Photo: Flickr/Dexter Panganiban
Other than a new smell and the satisfaction of being the only owner, buying something new doesn”t make sense for some things.Buying used items can save you a significant amount of money, which can make up for the fact that you don’t get the joy of opening a virgin product. If you can live without the smell of a new car or a new book and don’t mind not having the original tags to cut off new clothes, you can easily spend half as much while getting quality merchandise.
Here are some things you should always buy used:
1. Furniture. For the amount of damage that furniture takes from everyday use, you’d think it would be difficult to find good used furniture. Consignment and estate sales are good places to look, especially in retirement communities where retirees either die or are trying to downsize.
“The problem is most people don’t have the imagination” to see a piece of furniture that needs to be refinished, which is relatively easy to do yourself, said Suzanne Condie Lambert, who lives in Goodyear, Ariz., and regularly buys used furniture.
Besides, she said, older furniture is often built better than the stapled-together, pressed fibre products of today.
“It might look nice, but it’s not going to last you very long,” she said of that type of new furniture.
2. Cars. The value of a new car drops by about 20% after you drive it off the lot, and it drops more five years later. Kelley Blue Book is a good starting point for determining how much a used car should sell for. A used car that’s five years old can typically be about a third of the price of a new car, and the insurance is a lot less than it would be for a new car.
You likely won’t get a warranty with a used car, which was reason enough for Suisun City, Calif., resident Brad Stanhope to buy a new car once among the 13 cars he’s bought in his lifetime. He bought a 1988 Hyundai new for $8,000. Since then, he and his wife have bought 10 used cars and have kept them until the vehicles have died — from two to three years for junkers to eight years for a good used car.
“We haven’t had a car payment in a long time,” said Stanhope, who has always paid cash when buying a car and has used the savings for living expenses.
However, be sure to test the marketplace before blindly plunging into buying used, said LeeAnn Shattuck, who buys cars for her clients through Women’s Automotive Solutions. Demand has been high for used cars during the past three years, while supply has been low, leading to some record-high used car prices, Shattuck said.
3. Baby clothes. Infants grow so fast that it doesn’t make sense to buy new clothes that you’ll get rid of in a few months. If you’ve ever had a baby, chances are that some of the new clothes that arrived as gifts were outgrown before they could be used. There are plenty of cute and clean baby clothes at used clothing stores that sell for at least half as much as they do new.
4. Kitchen items. The best kitchen items to buy used are plates, glasses and other dishware that have a vintage look and have a better back story than something you bought off the shelf. If your grandma doesn’t need her dinnerware anymore, ask if you can give it a good home. (However, you don’t want to buy used appliances such as toasters and blenders that have a limited lifespan or big wooden spoons and other cooking utensils that are cheap enough to buy new and wear out quickly.)
5. Electronics. This isn’t for everyone, but buying used laptops, TVs, computers, tables and phones can save you up to 40%, according to the website TechBargains.com. Like buying a used car, you’re unlikely to get a warranty — or maybe one for a year if at all. The Apple store, for example, offers the same one-year warranty for its refurbished items that comes with its new gadgets.
Some refurbished electronics are strictly returns that have never been opened. A TechBargains.com back-to-school survey found that half of the people it surveyed would buy refurbished or used electronics to save money. Being the first person on the block to own the latest gadget can be fun, but it isn’t worth the extra cost if the manufacturer has bugs to work out — or if the price will drop when a newer version is released just a few months later.
The Investing Answer: Before buying something new, shop for it used to see how much money you can save. If it’s enough money to make the risk of it failing worth the cost, then give it a try.
There are plenty of places to buy used items online, such as Craigslist or eBay; go with a trusted site and one with a refund policy.
If the deal looks too good to be true, don’t buy it. If you’re thinking of buying a used car, hire a mechanic to check it out. Check for defects when inspecting items at consignment or other stores that sell used items; ask the owner the history of the item. Buying from neighbours with an app such as Rumgr lets users take a picture of a used dining room table, for example, and set up a meeting for the exchange.
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