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Buying used vs. buying new: Part 2

In part 2 of this series, we will explore which purchases take more consideration when it comes to buying new vs buying used.

  • Article
  • Money management

Fri Jul 21, 2023 by Momentum Staff

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the advantages of buying used or second-hand items. Advantages included saving money, lowering our environmental impact, finding higher quality items, the thrill of the hunt, and building skills that second-hand items can sometimes inspire (crafting, refinishing, learning to do minor repairs).

But while there are many advantages to buying used items, some purchases come with greater financial risk, especially on a tight budget. Buying a “lemon” (a product that quickly breaks or is not repairable) is a possibility whether purchasing new or used items, but having a warranty or options to return or exchange the item can mitigate the risk of losing money on a bad product.

Before deciding whether to spend money on a new or used product, it helps to assess your skills and capacity when it comes to repairs. Some people won’t blink at a broken washing machine, because they have the skills and tools needed to diagnose the issue and repair the machine. Some people will happily purchase a stained sofa, because they know how to reupholster furniture, and have the time and space to take on the project.

When we see a great deal on a bigger used item, it can be easy to tell ourselves “I’ll take the risk and learn those skills once I bring the item home!”, but we then find ourselves with a much more complex and expensive project once we get the item home, and the reality of the work involved sets in. Our ambitious intentions can get costly and create more issues, and we may find ourselves wishing we had saved the time and trouble by just buying the item new (with a warranty).

But there is also some middle ground between “used” and “new”: refurbished products can be a wonderfully cost-effective option, because they often come with warranties or options to replace or exchange. For expensive electronics especially, purchasing refurbished items can be a financially safe and affordable route.

Another valuable tip to keep in mind is that some brands come with lifetime warranties. Many of these items can be returned to their original manufacturer and exchanged, even if they are used and have no original receipt. Each manufacturer has different policies regarding returns though, so be sure to check before buying older used items of that brand.

Buying New

For some things, it’s simply smarter and less hassle to purchase new. Here’s a quick list of purchases that might be better purchased new, or, if purchased used, should be approached with a fair amount of caution and research. Of course, it’s possible to find some of these things in great used condition for a great price, but they carry the largest “buyer beware” tag:

1. Vehicles.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a used car, but vehicles are a big investment, and without adequate research and savviness, a great deal on a car can quickly turn into an expensive headache.

Buying a new vehicle includes a warranty, up-to-date safety features, useful technology, financing options, better fuel efficiency, and lower maintenance costs. But new vehicles are also quite expensive, and they often depreciate in value significantly as soon as they’re driven off the lot, depending on the make and model.

Here is a useful guide for buying new vs buying a used vehicle. Remember to always get a used vehicle inspected before purchasing, always do a VIN history search, and always check for outstanding liens. If approached carefully and thoroughly, a used vehicle can be a great option to buying new.

2. Child Car Seats, Baby Cribs, and Toddler Beds.

It is illegal to advertise, sell, or give away a used child’s car seat or booster seat that has expired or has not been inspected and met Transport Canada safety requirements. It isn’t worth taking the risk on a used car seat – always buy this item new.

The same warning goes for baby cribs and toddler beds – ensure these items meet current safety standards, it simply isn’t worth the risk otherwise.

3. Large Kitchen Appliances

Unless you can fully test it or have advanced repair skills, it is advisable to purchase these items new, with warranties. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t decent used appliances out there - if you choose to buy a used appliance, here is a helpful guide.

4. Furniture and Mattresses

Again, a warranty or purchase guarantee are the main benefits of purchasing new furniture. If you’re looking to refinish or refurbish used furniture, it’s possible to find some beautiful pieces at estate sales or thrift stores. However, be very wary of unsanitary stains and smells, and look for signs of bedbug infestations or mold. These problems could easily impact your home in a big way, so be very cautious if you choose to purchase used furniture.

5. Helmets

It can be difficult to see damage in used helmets, but even the smallest crack, either on the exterior or inner shell, can compromise its safety. Some local societies in Calgary offer new, great quality helmets at low prices to those with lower incomes – ask local thrift stores if they know of such services!

Essentially, it’s important be extremely diligent when purchasing anything that could be expensive to repair, or that could compromise your health or cause serious bodily harm if found faulty. Weigh the benefits and risks of purchasing these items new or used very carefully, and never impulse purchase items that carry such high risk.

All that said, there are many wonderful and affordable second-hand items out there that carry very little risk financially, health-wise, or safety-wise. Buying used items like clothes, dishes, household items and décor, yard and hand tools, renovation materials (tiles, bricks, lumber, windows – ReStore is a great resource!), bicycles, textbooks, musical instruments, toys, sports gear, refurbished electronics, brands with lifetime warranties… there are so many affordable pre-owned options for shoppers looking to cut costs.

And in the meantime, keeping your money management skills sharp goes a long way. Sign up for any of Momentum’s Money Management workshops, and be entered into a draw for a $200 grocery gift card!