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13 Items You Should Never Buy Used

By Heather Levin

used couchThere are some things you should always buy used secondhand. For instance, college textbooks, used cars, and baby clothes can easily be bought from a previous owner. And, you’ll save a bundle when you do.

But imagine you’re out shopping at a garage sale or pawn shop. Are there any items you shouldn’t buy used, things that might end up costing you more than you’d pay if you just bought it new?

As a matter of fact, there are. Let’s take a look at some of these items.

1. Car Seats

A baby car seat may look fine, but it’s impossible to tell if the plastic is cracked or weakened due to misuse. Here’s something scary: A bank in England commissioned a survey to test the safety in car seats. They found that 1 in every 10 car seats being used had been in a car accident once before.

Accidents weaken car seats, which puts your child at risk. You also have no idea who, or what, touched that car seat before you got it.

Your child’s life depends on the car seat functioning correctly during an accident. Buying a used one to save a few bucks just isn’t worth it.

The exception to this is if you’re getting a car seat from a friend or family member whom you trust.

2. Cribs

Older cribs aren’t as safe as newer ones. And some older models have been recalled because the adjustable side was sliding down and catching the heads and hands of the children inside.

Plus, unless you completely take it apart and reassemble it, there’s no way to know that the last parent put it together correctly. So buy a new crib and save yourself the worry.

Again, the exception here is if you know the person and you trust they put it together correctly.

3. Tires

Many people buy used tires to save money. But do you know if those tires were in an accident? Tires that have been in an accident can be weakened or damaged. They also aren’t as stable as new tires.

Your family’s safety depend on those tires, so buy new.

4. Mattresses

This one should be obvious. Used mattresses have dead skin and bodily fluids in the fabric (ew). There could also be bed bugs, fleas, and most certainly, dust mites.

The average mattress only lasts for 8-10 years, and there’s no way of knowing how old a used one really is.

You’ll sleep better on a new mattress – it’s worth the extra money.

5. Fine Jewelry

So, you’re at a garage sale and there’s a guy trying to sell his ex-wife’s engagement ring. Sure, that amazing ring could be a 3 karat pink diamond as the owner claims, but it could also be a pink sapphire or tourmaline, which he bought for $200 and is now trying to sell to you for $2,000.

Unless you’re an experienced jeweler, are you really going to know the difference?

Never buy a used piece of fine jewelry unless you’re buying it from a jeweler who handles estate jewelry. It’s extremely easy to get deceived in this field.

6. Helmets

Never buy a helmet used. This goes for bike helmets, but it especially goes for motorcycle helmets.

Why? Helmets that have been in a crash are weaker than brand new helmets. When you buy a used helmet, you run the risk that it’s already been damaged. You can’t see any hairline fractures that might be deep within the helmet.

Weakened helmets crack open far faster than “untested” helmets. You sure don’t want to be there when it fails. Always buy helmets brand new. It will probably save your life.

7. Vacuum Cleaners

Why do people get rid of vacuum cleaners? Here’s a hint: it’s not because they’re working great, in the prime of their life.

People get rid of vacuum cleaners when they start losing suction. This means that if you buy one used, it’s not going to work nearly as well as a new one would. And it’s probably not going to last that long either.

Plus, that vacuum is full of dirt, pet hair and dust mites from someone else’s house. Yuck.

8. DVD Players

DVD players are notoriously finicky devices. When they die, they die suddenly.

Eventually, the lasers on all DVD players wear out. This means that when you buy a used DVD player, you likely have a very limited time of use.

DVD players have dramatically gone down in price. It’s worth it just to spend a bit extra and get a brand new one; you’ll get far more hassle-free use from it.

9. Swimsuits and Underwear

This should really go without saying, but I’ve seen plenty of panties and swimsuits for sale at Salvation Army, so someone must be buying them.

These items are worn next to some very personal areas. Just leave them alone.

10. Shoes

When you wear shoes, they mold to your feet over time. As a result, when you buy a used pair of shoes, they’re never going to fit as well as a new pair simply because the footbed is already molded around the contours of someone else’s foot.

11. Makeup

People really do try to sell old makeup at garage sales. I’ve seen it.

Never buy makeup used, even if the person swears “they only used it once.” Makeup and other beauty products harbor bacteria, which you’d then be spreading all over your face.

Always, always, always buy makeup new.

12. Computers

This one might come as a surprise. What’s wrong with buying a used computer?

First, the keyboard. Keyboards often harbor more germs and bacteria than your toilet bowl does. Seriously. They’re the perfect breeding ground for germs.

Second, the computer itself. Computers are outdated extremely fast. And, this one could be infected with spyware and malware that will be a huge headache to get rid of, if you even know how (I sure don’t). If you don’t know, you’re going to pay the Best Buy Geek Squad a few hundred bucks to get rid of all that mess.

Unless you’re buying a machine from an IT professional who knows how to wipe a hard drive and clean beneath the keyboard, you’re often better off buying a new machine.

13. Plasma and HDTVs

Every year quality goes up and costs go down on TVs. And if that used plasma TV is close to shorting out, then you’re going to pay out the nose to fix it once you get it home. TVs are better bought new.

Are there any items you refuse to buy used? If so, I’d love to hear them!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://vertex42.com Nate Hall

    1-3 and 6 on the list here have to do with safety and should be taken seriously. It’s not worth injuring yourself or others. Driving on used tires for example, can be extremely hazardous.

    #’s 4 & 9 are just not right…I’ve had the same thought that no one would possibly buy those things used, but then you’re right, they slap them out on the sales floor so someone must.

    In some cases, the difference between what you save and the condition of the item you get is just not worth it. A lot of times, buying these items used means they will wear out faster and you will have to replace the item that much sooner.

  • http://peppervirtualassistants.com/ Ariane Lee

    Great tips!
    Surprisingly #12 made me realize that I have to clean the thing my fingers are working on right now.
    I also have to add that second hand digital cameras are likely to have been damaged which may have been dropped. It may not be that obvious. However, if it’s damaged, it would be so expensive to repair. It’s better to buy a new one which in the long run can make you save more.

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