You can save a lot of money by buying things secondhand instead of new. However, those savings can rapidly diminish and, even, turn into losses when you buy secondhand unwisely. For example, if an item you buy secondhand proves unusable, then you need to replace it, costing you the same, or more, all over again. If at all possible, then always inspect any secondhand item before you buy it. If you cannot, then pictures of the actual item are essential.
Given the importance of personally inspecting items before purchasing them, online secondhand purchases require all the more alertness to key red flags. When you buy items from secondhand stores, yard sales or local ads, you can at least inspect the items before you purchase them. When you purchase items online, however, such as through eBay or an online vendor of used products, you get no such opportunity for inspection.
Typically, when you purchase a secondhand item, you have little to no recourse available to you if you cannot return it upon finding it unsatisfactory. Unlike items sold through licensed businesses, items sold through private sales are not protected by consumer rights. Moreover, even licensed sellers are not required to take unwanted items back if they are sold as-is and no fraudulent claims were made in their sale. Review the seven red flags to look for when buying secondhand below.
1. Bad Smells
You may dismiss an item’s bad smell as something you can simply get out in the wash. However, many bad smells cannot be completely washed out, such as pet odors or cigarette smoke odors. In such cases, you are left stuck with items you cannot actually use. Furthermore, certain bad smells can indicate far more detrimental underlying problems, such as mold.
2. Electronics and Appliances You Cannot Plug in to Test
If you are not able to plug in an appliance or electronic item in order to determine that it actually works, then buying the item may not be worth the risk. Possibly the worst part about buying an electronic item or appliance no one can use is that you probably have to pay to dispose of it, as most trash services charge extra to dispose of electronics and appliances.
Related Article: Cutting Utility Expenses
Similarly, if an appliance or electronic item is being sold without its plug or adapter and the seller claims you can replace it through the manufacturer, then take caution. There is no guarantee the adapter is even available, let alone the item actually works once it connects to power.
3. Old Items Used for Food and Drink
If an item is to be used to hold or handle food or drink, then you may want to limit yourself to only buying it secondhand if it is new enough. Older items used to prepare or serve food or drink can leak harmful chemicals into your food and ultimately into you. If you are picking up such an item to use purely decoratively, then this is not a problem, but if you plan to eat or drink out of it, then think twice.
4. Deposits to Hold the Item
A store may ask you to put down a deposit to hold an item you are interested in buying. But if the store does not provide that item, then you have recourse to recover your deposit. When you give a deposit to an individual seller in order to reserve an item, you have no such guarantees the item is going to be delivered nor any recourse if the seller fails to abide by your agreement.
Requesting partial payments for sales up front is a common practice of scammers. Do not let yourself be fooled. Only pay for an item when delivery is either made or guaranteed in writing.
5. Mattresses and Pillows
Simply put, do not buy mattresses secondhand. Used mattresses can be breeding grounds for bed bugs and other small pests. The last thing you want to do is bring such an item into your home and infest your other furniture and belongings. The same rule applies for pillows too. Exterminating these pests and eliminating such an infestation can be challenging and expensive.
Moreover, even if a mattress or pillow is free of pests, its springs can be worn or its padding misshapen. An unsupportive mattress or pillow can lead to back and neck problems, which, in turn, can cost more in the long run than buying a new mattress and pillows, to begin with.
6. Baby and Toddler Items
Products intended for use by a baby or toddler are risky to buy secondhand. Items intended to protect your baby or toddler from harm such as cribs, strollers, high chairs and car seats could have the opposite effect if damaged or worn by use. Even without worn, broken or missing parts, older items may not have been manufactured according to today’s safety standards.
There have also been many safety recalls over the years of products meant for use by babies and toddlers. It can be difficult to find out if such a recall has been made of a particular product you are considering buying secondhand.
Similarly, older baby toys and bottles may have been manufactured under older and outdated safety protocols. Plastic toys and bottles, for example, could leak harmful BPA if they were made before the use and labeling of BPA-free plastics in such products. BPA can cause a range of health problems in youth, including behavioral and developmental problems as well as reproductive health concerns.
7. Items Sold as Antique, Vintage or Valuable
If an item is presented to you as an antique, vintage or otherwise valuable, such as authentic diamond jewelry, then it is likely being sold at a price befitting of this claim. Therefore, before you pay a premium for the item, be sure it actually is what the seller claims. Get a professional appraisal if you can or request certification of authenticity. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck with an imitation or fraudulent item you paid for as though it were authentic.
Related Article: How To Save For College
By Mathew Sams –