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20 Things You Should Never Buy Second-Hand (and Why)

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Consignment stores, garage sales, eBay, and Craigslist are all great ways to save money, provided you know the things not to buy used.

When it comes to these items, it’s not just a matter of aesthetics or hygiene. In many cases, it’s a matter of safety, too.

Avoid Buying These Baby Items Second-Hand

1. Cribs and kids’ furniture are frequent subjects of safety recalls and usually assembled by the consumer. So unless you look up the make and model before you buy it, then check it over top to bottom for proper assembly, they’re risky

2. Car seats are only designed to protect in one accident, regardless of injury. After that, they’re supposed to be replaced. But there’s no way to know a second-hand car seat’s history.

Pro Tip

If you do buy second-hand baby furniture or gear like strollers or car seats, check for safety recalls and expiration dates to ensure they meet current safety standards.

3. Baby bottles no longer contain BPA but older, second-hand versions might still contain this endocrine system-disruptor.

4. Stuffed animals can contain all sorts of yucky things. If you do buy one, be sure to wash it right away to clean it inside and out.

Second-Hand Fashion Finds to Skip

5. Swimsuits can’t be washed in hot water or dried in a hot dryer without damaging them. So, you’ll be buying something that may contain all sorts of bacteria. If you do buy second-hand, line dry it in bright sunlight for disinfection.

6. Shoes take the shape of their wearer’s feet, so buying second-hand can lead to discomfort and improper support. If you do buy used shoes, consider replacing the insoles to provide your feet a fresh start.

7. Hats are full of someone else’s hair oil, sebum, sweat, and more. If you can’t resist buying a used hat, sanitize it before wearing.

8. Bike helmets are like car seats and designed to protect against one impact, not even a bad one. After that, they aren’t reliable protection. Buying second hand means you don’t know how safe it is.

9. Wetsuits made from neoprene degrade over time without looking any different. You won’t know it until you’re in the water and it drags you down or falls apart. If you’re going to buy used, test it at home before taking it on vacation.

Household Items That Aren’t Safe to Buy Used

10. Mattresses and bedding, including pillows, collect all sorts of bacteria and dust mites plus, you know, bed bugs. If you’ve got to buy used, encase mattresses in zippered enclosures to trap any critters inside, and wash everything else in hot water.

11. Vintage lamps can be risky since poorly wired lamps are one of the leading causes of house fires. If you can’t pass up a bargain, take it to an electrician for inspection and possibly rewiring.

12. Non-stick cookware is notorious for scratching, and then it poses a health risk because it releases substances into your food. If you’re going to buy used, check it over carefully.

13. Old small appliances are risky because gaskets degrade, motors wear out, and loose wiring causes… well, you’ve seen This is Us.

My weekly appointment to cryPin

14. Vacuum cleaners can be risky due to the loose wiring issue, but also because few people take time to clean them properly. If you do buy one, keep it out of your house until you’ve disassembled and cleaned it, so you don’t invite any pests or problems indoors.

15. Upholstered furniture is also potentially full of things you don’t want to bring inside, like the mice that love to burrow into soft furniture dumped on the curb.

If you can’t pass up a curbside find, leave the furniture out of your home while you deep clean it.

Some Second-Hand Electronics Are Bad Deals

16. Laptops are iffy second-hand buys. Sometimes, people get rid of them because they’re upgrading but just as often it’s because they machine has been acting buggy or has a virus. If you buy second hand, get it checked out before joining your home network.

17. Plasma, LED and HDTVs can be a waste if they don’t work, so make sure you can plug it in for a test. Then watch for at least 10 minutes—the time it takes for the set to fully heat up. If there are issues, they’ll show up in that time.

18. Computer games are often issued with single-use serial codes, so you won’t be able to play if the previous owner registered. If you’re going to buy used, stick with a store or online site that stands by their sales.


19. Tires can be iffy if they’ve been involved in accidents. If you’re going to buy used, make sure you get the tires’ complete history.

20. Makeup and makeup brushes that have been open and used put you at risk for MRSA and other bacterial issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of repurposing old things, and I know what it’s like not having the funds to splash out on new stuff. But to protect yourself and your family, make safety your first thought before buying second-hand.

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  1. As someone who worked at a very well-known thrift store (which I won’t name here for legal reasons), I can confirm that it’s a bad idea to buy shoes there, not because they’re worn out, but because there’s very little quality control. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found mold in a shoe and still been told to put it on the shelves, and I once even found something rotting in one (I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that it might have been a dead animal, or the fact that I couldn’t tell for sure).

  2. Michele Ross says:

    Funny story. I bought a beautiful set of drinking glasses at the Goodwill Store (love going there!). My husband refused to drink out of “hand-me-down” drinking glasses and instead would only use the old glasses. Joke’s on him, the other set of drinking glasses came from the Goodwill store too!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s hilarious, Michele!

  3. Almost all of my shoes are hand-me-downs or bought second hand and I have no trouble with them. Newer shoes will undeniably last longer than the same shoe bought secondhand, but I see no reason not to buy used shoes beyond that.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It may depend on whether you’re a person prone to foot trouble, as I am. I have very high arches, so I absolutely must have support and have found that in used shoes the arches have already been worn down.

    2. That makes sense, thank you for clarifying.

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