It's hard to resist purchasing a shiny, brand-new item. And in many cases, it makes sense to buy new items instead of used. For example, you'll probably be better off buying new car seats, cribs, mattresses and tires if you want to ensure these products are safe, clean and reliable.
But sometimes, buying new just isn't worth it — especially if you want to get the best value for your dollar.
Thanks to the popularity of sites that sell used items — such as Craigslist, eBay, Amazon and even Facebook — it's easier than ever to find a great deal on almost anything you're in the market for. But since it's not a good idea to buy everything secondhand, you need to know the best deals to buy used.
GOBankingRates.com asked the experts when it makes sense to buy used instead of new — here's what they had to say.
There is no shortage of secondhand electronics for sale on Craigslist, eBay and even Amazon.
"Some electronics are great when bought factory-refurbished," said Benjamin Glaser, an editor with DealNews.com.
However, he said it's important to know the difference between used and factory-refurbished. "'Used' and 'factory-refurbished' both mean pre-owned, but they denote very different things," Glaser warned. "'Used' could mean almost anything."
To stay on the safe side, Glaser recommended going through the manufacturer to purchase items that have been factory-refurbished.
"A refurbished item from anywhere other than the manufacturer could be no better than used," he said. "Factory-refurbished items are likely restored to like-new quality by the manufacturer itself and backed by a manufacturer warranty … For example, Apple is famous for its refurbishment program, giving significant discounts on like-new devices still backed by a year-long Apple warranty."
Some retailers that sell refurbished and/or factory-serviced electronics include Newegg.com, Best Buy, DellRefurbished.com and the HP Business Outlet.
A key part of making a business thrive is keeping overhead costs low — including your office supply budget. That's why freelance writer Carrie Aulenbacher buys used staplers, hole punchers, calculators and more at local sales, flea markets and estate sales.
"There is no justification for spending $15 for a new stapler when one at a flea market is the exact same product that does the exact same thing for only $1," she said. "We have even furnished our small business with furniture, supplies and even some consumables, such as cases of paper that were procured in a 'used' state at thrift stores or at discount sales from private individuals."
You might also find used office supplies online. For example, Amazon.com has a variety of used office supplies ranging from calculators and highlighters to printers and paper shredders. Just make sure you view the item's condition first, and try to buy supplies that are in "very good" or "like new" condition, if possible.
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"Whether you're looking for a new table and chairs for your patio, a bookshelf or a desk for your new college student, you canpurchase furniture without a big price tag," said Cherie Lowe, a savings expert whose alter ego is the Queen of Free.
Kendal Perez, a savings expert with Coupon Sherpa, agreed. "You can find name-brand furnishings quite cheaply," she said. "I found a pair of Crate & Barrel Royce leather recliners for $900 each posted to my local Craigslist. They [regularly] sell for $1,899 each from the retailer."
There are a few things to watch out for when buying used furniture, however.
"If you are buying anything upholstered, be sure that you know whether or not the piece comes from a smoking home," said Lowe. "And, always check for bedbugs before forking over the cash."
Buying pre-owned or used gift cards is a little-known secret to saving a ton of money.
"Consumers can use a gift card exchange site or app, like Cardpool, to select from hundreds of certified, pre-owned gift cards that are discounted up to 35 percent," said Shelley Hunter — also known as Gift Card Girlfriend.
Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert, also buys used gift cards to save money. "Buying gift cards used may seem like an unusual idea, but it's actually becoming more mainstream as a unique way to save money," she said.
Cardpool.com, in particular, offers a wide variety of gift cards that you can use on almost anything, including back-to-school items, electronics, clothing, groceries, movie tickets, toys and more. Plus, you don't even have to pay for shipping when you buy gift cards from Cardpool — the site states you'll get free USPS shipping on all orders.
Another useful site to find discounted gift cards is GiftCardGranny.com.
"GiftCardGranny.com is a nationally recognized and locally managed marketplace for buying and selling gift cards, where you can save 10 percent to 30 percent [or more] on your favorite brands," Woroch said. "This is a great way to save on everyday expenses as well as gifts for weddings and such."
Buying used is especially smart when you only need to use something once, like when studying for an important test. Brent Shelton with FatWallet.com said buying materials for graduate school exams — like the GMAT, GRE, LSAT and MCAT — can be very costly if purchased new.
"There are also many industry-specific examinations that require expensive test preparation materials, but are only used once, like the Series 7, Series 63, CFA," he added. "If you are able to get them used, you may be able to score a large discount — especially because the owner probably wants to simply get rid of the books since they often only need to take the test once."
But even if you don't have a big test to study for, you can still benefit from buying used school supplies instead of new ones. For example, if your class requires students to read a textbook, but the price tag is hefty, buy a used textbook instead of a new one. Buying through Amazon, for example, can save you up to 80 percent on used textbooks. However, you might also find used textbooks on BarnesandNoble.com, Chegg.com and other online retailers.
New musical equipment and instruments can be expensive if you're buying new — especially when buying for kids joining new music programs.
"Many kids tire of these activities after a year or more, leaving parents with pricey instruments collecting dust," Perez said. So instead of buying new, she recommended parents search a site like MusicGoRound.com to buy gently used musical instruments for less.
"You can also sell an instrument your child no longer uses for extra spending money," she added.
Used musical equipment is also a smart buy for hobbyists and collectors because you can get a greater value for a lower cost. Shelton, for example, always buys used when adding to his guitar collection.
"Most often, older, original issue guitars that are kept in good shape are a great investment because 1) they hold or increase their value over time, and 2) they're already broken in," he said. "Newer, 'reissue' guitars — although sometimes come with improved parts and electronics — lose their value."
Tools and Lawnmowers
Shelton also said consumers should buy used tools instead of new.
"Private auctions and estate sales can be a hidden gem for finding gently used hand tools, as well as stocking up on other general hardware — nails, screws, washers, hinges, nuts, bolts, etc.," he said.
The same goes for the tools and equipment you need to take care of your lawn.
"People think they need to buy a new $500 push mower or $2,000 riding mower, but you can save 50 percent to 90 percent on the cost of one of these expensive pieces of equipment by buying used," said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, a resource that connects you with lawn professionals. "Just make sure your mower is less than 5 years old, and make sure you test it out first."
To find used lawnmowers, check out SearsOutlet.com. The site features reconditioned or refurbished mowers and tractors, as well as products in "like new" condition.
Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands
When it's time to pop the question, you can possibly save thousands of dollars by buying a used engagement ring instead of a new one. And if the thought of a secondhand engagement ring feels unusual, you should probably just get over it.
"In reality, diamonds and engagement rings likely are used anyway," explained Glaser. "When you buy new, you're paying a premium to jewelers just to avoid thinking about the stone's previous owners."
Glaser also has some recommendations to make sure you're getting a legitimate, preowned precious stone for a good price.
"[IDoNowIDont.com] cuts out the middleman and allows buyers to get diamonds at discount prices directly from the current owners," he said. "The site even has escrow services to ensure that the buyer is getting what they paid for before the transaction is complete."
Other sites and jewelers that sell preowned engagement rings and/or wedding bands include Kay Jewelers, Zales and eBay.
If you want to buy new appliances, be prepared to pay top dollar and spend quite a few days waiting for their delivery. Instead, buy used appliances to not only slash the cost by hundreds — but to also get the thrill of coming home with your shiny, new things.
The last time Perez moved, she found herself in a "very new, very empty home with no refrigerator, washer or dryer." Since shopping for new appliances and waiting for their delivery would take several days — at best — she decided to search Craigslist instead.
During her search, Perez found several businesses that sell used appliances and even offered warranties on them.
"One phone call had a high-efficiency front load washer and dryer, and a stainless steel refrigerator delivered that same day for $500 cash — and they hooked it up, too," she said. "The warranty is for 90 days, but that is more than enough time to discover any deal-breaker characteristics."
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