Shopping secondhand is a great way to save money and benefit the planet by giving discarded items a second life. However, there are some items that simply aren’t safe to buy used, such as bike helmets. And depending on the item, it may be better to spring for a new version from the store that will last longer and give you more years of use for your money. To help guide your purchasing decisions, here are 5 things you should avoid buying used.
As mentioned above, vacuum cleaners have a short lifespan of around eight years even when you buy them new from the store. By the time vacuums make it to the thrift store or Facebook Marketplace, they’re probably a few years old and don’t have much life left in them. I’ve seen many people try to resell their vacuums for $50 or more even though you can find new vacuums for $60 to $80.
So unless you can get a really good deal on a used vacuum (or you know for a fact it’s a newer model), it may be cheaper in the long run to spring for a new version. After all, it’s better to spend $80 on a vacuum that will last 8 years than $50 on one that will break down much sooner.
Everyone falls off their bike sometimes, so it’s essential to have a sturdy, durable helmet to protect your head. Helmets can get worn out over time or get damaged if they’re accidentally dropped. You may not notice or be able to see tiny surface cracks on the helmet that can make it less effective. New bike helmets only cost $20 or $30 anyway, so it’s usually best to buy one new from the store to be safe.
You spend eight hours on your mattress every night, so it’s important for your health to splurge on one that’s comfortable and sanitary. Used mattresses can harbor bed bugs, dead skin, pet dander, bodily fluids, or even mold and mildew that you may not always be able to see. Mattresses are hard to clean, so you might not be able to get rid of stains or odors. Plus, buying a used mattress could spread a bed bug infestation to the rest of your home, which requires costly fumigation.
Because of these risks, it’s usually better to spring for a new mattress that’s 100% clean. There are many affordable mattress in a box options that will last you seven to ten years and give you a comfortable night’s rest on a budget.
The dishware section at the thrift store always has beautiful vintage plates and serving platters. But you have to be careful when purchasing old dishes because they may contain lead. This is a concern because the lead can leach into your food, especially if the finish on the plate is starting to deteriorate from years of wear and tear.
Lead can cause symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, and even seizures, so I’ve decided that pretty vintage dishes aren’t worth the risk. I buy all my dishware from the store instead to ensure it complies with current FDA safety standards.
I live in a rural part of Michigan that has snow on the ground pretty much all winter, so I need durable tires that provide good traction. According to Consumer Reports, it’s hard to tell if used tires are in roadworthy condition. If a tire was driven on at high speeds or overloaded with too much weight, it could be damaged in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye, making it unsafe.
Plus, tires degrade over time and expire after five to ten years. If you don’t know the age of a set of used tires or how well they were maintained, it’s not worth the risk. I always buy new tires because road safety is paramount. Any money you saved by buying used tires isn’t worth it if you end up in an accident.
The moral of the story is that you should always do your research before shopping secondhand to ensure you’re getting a good deal and a safe product. Sometimes it’s not worth it to purchase an item from the thrift store if it has a short lifespan and you’ll need to replace it soon. It could be more economical to spring for a quality new version that you know will last you for years to come. And remember that saving a few bucks is never worth compromising your health or safety!
Which items do you avoid purchasing secondhand and which ones are ok to buy from the thrift store? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.