Pros and Cons of Buying Used

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Marie. You can read more of Marie’s articles over at her own blog, Family Money Values. Enjoy! 

I love a good garage sale and I frequently shop at my favorite local thrift store.  I have purchased items both new and used over the course of my 68 years.  Yet there are many things I would never dream of buying used. I know some folks wouldn’t be caught dead buying ‘somebody else’s problem’ and others view themselves as ‘very smart shoppers’ because they can find bargains.

My nephew, for instance, won’t even buy a pre-owned home.

My son firmly believes in buying used cars – after all, a new car is worth thousands less once you drive it off the lot.


The Pros.

Used items are usually cheaper by an order of magnitude.

A recent purchase of mine was a short sleeve Cabella’s ladies summer shirt.  I paid $4.  A similar Cabella brand would cost at least $25 or $30.

I found a rataan love seat and footstool one year at a garage sale for $15.  Similar sets new range from $200 – $900.

There are no Taxes or lower taxes on used items.

Most jurisdictions do not require sales taxes on many used items.  Where sales taxes are required, on things such as cars, the taxes can be much lower due to the lower sales price on which the tax is calculated.

You can get older styles if desired.

Sales trends come and go.  If you are looking for Craftsman era furniture, you aren’t likely to find it new.

Quality can be better in some cases.

Furniture, clothing and perhaps even appliances today are manufactured more cheaply than in bygone eras.  I’ve repeatedly been told to hang on to my still working washer/dryer from the 1980’s because the newer ones won’t last as long.

Searching out those special items provides ‘the thrill of the hunt’.

There is a certain excitement about hunting for an older item.  It is sort of like a treasure hunt and finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when you do find it.

You are helping the environment by re-using items.

Reducing the use of ‘new’ in society will result in less consumption of dwindling resources.  Buy used helps that situation.


The Cons

You have to expect to deal with a certain amount of germs, bugs, and grunge. 

When you buy used, expect to clean and disinfect or have it done, prior to bringing the item into your life and home.

Wash everything, use disinfectant if it won’t ruin the item.  Set it in the sun and let the rays disinfect and remove odors.  Just don’t buy things that could hide hard to eradicate pests.

There usually are no returns.

Most used sales are final.  Don’t expect to be able to take it back and get your money back.  If you should find it doesn’t suit after you get it home, donate it – you may even get a break on taxes for doing so.

It may be difficult to find something specific.

The flip side of the thrill of the hunt is that you may never find the specific item for which you search.  Be open minded about looking for things when shopping used.  But also be wary of spending too much on spontaneous buys which might not be used.

The items you find may be in less than perfect shape. 

With some things, like cars or houses, you can safely request an opportunity to take the item to a professional for an inspection.  With others, like furniture, you must inspect carefully prior to purchasing used.  You may need to perform repairs or redecoration.

There is the possibility of safety issues.

Be careful of buying an item that might lead to injury or loss of life – a car seat or crib might not conform to today’s safety rulings for instance.

There are typically poor or non-existent try it out/try it on options.

Buying clothing at a yard or garage sale can be difficult as there is typically nowhere to try on an item.  When buying a used major appliance, even if it is plugged in and demonstrated, you may not have the option of seeing all phases of operation to know that the product is working correctly.

You don’t get delivery.

Buying used means you are on your own for getting the good home.  No store delivery for sure!


Buy new or used?

With my above opinions on the pros and cons in mind, here are some things I think it is better to buy new than used:

  • Mattresses or upholstered furniture

These can harbor bed bugs and lingering odors.  Re-upholster is expensive if hired done and very time consuming if you do it.

  • Personal care items (makeup, lotions, shavers, etc)

Just the thought of using someone else’s old makeup turns my stomach – better to do without than to buy used.  Who knows what skin conditions the other girl had?

  • Lingerie, underwear. swimsuits, socks

Wearing anything next to my private parts that other people have worn is just creepy to me.          Even though you might be able to clean and disinfect, I still prefer new on these items.

  • Any clothing that can’t be disinfected

Someone else’s fur coat, hand embroidered silk clothing or anything that can’t be washed, dry cleaned, dried or hung in the sun is off limits to me for buying used.

  • Gifts

Come on, don’t be a miser, spring for new if you are giving as a formal gift to someone else.


Likewise, I favor buying used items in some cases, such as the below:

  • Cars

Buying used cars has almost become a way of life for many.  Why pay dealer costs when the car loses value right away?  Not only is the purchase price less, but the resulting sales taxes and insurance costs are also less.

  • Clothing that can be disinfected.

Although I buy casual clothing, many parents like to look for that prom wear at sales.  With girls formals costing upwards of $200 a dress, it just makes sense to try to find something she likes on sale.

  • Books

Instead of paying $5 – $40 for a book, you can find them for $.50 or $1 at sales.  There are those, however, like my hairdresser, that fear the germs that used books might hold and they are somewhat difficult to disinfect.

  • Movies

If you like to watch movies more than once, buying the discs used saves significantly.

  • Toys

Kids grow out of toys so fast these days.  If you are looking for something to keep the kiddies out of your hair (scooters, bikes, balls, tents and more) – let them start learning about money by allowing them to buy their own toy at the next garage sale you attend.  Be sure they know you will need to clean it up for them before they get to play with it.

  • Baby stuff

Baby clothes, strollers, and much more are popular items to buy used and easily found at any new subdivision neighborhood garage sale.

My list could go on and on, but you get my drift by now.

How about you all? Do you buy used items?

***Photo courtesy of


  1. I’d differ with you on gifts, as it really depends on the recipient. My one sister loves a certain kind of vintage yellow dish. She has very particular tastes in clothing, and I dare not even attempt that, as I have the fashion sense of a rock. She’s happy to receive an addition to her collection. A friend collects old Nancy Drew novels. Then again, my husband’s family would be horrified to receive anything pre-owned, aren’t super keen on home made, no matter what the quality.

  2. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

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