We know: there are certain items that simply have to be bought new (underwear comes to mind). There are, however, quite a lot of cases where buying a used item actually makes more sense. Buying used can shave a hefty chunk off the price tag, and you won’t even need to sacrifice on quality.
If you’re an adult human, you’ve probably heard the adage that a car loses half its value as soon as you drive it off the lot. While that isn’t 100% accurate per se (it’s probably more like 10% or so), the point is valid: unless you own an antique or otherwise collectible car, it’s going to appreciate in exactly the same way as rocks float (it won’t).
The thing is, while the graph of a car’s value over time may look like a water slide you’d never let your children get on, the graph that represents its actual functionality looks more like a water slide your children wouldn’t want to get on (too boring).
If you’re purchasing a vehicle made by a manufacturer known for its reliability (Toyota or Honda, for example) and you take care of it by changing its oil on schedule and taking it in for routine maintenance, a car that’s a few years old is going to perform basically the same as a brand new one.
Be careful, however, when buying cars used if you don’t know who you’re buying from. Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace may seem like venues where serious discounts are available, but if you aren’t buying from a certified dealer, you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into.
You should always take a car you’re considering buying to a mechanic you trust for a diagnostic test. If the seller doesn’t want to let you do that, there’s probably a reason. The last thing you want to do is spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle only to discover it needs a new transmission.
So how do you make sure the used car you bought is going to last as long as the new one you didn’t? Here are a couple of quick tips:
Whoever coined the phrase “they don’t make things like they used to” was probably thinking of clothing when they did. If you’re shopping at stores like H&M and Uniqlo, you’re buying clothing with all the structural integrity of tissue paper. Seriously: this stuff is designed to fall apart before it goes out of style.
If you want clothing that will last, you could shell out for high-quality new clothing made by brands who actually don’t want you to have to buy another sweater in six months (you will actually save money in the long run if you shop this way and care for your clothing).
However, if spending $250 on a sweater makes you, well, sweat, there are other options. While shopping vintage can certainly be expensive if you want it to be (just go to any hip, used clothing store in Nashville and you’ll see what I mean), there are ways to get quality, used clothing for a fraction of the price.
“But how?” you may ask. Here are a couple great sources of quality, used clothing that won’t break the bank:
I’m sure everyone reading this knows someone who has made big promises about fitness going into the new year. Maybe you’ve even been that person yourself. The thing is, for every person who follows through on their grandiose promises to use their new home gym, there is a small army of folks who have given up by March.
And so, savvy aspiring exercisers can save big by buying the discarded (and practically new) equipment abandoned by people whose dreams were a bit farther away than their willpower could take them.
What’s more, a lot of exercise equipment is relatively simple, which means it is durable and easy to fix if it does break. Dumbbells, exercise bikes, even rowing machines don’t need to be anywhere near brand new to function well enough for you to get the workout you want from them.
Quality furniture can last a lifetime (or several, if it’s taken care of), especially if it’s not upholstered. If you’re in the market for any sort of table or dresser or chair, chances are that you can get a quality piece for much less money if you buy it used.
Lots of new furniture sold on discount websites these days isn’t even made of real wood anymore, but Medium Density Fiberboard (which is barely stronger than cardboard). There’s nothing worse than overspending on a piece of garbage that breaks weeks after purchasing it.
Most thrift stores will sell used furniture at incredibly low prices, and much of it will be made of good old solid wood. Lots of these pieces, of course, will be stained or damaged aesthetically in some way. Refinishing a table or desk is relatively simple, though, and can even be a fun weekend project if you’re looking for something productive to do.
You can buy upholstered furniture used as well, and it will often be of higher quality than you could expect to get from Wayfair or similar sites. You do want to be especially careful when buying upholstered furniture used, though: not only is fabric a lot easier to damage and harder to repair than wood is, but you also run the risk of welcoming bed bugs into your home.
That’s not a risk I’m personally willing to take to save some money, though I don’t know how to reupholster furniture. If you do (or you’re in the market for a new hobby), you can take advantage of opportunities not many others would be willing or able to.
Whether you’re assembling an artfully mismatched assortment of cute dishes or seeking a tasteful, matching set, you can get excellent dishes for nearly nothing at your local thrift store. If you’re lucky, you might even get some seriously nice brand-name stuff (I found a near-pristine set of Pfaltzgraff dinner and salad plates for $1 each that would have cost well over $100 if I’d bought them new).
Because dishes are simple things, there’s nothing really that can go wrong with them other than breaking. So, assuming they’re not already cracked or chipped, the dishes you buy at Goodwill will last just as long and be just as functional as the ones you could spend hundreds of dollars on at Williams Sonoma.
Cookware is the same, especially if you’re buying stainless steel or cast iron. Because there’s no non-stick coating to chip off or wear away, a stainless steel pan from 1900 is going to do an equally good job of cooking your eggs as one from 2023.
You can also get nonstick cookware incredibly cheap second-hand, but you do want to be careful to check that the coating is not chipped, as those can be toxic and you don’t want that getting in your (or your guests’) food.
Here’s a couple quick tips to ensure that the second-hand dishes you buy are just as nice as any new ones you might spend 100 times as much on: