
    The main things we get new are computer parts (husband is picky) and clothes for me (i am plus sized and have a hard time finding things that fit well). ANything else? i will consider used.

  10. Amazing deal on the champion juicer. I bought mine new 15 years ago and paid about $200 for it. It still works as well as the day I unpacked it, and I thought I had gotten a good deal!

  11. We managed to find a wonderful vaccuum for sale through craigslist for only $75. It is a ten year old Electrolux brand that the previous owners had spent over a thousand dollars on brand new. It still works like a dream! Also, the bags are normally a bit expensive, but we found a large stash of them at Big Lots for $.89 per package of three! Praise the Lord! We talked to a few other people who bought an electolux thirty years ago and it is still working just fine, so I think we got a good deal on a vaccuum that may just last us the rest of our lives!

  12. I agree with all of the the things you listed! Baby items are also great to buy used. You can find some great strollers, pack and plays, etc that are just gently used.

  13. Had to mention

    We used to buy (and sell!) a lot of used books on Amazon…but it is way cheaper to get them off paperback swap! Basically, you ship off books using media mail to people who request them, and earn credits. Then you use the credits to order books you want that someone else pays to ship to you. Great system! So, we have a huge wish list there, and have traded more than 25 books this year. If you need a book right away, Amazon is great, but I just can’t get over how great paperback swap is!

    Just a thought from another bibliophile!

  14. We bought a piano on Craiglist last year. It is beautiful and in wonderful working order. We did get it inspected before we bought it to make sure it was a wise investment. But in the end, we only spent a fraction of what we would have on a new piano.

  15. You can surely make a lot of good deals buying used online. I’ve been doing it myself for a couple of years, and it has been a success so far. I just stumbled upon this great new website, Statricks, which I’m sure will make selling/buying used goods a lot easier. I’ve always felt that it takes up a lot of time determining the price of used goods (If the goal is to make some sort of profit out of it). Statricks gives you price reports and trends for free, so you basically get the going price for any used item on both Craigslist and eBay, without having to browse through all the classifieds yourself. Using this tool, I feel confident that I’m not underselling or overpaying for my items. I can highly recommend this site, and here is a link to their landing page:

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