First, the good – it’s easier than ever to buy used goods, to shop online for even the most obscure item you covet but don’t want to pay full price for. This marvelous second life of stuff is the reason I own such items as roller skate sneakers and a 1970s electric harp (thank you, Craigslist Omaha!). But while it’s great to shop used for planetary and budgetary health, there are things you should never second hand (beyond the obvious bathing suits, mattresses and half-empty bottles of aspirin).
1. Bike helmets, car seats, cribs: Helmets are designed for just one bonk. You don’t know if a used one has already endured the comforts of one’s head. Car seats are probably fine, but stringent guidelines and expiry dates mean you’re lucky if you can even use your first car seat for your second kid. It’s next to impossible to guarantee the safety of a used crib when you don’t know its provenance.
2. Vacuum cleaners: It is just about impossible to know whether a used vacuum will suck.
3. Computers. Instead of buying used computers online or from purveyors with limited accountability, purchase refurbished or returned goods directed from the manufacturer. Often, manufactures will offer shorter term warranties, or at the very least allow you to opt in to a lengthier warranty plan.
4.The latest model. Even if you’re buying used, you often pay a premium for the latest model. If you don’t need a 2012 stroller/blender/electric tie rack, then look for a model that’s a few years old.
5. Stuff you don’t need: Just because you can find an appliance for cheap online, doesn’t mean you need it. In this age of instant exchange, it’s easy to think the sheer act of buying used precludes one from really thinking about whether the purchase is actually necessary. A second-hand hot tub is still a hot tub. Also, never buy a second-hand hot tub.