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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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Woman in cafe holding credit card and mobile phoneLyndon Stratford/Getty Images

When To Spring for Something New

Buying products used can be a huge money-saver, not to mention it feels good to give 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 19 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. Here are 11 things you should never do to your flat screen 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.

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vacuum_things-you-shouldnt-buy-usedROLAND ANCLA LEGASPI/Shutterstock

Vacuum Cleaners

Sure, vacuums can be pricey. But do you really want to buy a used one that might not work for long?

Vacuum cleaners get banged around and dragged up and down staircases. 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 will help in those hard-to-reach areas. Plus it’s quiet, relatively light at 6.3 pounds, and costs 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 gently used pet toys or food bowls are probably safe, definitely 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?

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 will actually help keep your dog nice and cool, especially during the warm summer months. (Plus, it probably costs less than you think!) Check out these pet products with nearly perfect reviews on Amazon.

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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 backgroundrawiwano/Shutterstock

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,” says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with “But the best deal that sticks out to me is one subject notebooks for 25 cents and folders for even less.”

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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: This room-filling speaker that connects to Bluetooth or a cable. Though pricey, scores of five-star reviews suggest 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.

Surge Protectors

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

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. And, of course, they have their price-match guarantee.

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Baby in sitting stroller on nature

Baby Strollers

Safety standards for children’s items are constantly changing. Buy 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.

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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 cushioning by the time their first owner is finished with them.

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 them back? But we still included these Chooka Bainbridge Chelsea booties, an ultra-versatile black shoe available on Amazon. Here are some more things we think you’re better off not buying online.

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Rubber boots with umbrella in the background of the puddles and yellow leaves

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.

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Morocco Marrakesh Colorful Berber carpets for sale hanging in the Jemaa El Fna SquareJohn 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. Continue your savvy shopping with these things you should think twice about before donating.

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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.

Simple, understated necklaces are everywhere. 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 that goes directly on your face is best bought fresh.

We like this HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle moisturizer, a best-selling item on Amazon for fighting winter skin.

These are the things you should absolutely never buy at garage sales.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest