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12 Things You Should Never Buy Used

In tough economic times, everyone’s looking for bargains. But while it’s a great idea to buy used bookshelves, books, and hand tools, there are some things that just shouldn’t be bought at thrift stores.

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When to spring for something new

Buying products used can be a huge money-saver, not to mention it does feel good to be giving an item a “second life.” But it’s not the best option for everything. Here are 12 things that, for quality, cleanliness, and other reasons, you should probably avoid buying secondhand—and some great options for new versions you can buy right now. And once you know what not to buy secondhand, read up on these 14 items you actually should be buying used.

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It’s hard to determine how well TVs and other electronic devices have been cared for by their previous owners. If your plasma screen dies, it can cost thousands of dollars to fix or replace—sometimes almost as much as it would cost to buy a new TV.

Where to buy new TVs: Well, first of all, do you know the best time to buy a TV? Nope, it’s not Black Friday—January and February are actually the best time to get deals on TVs. Retailers roll out major deals on TVs, trying to entice people to buy before Super Bowl Sunday. You can also find great deals on state-of-the-art TVs on Amazon. VIZIO’s V-series value TVs usually start at $299.99, but you can get their 50″ smart LED TV on Amazon for only $279.88.

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Used shoes have been molded to their previous owner’s feet. Poorly fitting shoes can cause pain and health problems over time. Running shoes, in particular, have probably lost most of their absorbent cushioning by the time their first owner is finished with them.

Where to buy new shoes: There are plenty of great places to buy new shoes. Shoe stores like DSW, as well as general department stores like Target and Macy’s, have great rewards programs. In general, we think you’re better off buying shoes in store than online so that you can make sure they fit; who wants to buy a great pair of shoes only to have to mail it back? But we still included these Chooka Bainbridge Chelsea booties, an ultra-versatile black shoe available on Amazon, because they’re so cute! (You can also get a gray pair.) Here are some more things we think you’re better off not buying online.

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Vacuum cleaners

Vacuums can be pricey, sure, but do you really want to buy a used one that might not be in working order? Vacuum cleaners get banged around, dragged up and down staircases, and the fact that someone chose to get rid of the vacuum should be a red flag—most likely, there was something wrong with it. Plus, vacuums have seen their share of dust and grime from someone else’s home. Chances are you don’t want to bring that into yours.

Where to buy new vacuum cleaners: We recommend buying vacuum cleaners in April. New models often come out in June, so retailers lower prices on previous models. For an always-dependable option, Dirt Devil’s Reach Max Plus is an ultra-effective stick vacuum that’ll help you get those hard-to-reach areas. Plus, it’s quiet, relatively light at 6.3 pounds, and less than $100! Here’s our full list of dependable vacuum cleaners where you’ll totally get your money’s worth.

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Pet supplies

While buying gently used pet toys or food bowls is probably safe, you’ll definitely want to stay away from buying pet food or treats secondhand. They could be expired, recalled, or even infested with insects or their eggs. Used food is most likely gross, no matter what type of creature it’s for. You should also be wary about pet beds. Yes, you can give them a good wash before you let your four-legged friend use it. Do you really want your pet sleeping on something that’s been home to another animal’s fur, dirt, and slobber for who knows how long?

Where to buy new pet supplies: We’re fans of Petco! It’s got scores of great products your dog wishes you would buy, approved by vets and dog trainers to boot. For a dog bed that your pooch will love, we—and certified dog trainers—recommend this K&H pet cot. It might look uncomfortable, but it’ll actually help keep your dog nice and cool, especially during the warm summer months. (Plus, it probably costs less than you think!)

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Jewelry on a black background. Golden scarf and chain on a black background. Bijouterie in golden tones on a black background looks luxurious. Silver bracelet . Style, fashion and design of jewelry.


You may think you’re getting an awesome deal by purchasing jewelry at a tag sale or thrift shop. But, unless you’re well-versed in identifying jewelry value, you could actually be getting ripped off. Chances are, someone is trying to sell jewelry for far more money than they bought it for. As if that weren’t enough of a reason, some types of costume jewelry can even contain trace amounts of toxic substances or allergens like nickel and lead.

Where to buy new jewelry: Of course, preferences in jewelry vary enormously—and so do prices! We love buying cool, quirky, often handmade jewelry from open-air markets or boutiques. If you’re shopping for more high-end jewelry, we recommend doing so in June—since there are no big-time shopping holidays in July or August, jewelers often lower their prices. Simple, understated necklaces are everywhere, and we like these yellow gold, rose gold, and silver circles—you’ll get all three for $20.

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Perfume and beauty products

It may surprise you, but perfume actually has an expiration date. To avoid encountering nasty (and possibly even dangerous) past-peak perfume, it’s best to buy your scents new. The same goes for products like lotion and makeup. Anything like that, that goes directly on your face, is best bought without having been on someone else’s first. These are the things you should absolutely never buy at garage sales.

Where to buy new perfume and beauty supplies: These are also things that vary significantly by taste, but for some all-purpose eye makeup. we’re big fans of this L.O.V The Choice Is All Yours eyeshadow palette. It’s got 35 different colors and costs less than $30. And it’s not tested on animals, so you can feel especially good about your purchase. We also like this HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle moisturizer, a best-selling item on Amazon for fighting winter skin—right now it’s $20 off.

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School, education, teacher's day and literacy concept with student and teacher stationery and supples on wood table over grey wall background

School supplies

Most school supplies—pencils, rulers, folders, and the like—aren’t particularly expensive as it is, and you’re probably not getting much of a deal if you buy them at a thrift store. In some cases, buying them new might actually be cheaper—many thrift stores sell items for a minimum of $3, and you can get school supplies for less than that on sale or at the dollar store. (Textbooks, however, are a totally different story—go ahead and save yourself lots of cash by buying those used.) Here are some more things you should be buying from the dollar store.

Where to buy new school supplies: There you have it—the dollar store! You can also consider Walmart, which has great deals on school supplies (and probably a bigger selection than most dollar stores). “It’s not uncommon to see excellent deals on multi-packs of pens and pencils at Walmart during back to school season, but the best deal that sticks out to me is one subject notebooks for 25 cents and folders for even less,” says Julie Ramhold, a Consumer Analyst with DealNews.com.

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If you buy a speaker secondhand, chances are it won’t be at its full sound capacity, especially if the previous owner loved to blast music at full volume. Wear and tear on audio equipment like speakers can be hard to detect at first glance, but you’ll probably notice it once you start trying to play your tunes.

Where to buy new speakers: Speaker technology is always changing and improving—another reason you might prefer to buy them new. But Amazon is always a great place to buy cutting-edge tech (there’s a reason shoppers can’t get enough of their Echo devices). Case in point: these surround-sound speakers that can connect to Bluetooth or a cable. It’s pricey, but its scores of five-star reviews reveal that it’s a top-of-the-line device. Check out these other brilliant Amazon items with practically perfect reviews.

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Top close view of a household surge protector on a wood table top.
BW Folsom/Shutterstock

Surge protectors

Surge protectors aren’t that expensive to begin with, and if you buy one used, you run the risk of buying one that malfunctions or just doesn’t work at all. Check out our breakdown of which electronics you should—and shouldn’t—buy used.

Where to buy new surge protectors: These are more of a necessity, not really something you shop for. But you can definitely get a good one at Best Buy—you’ll save $5 on this basic protector. And, of course, they have their price-match guarantee.

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Baby in sitting stroller on nature

Baby strollers

When it comes to kids, safety standards are constantly changing. You’ll want to get a new stroller to ensure that it’s as safe for your little one as possible. Plus, damage and breakage on strollers may not be obvious, so you might be buying a broken one without even realizing it. The same goes for other baby and child essentials, like cribs and car seats.

Where to buy new strollers: Bed Bath & Beyond has some affordable, colorful options, for lots of different needs, on their website. (And let’s be honest, it’s probably far easier to buy a stroller online and have it shipped to you than to buy one in a store and lug it home!)

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Rubber boots with umbrella in the background of the puddles and yellow leaves
Mikhail Sedov/Shutterstock

Raincoats and boots

As it is, most rain gear becomes less waterproof over time. It’s probably worth the extra cash to get a raincoat or boots whose waterproof-ness hasn’t already been diminished. Besides, there has to be a reason someone is selling the item. You’re better off getting your money’s worth with a new pair of rain boots or a new coat. Here are some thrift store shopping tips that all bargain hunters need to know.

Where to buy new raincoats and boots: We really like LONECONE rain boots, available on Amazon. Their options for kids and toddlers are particularly adorable—and handy, with handles to pull them on easily—but we’re fans of their cute, quirky patterns for women’s boots too. (Plus, they’re super affordable!) You can find great-quality raincoats on Amazon as well, like this inexpensive two-tone one with lots of different color options.

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Morocco Marrakesh Colorful Berber carpets for sale hanging in the Jemaa El Fna Square
John Copland/Shutterstock


Unless you want lots of mold, allergens, and suspicious stains hitching a ride into your home, buy a new carpet. No matter how many carpet cleaners you hire, we assure you, you’re better off buying a new one.

Where to buy new rugs: A rug is a pretty major purchase, so we recommend sticking to a true-blue furniture store like Pier 1. They’ve got a whole category just for rugs! So there are lots and lots to choose from, but here’s an aesthetically pleasing turquoise one that comes in nine different sizes for whatever room you’re adorning. Next, continue your savvy shopping with these things you should be buying from thrift stores—and what to skip.

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.