What are the best things to buy secondhand?
These days, shopping secondhand is easier than ever. With the availability of thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, pawnshops, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, and online resale sites like eBay, you can save money on almost everything you buy.
But not all secondhand deals are equally good. Some used items are not just cheaper, but much cheaper — and a good deal for the environment too. By focusing on these goods when you shop secondhand, you’ll get the most for your money.
Best Things You Should Always Buy Used (Secondhand)
The best things to buy used are goods that are just as useful pre-owned as they are brand new — but much cheaper. These products don’t wear out quickly, so they still work even after use.
People often prefer new items over used for reasons that have nothing to do with how well they work. Many shoppers always want to have the latest look or technology and are quick to discard anything they see as out of date. That creates an opportunity for the rest of us to pick up merchandise that’s still good at bargain prices.
But to get the best bang for your buck, focus on buying the things that offer the best value for the lowest prices.
1. Clothes & Accessories
According to the U.N. Environment Programme, consumers today go through clothing faster than ever before. That means lots of perfectly usable clothing ends up in thrift stores and on yard sale tables for price-conscious buyers to snap up.
You just have to know where to look for what you want.
You can find steep savings on secondhand designer clothes. People who think it’s worth paying more for designer labels tend to be fashion-forward individuals who always want the latest styles. That means they discard these high-end garments before they’re worn out.
There’s a major market for luxury resale. Websites like Poshmark, ThredUp, The RealReal, and Tradesy sell used designer clothing at bargain prices. For instance, you might see Poshmark listings featuring brands like Lululemon, Ugg, and Louis Vuitton at prices 60% to 85% below their original retail price.
If you prefer to try on clothes before buying, hit up local consignment stores. Owners of high-end used apparel sell it to these stores in exchange for a cut of the resale price. Search online to find consignment stores near you.
One caveat about buying designer clothing secondhand: Always check the labels carefully. Otherwise, an unscrupulous seller could stick you with a cheap fast-fashion garment with a designer label sewn in. Some sites, such as Tradesy, check the garments for you and promise a refund if they’re not authentic.
Baby Clothes & Children’s Clothes
Kids clothes is another excellent category for shopping secondhand. Children grow fast, changing sizes once per year or more, so their outgrown clothes usually have plenty of life left in them. That’s especially true for baby clothes since they grow the fastest of all.
There are lots of places to find bargains on secondhand baby clothes and children’s clothes. Some stores, such as Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child, specialize in outgrown clothing. Major thrift shops like Goodwill and The Salvation Army also have children’s sections with clothes for just a few dollars.
Finally, don’t overlook garage sales. You can generally find kids clothing for $3 or less.
Teens and adults keep their clothes longer than kids, but formalwear is an exception. For example, you usually only wear your prom outfit once. So why pay $200 or more for a brand-new prom dress when a once-worn dress could cost half as much or less?
Thrift shops sometimes have a small selection of formalwear. But you can find more choices at consignment shops and online sites like Poshmark, Tradesy, and ThredUp.
Also, check Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp for people in your area looking to offload their gently worn formal garb. That gives you a chance to try the outfit on in person before buying.
Wedding dresses are a specific category of formalwear many people spend big bucks on. It’s common for brides to pay $1,000 or more for a wedding dress they’ll only wear once. Some designer bridal gowns cost tens of thousands.
But wedding dresses don’t have to cost that much. You can find some for $400 or less at chains like David’s Bridal. But the selection at that price is limited, and styles are often very basic. And many brides prefer to pull out all the stops for their wedding day.
If you’re longing for a designer wedding dress without access to a designer budget, buying someone else’s next-to-new dress is a way to achieve your vision for much less. And even if you prefer a simpler style, you can still save with a used version.
You can even resell it after the wedding to recoup part of the cost.
When you buy a wedding dress secondhand, it probably won’t be a perfect fit. But neither will most off-the-rack dresses. By taking your secondhand find to a tailor, you can get just as good a fit and still pay less in total than you would for a new dress.
You can buy used bridal dresses in the same places as other formalwear, plus a few others. Nearly Newlywed sells both used and new dresses for as little as 10% of their retail price. Other sites that specialize in wedding garb include Stillwhite and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.
According to the ad slogan, a diamond is forever — and a diamond that someone else has owned has just as much luster as a brand-new one.
Yet in terms of cost, jewelry loses its value amazingly fast. In 2015, The Guardian reported that two women trying to sell engagement rings originally priced at 1,000 pounds or more couldn’t even get 100 pounds for them from a jeweler.
Depreciation is bad for people trying to sell old jewelry, but it’s fantastic for buyers. They can purchase previously owned jewelry that looks as beautiful as ever at a substantial discount.
You can buy secondhand pieces from jewelers and pawnshops for 20% to 50% less than similar new pieces. Other suitable places to look for bargains include estate sales and auctions, including online auction sites like eBay.
However, you need to take precautions to ensure used jewelry is genuine. Before spending a lot of money on a piece, ask to see an official appraisal document.
If you’re buying from a seller on eBay or Craigslist, check out their other listings to ensure they aren’t selling multiple copies of the same “unique” accessory.
Buying gadgets secondhand may seem like a dumb idea. Even if you’re a late adopter who doesn’t mind using last year’s model, how can you be sure that budget laptop is really in good condition?
The trick is to look for certified refurbished products. These are used tech gadgets the retailer or manufacturer has thoroughly checked to ensure they work like new. They may not look the same as brand-new gadgets, but they’re in perfect working order and even come with a warranty. And they can cost anywhere from 15% to 90% off the retail price.
You can find deals on all types of electronics by buying refurbished. Apple products are especially good deals because they cost so much to buy new. But all kinds of phones, laptops, cameras, game consoles, and even small appliances like high-end blenders can be good values.
There are some precautions you can take to protect yourself when buying used electronics. Check the seller’s ratings, and ensure your product comes with a full warranty. And for digital cameras, check that the seller is manufacturer-authorized. Also, find out which accessories come with your purchase.
3. CDs & DVDs
CDs and DVDs are sturdy storage devices built to last. Yes, they can scratch, but a disc in good condition can keep playing perfectly for years.
But their owners often get tired of them long before that and sell them for a fraction of their original price. As long as you check the discs for scratches before buying, you can pick up some real bargains.
The price of used CDs and DVDs varies, depending on how in-demand they are. Rare vintage discs may cost more than brand-new ones. But commonplace recordings can sell for as little as a dollar or two.
If you have a local record store, there’s a good chance it carries used CDs as well as new ones. And many local thrift stores and pawnshops and have a CD rack you can browse.
Yard sales have some of the best bargains — as little as $0.25.
Used books are one of the best bargains there is. New books, especially college textbooks, cost a bundle. But books don’t wear out quickly with normal use, so there’s nothing to lose by getting yours secondhand. It’s one of the best ways to cut the cost of a book habit.
It’s easy to find used book stores in your area with a simple Internet search. Prices at these stores vary by book and location, but you can find some titles for around half the cover price.
There are also lots of online sellers that offer used books as well as new ones. Try Amazon, eBay, Alibris, Better World Books, and Thriftbooks.
If you’re not looking for a specific book, yard sales are a great place to shop. They typically offer used books for $0.50 to $2.
5. Fitness Gear
From exercise equipment to sporting goods to bicycles, fitness gear is always finding its way into the secondhand market.
Sometimes, people sell their old gear because they want to upgrade to something newer and better. In other cases, they’ve given up a sport or a fitness activity.
Whatever the reason, their loss can be your gain. You can pick up their old fitness gear for much less than they paid new and give a new activity a try yourself.
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to get more exercise. People buy home exercise equipment like treadmills, free weights, or exercise bikes to help them reach that goal. Then life gets in the way, and their new gear sits taking up space until they finally sell it.
You can find used gym equipment on eBay, but shipping charges for heavy gear can wipe out a significant chunk of your savings.
Buying from local sellers on Craigslist or at garage sales is a better value. A search of my local Craigslist group turns up over 100 treadmills priced as low as $50. New treadmills on Amazon start at around $300.
Local gyms can also be good places to shop. Gyms often sell their old equipment when they renovate or go out of business. Either way, you can pick up some good bargains.
Shopping locally also allows you to test your new equipment before buying. Treadmills and ellipticals have lots of moving parts, so it’s best to ensure they work. However, this isn’t a concern with free weights, which basically can’t wear out.
If you’re trying a new sport for the first time, it makes no sense to invest in a lot of brand-new equipment. If you go skiing once and decide you’re never doing it again, those expensive new skis will just sit gathering dust. It’s much cheaper to buy your equipment from someone else.
Buying used is also a smart strategy for kids who play sports. Even if your kids stick with the same sport for years, they can quickly outgrow gear like tennis rackets or ice skates. Buying secondhand lets you save money each time they need a larger size. You can also sell their old stuff to get back some of the money you spent last time.
Some brick-and-mortar stores, such as Play It Again Sports and 2nd Time Sports Equipment, specialize in used sports equipment. You can also buy it directly from people in your area through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and garage sales.
How much you can save depends on the product. But typically, used goods should sell for no more than 10% of their original retail value.
Online sources include eBay and SidelineSwap, a site dedicated to trading athletic gear. You can find baseball gloves, individual golf clubs, and lacrosse sticks on the latter site for under $10 each.
Buying used is one of the best ways to save money when buying a bicycle. A high-quality new bike generally costs at least $400, but you can find used bikes for both kids and adults for as little as $20 on Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace.
And that’s far from the only place to shop for secondhand bikes. Many local bike stores carry used bikes as well as new ones. You can also acquire them at police auctions or through local cycling clubs. Shopping on eBay is also an option, but it’s not ideal since you can’t test the bike first.
You can also shop secondhand for many bicycle parts and accessories, such as lights or carrying racks.
But steer clear of used bike helmets. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, any helmet that’s been through a crash is no longer safe to use, and the damage isn’t always visible. And with new helmets as cheap as $10, there’s no reason to risk it.
High-quality furniture lasts for decades. However, many people don’t hold on to it nearly that long. They may need to discard old furniture when they move or redecorate or when their kids outgrow it. As a result, you can often find used furniture in good condition for a fraction of what you’d pay in a store.
Buying furniture used has other advantages too. A lot of cheap furniture sold today is made of fiberboard, but older pieces are more likely to be made of solid wood, which can be more durable and is better-looking. And it’s easy to give your secondhand furniture an updated look by repainting, refinishing, or reupholstering them.
While it’s OK to buy used beds, don’t opt to keep the old mattress. Mattresses wear out faster than the bed frames they sit on, and they can harbor fleas or bedbugs. Only buy used mattresses from a reputable reseller or an individual you know and trust.
Aside from that, you can buy used furniture in all kinds of places. Many thrift stores, reuse centers, and flea markets carry furniture. You can also find it at many yard sales and moving sales.
You can also find used furniture by checking Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and the listings in your local paper. Prices vary widely based on the type of furniture, the quality, and your location. Recent listings on my local Craigslist site range from $5 for an ottoman to $2,100 for an eight-piece dining set.
Buying furniture online probably isn’t a good move because of shipping costs. Also, you can’t examine the pieces and test them for comfort and durability before handing over your money.
7. Kids Gear
Clothes aren’t the only things children outgrow long before they’re worn out. As kids grow from babies to toddlers and on through their school years, they leave behind a trail of toys and gear they no longer need.
You can take advantage of other parents’ discards to outfit your little one at a dramatically lower cost.
New parents spend a ton of money on baby expenses. Parents can spend thousands of dollars on one-time purchases like strollers, carriers, diapering supplies, play gear, and furnishings for the nursery.
They can reuse this gear for their next child, but once the family finishes growing, all they can do is resell it for a fraction of the cost.
Expectant parents can pick up these next-to-new baby supplies for only hundreds rather than thousands. And when their babies outgrow them, they can resell everything yet again.
Of course, you have to be careful when buying baby and toddler gear — either new or secondhand. You need to check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database for product recalls to ensure anything you buy is safe for your child.
And there are some baby products you should only purchase new. According to baby gear-maker Graco, car seats can experience unapparent internal damage in a crash. Cribs may be safe if they’re recent, unrecalled models, but old-fashioned ones may not measure up to current safety standards.
But that still leaves a vast array of baby gear you can buy secondhand. You can find many baby products on eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace.
You can also look into Weepea, a resale site for gently used baby gear and kids furniture. On-staff Weepea parents vet all merchandise for safety and quality before listing. According to the site, you can save 30% to 80% over buying new.
Secondhand baby gear, clothing, and toys are also available on Toycycle.
According to Statista, parents in North America spent an average of $300 per child on kids toys in 2019. For a family with three kids, that’s $900 per year. And while your child will cherish some of those toys for years, others will quickly fall out of favor.
You can cut that annual cost by buying secondhand. As with baby gear, you should check toys for safety before you give them to your kids. It’s also a good idea to clean them thoroughly.
Many local thrift shops carry kids toys, including games, books, and puzzles. You can also find them on eBay or at yard sales, where they can cost anywhere from $0.25 to $5. Toycycle also offers a wide selection of secondhand toys.
Doing DIY jobs around the house and garden requires a decent set of tools. But decent doesn’t necessarily mean new. A well-made, well-maintained tool should last for years, if not decades. In fact, you can often find tools at estate sales that someone used literally their whole life and are still working fine.
That goes double for hand tools with no electricity or moving parts. A good hammer is still a good hammer no matter how old it gets — it pretty much can’t wear out. The worst that can happen to it is a little rust, and that comes off with a little oil or a wire brush.
In fact, some tools are better when you buy them secondhand. Nowadays, a sturdy steel-handled garden shovel or hoe is likely to cost extra. But back in the day, handles like that were standard. If you can find old tools with that type of handle at a yard sale or flea market, they should work just like new.
Power tools are a little trickier. It’s hard to tell just by looking how much life a motor has left in it. However, if the tool is cheap enough that it costs less to buy than it would to rent, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go. Even if it dies after one use, you still break even because you didn’t pay to rent one.
The tool brand can also be a helpful guide. According to DIY Network, professional-quality brands like DeWalt, Bosch, Ridgid, Makita, and Milwaukee all hold their value well. Consider Skil for power saws and Delta for woodworking. And opt for Husqvarna, Poulan, or Stihl for outdoor tools. But even with these brands, a careful inspection is important to ensure nothing is damaged.
If you buy power tools at a garage sale or from a Craigslist seller, ask to test them. Pawnshops are also an excellent place to look for high-quality tools since the owners only accept high-value items they know they can resell.
For larger powered equipment, try the Home Depot. The store sells its rental tools while they’re still in good working condition, and you can be sure the staff carefully maintained them. You can search the site by location to find specific tools you need.
9. Musical Instruments
If you or your child decides to take up an instrument, prepare for some sticker shock when you visit the music store. You can expect to pay over $100 for a student-grade clarinet, over $200 for a cello, and $400 for a digital piano. That’s a lot to spend on a hobby you or your kid might tire of after a year.
Luckily, it’s often possible to find used musical instruments for less. That’s particularly true for pianos. People often list acoustic pianos for free on Craigslist and Freecycle just to avoid the hassle of moving them.
A cheap used instrument may not be a high-quality one, but you can always upgrade later if music becomes a serious hobby.
Garage sales are the cheapest places to find used musical instruments, but they aren’t available that often. Local music stores sometimes carry secondhand instruments, and they frequently show up at pawnshops.
If you’re a beginner, it’s helpful to bring a knowledgeable friend to confirm the instrument’s quality.
Buying instruments online is a bit iffy since you can’t test them to see how they sound. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can check the used instrument sections on Musician’s Friend and eBay.
Just watch out for shipping charges. For larger instruments, these can be high enough to wipe out your savings.
It seldom makes sense to choose a new car over a used one. On average, depreciation cuts the value of a new car in half over its first five years. Though there are outliers, you can usually get a 5-year-old vehicle with plenty of life left in it for half the price.
But secondhand cars aren’t always the best choice. When used car prices spike, as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, it can make more sense to buy a new car. That gives you a full warranty, more reliability, and better safety features. Plus, your trade-in will be worth more.
Even then, it’s still best to do the math. A slightly used or pre-owned car may still be a better deal.
And if you find a secondhand vehicle is the best choice, that doesn’t mean a used car lot is the best place to shop. You can often get a better price buying from a private seller, who doesn’t need to charge a markup for it.
To get the best deal on a used car, you need as much information as possible. Research vehicle models and prices carefully, and thoroughly vet a specific car before putting down your money. Research its history on a site like Carfax, take it for a test-drive, and get it inspected by a trusted mechanic.
In some cases, shopping secondhand isn’t just cheaper — it’s a way to get stuff for free. For various reasons, a lot of perfectly good merchandise turns up for no cost on sites like Freecycle and local Buy Nothing groups.
To maximize your savings, start your “shopping” at these free sites. If you don’t find what you need there, move on to other secondhand sources, such as eBay, Craigslist, and thrift shops. Don’t head to the store for a new item until you’ve explored all the used options first.
Shopping this way isn’t just a smart move for your wallet. It’s also a form of reuse that’s good for the environment.