When I was in college, the campus bookstore used to stamp its used books with a big, yellow sticker that read “USED SAVES.” The idea, of course, was to remind broke college kids that buying used books is an easy way to save a couple bucks. I suppose that seeing all those yellow stickers over the course of four years really sunk in because now, as an adult, I love buying used stuff! In addition to books, I buy pre-owned clothes, furniture, appliances…the list goes on.
In the years since college, I’ve gotten pretty skilled at buying used stuff, so I wanted to share a list dos and don’ts that I adhere to when I’m hunting for the perfect used item.
DO haggle. In my experience, most people who have listed items on Craigslist or are holding a yard sale just want to get rid of their stuff and they’re willing to accept a lower price. Don’t be afraid to ask!
DON’T meet the seller at his or her home. Sometimes this is unavoidable with large items, like appliances or large furniture, and in those cases you should bring a friend with you. If it’s possible, your safest bet is to meet the seller in a crowded, public place.
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DON’T go to pick up the item alone. You should never, ever meet a stranger by yourself. Bring a friend along with you to pick up your item, and always try to meet in a busy, public area that is convenient for both you and the seller.
DO carefully inspect the item before you commit to buying it. Chances are, you won’t be able to return a used item once you purchase it, so be sure to look it over carefully for scratches, tears, or other imperfections before you turn your money over to the seller. If you’re buying an appliance or anything else with moving parts, be sure ask for a demonstration that the item is functional.
DO ask the right questions when you’re in initial contact with the seller. For example, if you’re buying a new winter coat from eBay, you may want to contact the seller and ask if the previous wearer was a smoker. Or, if you’re buying a couch from Craigslist and you’re allergic to cats, ask if the couch is coming from a kitty-free home. You want to avoid nasty surprises if possible.
DON’T forget to shop around. Buying used usually saves money, but sometimes the time and energy required to find the perfect used item isn’t worth the monetary savings. Weigh the pros and cons of buying used carefully, especially when purchasing large and expensive items.
Buying used is a great way to save money and give an unwanted item a new home, but it does require a little extra legwork. If you stick to these dos and don’ts, you’ll be sure to walk away with the best possible deal!