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7 Things You Should and Shouldn’t Buy from a Pawn Shop


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Unless you’re independently wealthy, you probably look for ways to save money as often as you can. Shopping online for discounts is one great way, saving money on groceries, utility bills and car insurance are others.

But here’s one you may never have considered: shopping at a pawn shop. It’s actually a viable way to save money – and not just on guns. Here’s why.

Dispelling the Myth About Pawn Shops

I’m sure that as soon as you read the phrase “pawn shop,” something like the following image came to mind: an old fat guy in a wife-beater t-shirt sitting behind a counter watching TV with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. There may even be a gun and a dog at his side, random stuff piled up everywhere in the aisles, and a stench of stale beer and body odor.

Well, believe it or not, there are some pawn shops out there that don’t fit in with this stereotype. In fact, some are actually very clean and professional. So don’t let preconceived notions stop you from saving money.

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3 Things You Should Buy from a Pawn Shop

  1. Tools. Buying tools brand new can get quite expensive, and the prices at pawn shops are typically unbeatable. If you’re looking for a tool that you’re going to need for just one or two home improvement jobs, definitely consider a pawn shop. It’s simply not worth it to pay full price for seldom-used tools.
  2. Jewelry. Pawn shop jewelry prices are normally about half of what you would pay retail (yes, I said half!) and the quality is just as good. Some people may have an issue with buying “used” jewelry, but isn’t almost all jewelry “used” in some way, shape, or form? Diamonds are removed from one diamond ring and placed on another; gold is melted and re-formed into new jewelry all the time.
  3. DVDs. I get used DVDs for $2 a piece at my local pawn shop. You can inspect the disc for any scratches before buying, and I’ve never had a problem with any movies purchased there. Usually, if it doesn’t play, they’ll just let you switch it out for another one. You can also find a lot of older movies and in pawn shops that I doubt you’ll be able to find at any retail site. And again, at $2 apiece for various DVD movie formats, you just can’t beat it.
Buy Pawnshop Jewelry

4 Things You Shouldn’t Buy from a Pawn Shop

  1. Vacuum Cleaners. You just don’t know what other people have tried to suck up with their vacuums before. You can also introduce new germs and allergens to your house by using a vacuum that has been used elsewhere.
  2. Computers. I’d be really leery of purchasing either a desktop or laptop computer from a pawn shop. There are just too many things that could potentially be wrong with them, and you wouldn’t find out about the issues until it’s too late.
  3. Televisions. Of course, there is an implied risk with purchasing anything from a pawn shop since its all used merchandise, but this risk goes up even further with televisions, especially flat-screen LED TVs.
  4. Small Electronics. This includes digital cameras, GPS navigation systems, and the like – for the same reason as above. Too many things could already be wrong with them.

Other Things to Be Aware Of

Some pawn shops are shadier than others, but the one thing you need to keep in mind before you even walk into one is: buyer beware! Understand that all merchandise there is used, and could break down on you. That’s the main reason why it’s less expensive than buying brand new.

Keep in mind that most pawn shops have a “no cash back” policy. If you do have to return something, you’ll probably only get back the money you spent in the form of a credit that can be used at that store only. Most pawn shops also have very limited return policies. Be sure to inquire specifically about all aspects of any return policy they may have.

Final Word

Yes, you can buy from a pawn shop and you can save money by doing so. I have purchased many things from pawn shops over the years, and most have worked just fine. Have some things broken after I bought them? Absolutely. But the overall money that I have saved over the years has far outweighed the replacement cost of the few things that did break down.

What are your thoughts on purchasing items from a pawn shop? Is it something you do on a regular basis, or do you stay far away from them?


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David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.