12 things you should never, ever buy used

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

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Never buy these items used
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Never buy these items used

TVS

It’s hard to determine how well TVs, DVD players, 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. These are the things you should absolutely never buy at garage sales.

Shoes

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.

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. These are the secrets thrift store owners aren't telling you.

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?

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. Check out some more things you never knew had an expiration date.

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.

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.

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.

Speakers

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.

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/child essentials, like cribs and car seats.

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.

Rugs

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.

Now that you know what not to buy used, learn which items you actually should be buying secondhand.

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