Rights & Money

Top 10 Things to Buy Used—and What to Avoid

You can save a lot of money buying used, but it helps to know what you’re doing

By Matt Smith

Shopping secondhand can be a great way to save money on everyday items. Some things, such as electronics and vehicles, drop drastically in value as soon as they’re purchased, and others, such as tools and sporting goods, last for a very long time. However, among the vast array of deals available at garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and websites like Kijiji are some things to watch out for. Here’s a list of the best things to buy used, along with the things you shouldn’t.

Best Buys:

Non-upholstered furniture
You can find quality, antique wooden furniture being sold for prices comparable to those being charged for lesser-quality new flatpack pieces. It’s best to avoid upholstered furniture, however, unless you can be certain of its history—you never know what might be hiding in there.

Tools and garden supplies
This kind of equipment is built to last and often doesn’t see much use, so even if an item]s been around a long time, you’ll probably get years more service from it.

Sports and fitness equipment

Used books abound online and in bookstores, and students especially can save a small fortune on textbooks. (When it comes to your favourite authors, though, if you can afford to buy new, they would no doubt appreciate the support.)

Musical instruments
Taking up music as a hobby can be expensive, but you can find used instruments of all kinds out there just waiting for an aspiring musician.

Vehicles depreciate in value as soon as they leave the lot. A well-maintained used car, especially a “certified” pre-owned car from a reputable dealer, will cost thousands less than a new car and be good to go for many more years and kilometres.

Home decor and picture frames

CDs and DVDs

Jewellery has a much lower resale value than many people think, and you can find great deals at auction houses and garage sales.

Gently used clothes can be a steal at the thrift store, as long as you’re careful about the quality.

Best to Avoid:

Because of their portability, laptops tend to suffer wear and tear quickly. You also don’t want to run the risk of buying a machine that’s already infected with viruses.

Digital cameras and TVs
As with laptops, it’s wise to proceed with caution when buying any used electronics.

Hygiene concerns aside, shoes conform to the wearer’s feet, so it’s unlikely that you’ll find a used pair as comfortable new shoes.

Mattresses and pillows
Mattresses lose their firmness over time, and bedbugs aren’t worth the risk of buying used.

Non-stick cookware
Non-stick coatings scratch easily, causing them to release toxic chemicals into your food. (Cast iron on the other hand is always a great find!)

Slow cookers, blenders, and other kitchen appliances
As with cookware, these items are prone to getting scratched, making health a concern.

Makeup and bath and beauty products

The savings may be tempting, but it’s best not to take risks with road safety.

Photo: iStock/ToniFlap.