What Should You Buy Used? What Should You Buy New?

Though the Get Rich Slowly community has expanded in the past couple of years, there are still a few folks who have been around since the beginning. It's always a pleasure when one of them drops me a line. Last week, Vintek — who contributed this introduction to mutual funds nearly four years ago — sent me an e-mail to let me know how he's doing, and to share a recent article he liked.

My pals over at Wise Bread have apparently struck a syndication deal with Yahoo and U.S. News. As part of that, they've recently posted two interesting articles: one listing 21 things you should never buy new and one listing 20 things you should never buy used.

Things you should never buy new
Here are some of the items from Wise Bread's list of things you should never buy new:

    • DVDs and CDs. I agree — to an extent. If a movie or album has been out for a year, there's almost never a reason to buy it new. There are tons of sources for finding used media, so you can almost always find an older item. Plus there's the public library. But if you absolutely have to watch Glee, you don't really have another option than buying new. (I download from iTunes, but it's the same thing.)

 

    • Books. Same as with DVDs and CDs. I should note, however, that you can almost always find used copies of even new items by looking on Amazon.

 

    • Jewelry. “Depreciation hits hard when you try to sell used jewelry,” writes author Lynn Truong, “but as a buyer you can take advantage of the markdown to save a bundle.” She suggests checking out estate sales and reputable pawn shops.

 

    • Maternity and baby clothes. Amen! Two weekends ago, Kris journeyed north for our favorite neighborhood garage sale. We wandered past nearly 100 yard sales, many of which had baby clothes for sale. All of our friends with kids are eager to pass on Jack and Jill's old clothes when they're finished with them. There's no reason to ever buy baby clothes.

 

    • Cars. I know that not everyone is a used-car type person. Until buying my Mini, I steered clear of used. But at the same time, I understood that I paid a premium for that new car smell. Buying used cars is a great way to save a ton of money in one blow.

 

  • Hand tools and gardening supplies. Though I agree that you can find everyday tools for cheap at yard sales, it can be tough to make your needs match the opportunities. When you need an orchard ladder, you need an orchard ladder — you can't wait until the next time you see one at an estate sale. The best thing to do is plan ahead as much as possible, of course, but I still find that I end up buying most of my tools new.

I agree with most of the items on Truong's list of things you shouldn't buy new, but I'd add a few others.

If you're patient, you can usually find power tools for sale at yard sales or on Craigslist. I just picked up a belt sander at the community garage sale, for example. Craigslist is also a great source for furniture, especially if you're not picky. But most of all, you should never buy small kitchen appliances new. Thrift stores and yard sales are packed to the gills with microwaves, toasters, bread makers, and their kin. Why pay thirty bucks for a toaster when you can pay three?

I should also note that I haven't bought a new sweater in years. I'm able to find perfectly good sweaters for two or three bucks at yard sales all the time.

What about you? What are the things you never buy new?

Things you should never buy used
Here are highlights from Wise Bread's list of things you should never buy used:

    • Laptops. Whoa there. I disagree with this one. I've bought used laptops before, and I've sold three on eBay. (Plus I have another one I need to get around to selling!) I've never had a problem, and have never heard any of my buyers complain. Also, author Amy Lu is wrong that you don't get warranties when buying a used laptop. At least with Apple products, you can transfer the warranty.

 

    • HDTVs, DVD players, and digital cameras. Again, I disagree with this. Lu writes that you don't want to buy these items used because you want the warranty. But I've bought a used digital camera before, and know people who have bought used DVD players. These things work fine.

 

    • Camera lenses. I really disagree with this. Lu rightly notes that the lens is the most important (and expensive) part of an SLR camera system, but you can find great used lenses for much less than new.

 

    • Hats. I don't really agree with much in this list, apparently. I'm a hat wearer. Sure, most of my hats are new, but I'm always on the lookout for used hats. For one thing, my favorite hat styles are tough to find new.

 

Judging from reader comments, others had a problem with Lu's list of things you should never buy used. It reads to me more like a list of things that Lu doesn't want to buy used, not a list of things that are actually problematic to buy used. But maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

Actually, I'm curious: Are there GRS readers who never buy used stuff? And are there readers who try to never buy new stuff? How do you decide what to buy new and what to buy used? With me, there's generally no rhyme or reason. If I think it's a good deal, I'll buy it used. But if I want something pristine for some reason, I'll buy it new. (Of course, often the best choice is to not buy it at all!)

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sewingirl
sewingirl
10 years ago

The thing about hats may have more to do with the cleanliness of the head that it was last on, than style. Public schools rag endlessly (with good reason) about not trading hats with anyone, don’t put your hat on if someone else was wearing it! Headlice, nuff said.

Money Smarts Blog
Money Smarts Blog
10 years ago

I’m ok with buying a lot of stuff used, but as my life has gotten busier over the last few years, I tend to buy mostly new.

Whether it’s cars or clothes, buying new is much faster and easier.

Lesley
Lesley
10 years ago

I rarely buy used. I’ve tried from time to time, but usually I can’t even find what I want, and the rare times that I do, I’ve usually regretted the purchase. Plus, the amount of time and effort it takes is more than I have available to me. There are the odd exceptions, like baby clothes from a friend or my mom’s old pots and pans when she upgraded. But usually I find it’s too much work for too little payoff. My approach is more just to not buy too much in the first place. What I do get, I… Read more »

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

I guess it depends on what’s available in your area. I buy almost all of my clothes new (on sale or clearance) because there aren’t any decent used clothing stores or consignment shops in my area, and I need “tall” sizes.

I also disagree about buying music new. I rarely buy whole albums, so for the music I want it’s cheaper to buy the odd song or two through iTunes than spend for an entire album that’s mostly filler.

Sasha
Sasha
10 years ago

Regarding books, I disagree. I should admit that right off the bat I have a bias–I intend to work in the publishing industry. That said, sometimes you should buy a book new, or if you can’t, request it at the library. You should do this when it is an author or series you want to support. One of my favorite authors, who has had bestselling books, had a book series canceled by the publisher before it was over, because not enough people were buying them. In addition to wanting to support an author you like so that s/he has the… Read more »

Sara A.
Sara A.
10 years ago

I would never buy a car new. Too much depreciation.

Geoff Holden
Geoff Holden
10 years ago

I’m with you on the cameras and lenses. As long as you’re careful to make sure they were not abused by the previous owner, you can save a lot of money buying new lenses (and cameras too).
Also, good lenses hold their value pretty well, so there’s an initial price drop from new to used, but it doesn’t change much if it’s 2 years old or 10. So buying used lenses means you can turn around and re-sell them at very little cost to you if you upgrade or just change your mind later.

SF_UK
SF_UK
10 years ago

I wouldn’t buy a used laptop again. I bought a re-furb for my first laptop (all I could afford). It never worked properly. Eventually I discovered that it had major issues with the hard-drive, memory, and memory *slots* (so not really fixable). It was also sold to me with the wrong power supply, which I didn’t realise until after the time elapsed where I could have complained. I bought it because a number of friends had bought used laptops from the same supplier with no trouble. I know that I probably got a freak lemon, but a laptop is a… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
10 years ago

Regarding the camera lenses, I can kind of see her point. Camera lenses hold their value notoriously well, particularly the higher-end lenses that are solidly-built. As such, you don’t really save much money by buying them used. If I can get the same lens, factory-sealed, with a big-name store standing behind it, for just 10% more, why not buy new? You don’t save much money by buying camera lenses used.

Now, camera bodies, on the other hand, drop in value much more rapidly (especially since the advent of digital SLRs).

Boiler Up
Boiler Up
10 years ago

I’d have to say a mattress is DEFINATELY something better brought new than used. A quality mattress is worth its price, and your body, especially your back, will thank you.

threeoutside
threeoutside
10 years ago

With camera lenses just make sure you know what you’re getting. If you’re not a pro, or along-time educated amateur, take any prospective lens to a pro shop and have them check it out before you buy. There can be things going on inside (mold, for one) that you cannot see and don’t know to look for. Even mold isn’t necessarily a deal-killer; if the pro says it won’t affect the quality of your photos, you can use the presence of mold to maybe dicker the price down a little.

Tim
Tim
10 years ago

I won’t buy used power tools. While I can no longer say I make a living with them (former carpenter), there are a few issues that come to mind, not the least of which is that used power tools are often stolen. It can also be hard to ascertain the condition of brushes, switches, batteries, etc without tearing a tool apart. I’d wholeheartedly recommend considering reconditioned tools. Quality is on par with new, most companies provide a warranty, and the price is great. I tend to visit manufacturer specific sites, but Amazon does serve as a storefront for some of… Read more »

kim_n21
kim_n21
10 years ago

I’ll get most things second-hand (at least theoretically- like Beth above, I have trouble finding clothes in thrift stores in my size), but I won’t buy second-hand upholstered furniture or pillows or anything that can’t be washed or laundered, because I have asthma and really awful allergies. It’s safer for me to get that sort of thing new because then I know there haven’t been animals I’m allergic to on them, or smokers, or any number of other issues that could pop up. Well, ok, I wouldn’t buy second-hand underwear or swimsuits, either. Or personal care products. But yeah, pretty… Read more »

James Micah Weirick
James Micah Weirick
10 years ago

I almost always buy used, and rarely have problems with it, except my most recent car. I agree, however, with the other commenter about not buying mattresses used. Your back really will thank you if you aren’t trying to sleep in someone else’s dent. I disagree, however, with the person that said not to buy re-furb laptops. I bought one earlier this year from a well known online wholesaler. I’ve had no problems with the laptop and it was ridiculously cheap. I opted to not get an extra warranty on it, so it only had 60 days, but I’ve never… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
10 years ago

Ugh. Folks, I apologize, but it looks like nearly every comment is getting routed to spam now. If your comment doesn’t appear, I’ll fetch it from the spam folder ASAP. But the real problem is I’m about to set off on my three-hour fitness regimen, so it may be a while. I’ll stop to approve comments with my phone now and then, but you may have to be patient. I apologize.

everyday tips
everyday tips
10 years ago

I have been burned buying used electronics through ebay. I even bought a used cell phone that ended up being stolen and I could never activate it.

Regarding cars, I just saw an article saying you actually may be better off buying new because with all the discounts on new cars, the difference between new and used may actually not be that big.

I am open to new and used for just about everything. It just depends on what is available.

getagrip
getagrip
10 years ago

The part that I always find funny, is that it’s very personnel and likely based on past experience (good or bad) whether someone argues what is good to buy new versus used. That said, if no one ever bought new, there would be no “used” to be bought.

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

No to used shoes, used swimsuits (ditto undies), and used bedsheets. I’m willing to consider almost anything used.

One caveat though- if it’s used clothes, it needs to come from a friend or family member. Not because of germs, but because I have NO patience for digging through store racks (not even new ones at a place like winners).

Shari
Shari
10 years ago

I buy as much as I can used. Most of my clothing comes from consignment shops and rummage sales. I do buy some new, but even then I usually shop only the clearance racks. I do agree with most of the things on her “don’t buy used” list such as mattresses and underwear. Things such as those just shouldn’t be “recycled”.

LauraElle
LauraElle
10 years ago

Would NOT buy used: undergarments, swimsuits, pjs and shoes. Can’t do used shoes, not even if I’m bowling.

Have no problem buying used: cars, furniture, clothing, tools, ect.

The Tim
The Tim
10 years ago

This is probably tempting fate given J.D.’s comment above about things going into the spam bin, but I thought it would be worth pointing out Glyde, which is a great place to buy used DVDs, CDs, and especially video games.

I discovered it recently and it’s like flea-bay, but without the overbearing interface and the layer upon layer of fees for sellers. I’ve picked up some pretty great deals on there. Thought it might be of interest to the GRS crowd.

Barb
Barb
10 years ago

I rarely am a big fan of lists that say “never”. That said, I aree with the first list much more than the second-those may be things the author woulod not buy new but that doesnt make them a bad value. For example, as someone who is a widow with sever arthritis, I specifically bought an almost new house with everything on one level-while a thirty year old house with a big basement may be a better value for some, not for me. And I always buy new cars, but I always drive them to 200 thousand miles.

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

I tend to buy music and books new to support the artist, though I buy a fair amount used also. Of all the things that seem wrong to make a policy about, those two are it… Sure, I saved a LOT when I stopped buying most of that new and started using the library more, but buying new (especially if you can buy direct from the author/musician) is money to a good cause. And baby clothes…I tend to buy PJs for my kids new and go the used route for as much of everything else as possible (except socks). The… Read more »

Luke
Luke
10 years ago

I will buy most things second hand, but never again would I buy: Mobile phones (either I’m OCD when it comes to dirt, or other people are a heck of a lot less hygienic on average!) The sight of a keypad filmed with dirt and sweat is just wrong 🙁 Laptops or desktops. Have bought one of each second hand over the years. The desktop was nice enough, although the old style CRT monitor *literally* went up in flames and the laptop went down with a display fault less than two weeks after purchase (luckily I got my cash back!)… Read more »

CB
CB
10 years ago

I agree with @getagrip, what people choose to buy new and used is very personal and based on past experience. It’s also interesting that you’ll see “pro’s” that would never buy used because of quality or warrenty issues but at the same time they make their living that way. It makes sense as a professional carpenter to buy good tools. Yes sometimes you can stumble upon great used tools but you don’t often get the opportunity because you need the tool for the project you’re working on. If you’re a DIY’er then used tools from a garage sale will probably… Read more »

Kirsten
Kirsten
10 years ago

I’m with the no crowd on the used mattresses and undergarments. Like the commenter above, I’m very tall and thin, so thrift shops rarely have anything that fits me well. I’ve had a mixed track record buying used electronics. My refurbished camera has been a workhorse for the past four years, and I have no complaints at all. My refurbished ipod had a battery that died within a year and then the drive went three months later. My theory with used electronics now is that if it’s something I’ll be using every day and depending on, I’m buying it new.

nyx
nyx
10 years ago

I don’t like these types of lists, why can’t people buy whatever they want to buy, if no one bought new books and dvds then artists wouldn’t make any money. What about supporting artists if you want to and have the means to do so? Its not evil to buy new things if you have the money to do so. I love to read and I will buy new e-books. I’m not one of those people who will buy used because I tried it and don’t really like that. I have figured out that for myself, I am willing to… Read more »

lilacorchid
lilacorchid
10 years ago

I will buy nearly anything used if it looks/behaves new or nearly new, except for things that could transmit bugs or germs. For example, I’ll buy a used table, but not a used couch or bed (bed bugs). I’ll buy used pants, but not used underwear. On the other hand, I buy it new if the frustration of getting it used it too great. I hate clothes shopping and I’m a hard size to fit, so going to a thrift store is torture. I’ll wait for a sale at my favourite store or if something fits me like a dream… Read more »

Aaron
Aaron
10 years ago

I’ve found that used can be a good way to explore new things. When I got my digital SLR years ago I bought old lenses for it, really really old full manual lenses. The full manual aspect actually forced me to learn how to work all the functions of my camera and kept me interested in the hobby longer than if I had had to save up for the more expensive automatics. I even managed to shoot few weddings and recover some of my costs.

Tom
Tom
10 years ago

I don’t understand why anyone would buy new media (books, music, movies, games) – once the shiny has worn off, you can buy just about anything for pennies on the dollar. That new $25 best-selling novel will be available at Amazon or eBay for $3 in a few months. I understand the need to get something you’ve been looking forward to RIGHT NOW, but a little bit of patience will save you a lot of cash in the long run. Another potential reason for buying new is to support the artist (and I’ve done that on occasion), but I suppose… Read more »

Dani
Dani
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

The reason to buy media new is to support the artist or author. Basically, if you like their stuff, want them to continue making it, and can possibly afford it, buy new (or send them a $5 donation). Otherwise, be willing to stand mute once indie artists, authors, musicians, and filmmakers get squeezed out of business.

Alex
Alex
10 years ago

In regards to buying used laptops. Lu is not just saying that. Macs are the exception and retain value better than other computers, but only because of the artificial value Apple generates (who is going to buy a macbook air with such poor/un-updated specs at Apple’s prices?!). Because of the way computers and technology moves, buying a used laptop diminishes end-user experience and life. Sure, you can use both a new computer and a used one for 5 years, but your experience on the used one will be terrible in the 4th and 5th year because everything else has gotten… Read more »

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

There is a time & place for the new media. Sometimes you love a band at a concert, or have been waiting for that new CD to come out for 6 months.

snappy
snappy
10 years ago

well to be honest,for the last year i havent bought anything new or used,guess its my personal war with stuff,thx.to this website.did give my girlfriend $5000,she put it in the bank.

HollyP
HollyP
10 years ago

A couple additions to the never buy used:

Children’s carseats – This is a safety issue. If the carseat was in use during an automobile accident, it may have been damaged in a way not visible to the naked eye.

Hats, bedding and similar items should be treated with suspicion and thoroughly cleaned due to the possibility of lice or bedbugs.

MaryR
MaryR
10 years ago

One thing on the DVDs: if you have friends or co-workers with similar tastes, buy a set together with the person keeping it kicking in a little more. Or you buy Glee and share, they buy Doctor Who and share.

The other thing is to buy a box set when it’s brand new and on sale, watch it and then sell it while it’s pretty new. That ends up being cheaper than renting.

Tami
Tami
10 years ago

I wouldn’t buy used hats unless they are washable.

Joless
Joless
10 years ago

I was in a charity shop at the weekend and was annoyed to hear a mother saying to her child that he couldn’t have the book he wanted because it would “only be a couple of pounds more to buy it new”. That was very frustrating since it’s not like the story will change and buying it there would have supported the charity and the environment a little bit. I do appreciate that authors don’t get anything from used booksales but I try and think that donating books is giving others a chance to discover that author and then maybe… Read more »

mary
mary
10 years ago

Things I never buy used: underwear, socks, running shoes. Otherwise I try to buy used as often as possible.

J Brown
J Brown
10 years ago

Never buy a mattress used. We are trying to buy more things used, especially for the kids/house. We really like estate sales, they have much more than yard sales, usually better quality. I always thought it was funny that people would never buy used, but then they buy antiques.

I hear on the used vs new car.

Greg
Greg
10 years ago

I think a practical new car, kept for its full depreciation, can often be a better bargain than the same car used. It’s much easier to comparison shop a new car between competing dealerships because you’re comparing apples to apples. Dealerships are under pressure from manufacturers to move a certain volume of new cars, while used cars can sit there until the right customer comes along. And one might not really want to own a car that the previous owner likely didn’t have ownership-mentality toward.

Jo
Jo
10 years ago

If it’s a big ticket item I try to split the difference on electronics and buy company-certified refurbished. Got a lot more lap top for my money doing this through Dell and a 1 year warranty so I wouldn’t get stuck with a lemon. I debated with myself for ages when I had to buy a car the end of last year. My old jalopy was costing me nearly as much as a car payment a month (on average) and I was out the hassle of getting it repaired. I finally went new because of something my dad told me:… Read more »

Janette
Janette
10 years ago

We buy new cars! Yes, we are evil:>) We drive our cars for 10 years or more. When we sell them them- they continue to run (our 1996 jeep has just been sold at the university- again- over 200,000 miles). We maintain them. We put air in the tires and change the fluids. By purchasing new- we know there has never been abuse. After growing up in a family that sells cars- a car with “merely 1,000 miles” is a warning sign. My brothers used to ABUSE cars on the lot and then dad would sell them as “slightly used”.… Read more »

elisabeth
elisabeth
10 years ago

In general, I think about initial cost and how long I’m going to keep something; often buying used but getting a decreased lifetime of use doesn’t really cost that much less than buying new and keeping it longer. We buy our cars new, but keep them till they die, so the cost-per-use probably works out about the same as a used car. Similarly, why buy a used toaster that I might have to replace in a year or two, when new ones don’t cost all that much — or didn’t when I bought our current toaster which is doing fine… Read more »

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

I like that Amazon allows you to compare the price of the same item new and used. I’ve bought books and DVDs used and it worked out great. For whatever reason there is a misconception that if you buy something used you are getting a deal. I found that to be far from the truth. Many times when I’ve looked for items on craigslist or eBay there is a 10 to 20 discount for used over new. I say used is only a deal if I can get a 40 to 50 % discount. Otherwise new is just easier. From… Read more »

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

I have to agree with Sasha – if you like an author, buy the book new. Authors receive nothing from used book sales, and the only way you’re going to see more of that author’s work is if you show there’s a market for it. I do not work in publishing, but I do hang out with a lot of authors (published and unpublished) who work very hard to write and market their excellent fiction. I reserve the entirety of my book-buying budget for up-and-coming or established authors whose work I want to see more of. Everything else I get… Read more »

Luke
Luke
10 years ago

‘I love to read and I will buy new e-books’

I didn’t realise there was any other way to buy an ebook? 😀

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

Amen on the maternity clothing. I was way more fashionable pregnant than not. I used ebay and the heuristic of no more than $15 for a suit and no more than $2 for any random piece of clothing within a lot. If only regular shopping were that cheap and easy. We buy sensible cars new usually with cash and drive them until they are done. Generally the difference in price exactly offsets risk, at least for mid-level cars. For luxury cars, that may not be true if the people who buy luxury also put a premium on fashions and change… Read more »

Kendra
Kendra
10 years ago

I tend to buy new baby clothes because I shop the clearance section of the outlet stores, and wait until I have a 15-20% off coupon, so I end up getting new clothes CHEAPER than the used ones at thrift stores! I buy most of our clothes off-season on clearance and project future sizes for my daughter. Her closet is full of stuff 2-5T (sorted by season within each size) and she just started wearing 24 months! I get most items for $3 or less before the 15-20% off coupon! (The Children’s Place stores are great for 99cent stuff if… Read more »

Justine
Justine
10 years ago

I personally try and buy all my clothes, with the exception of socks, underwear and bras, used. Shoes I buy new because if you wait you can get new shoes for nearly the price of used shoes (hello aerosoles 75% off sale). I just bought a new tent and digital camera, but only because I researched them and waited to get a good deal. House stuff I buy used and I’ve never owned any new large electronics. I think a lot of it has to do with personal choice. Some people find used clothes icky, but I just don’t give… Read more »

Joless
Joless
10 years ago

@Janette, re cars with only 1000 miles on the clock, we always buy our used cars direct from the dealer so they come with plenty of warranty and a known-history. Over here BMW give cars to their staff to drive for six months and then they sell them as gently used for vastly cheaper prices. I am afraid that it’s people like your Dad selling dodgy cars which scare me away from facing the independent places since I admit I know nothing about how to tell whether a car is any good or not and don’t trust the salesmen not… Read more »

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