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New or Used: Which Is Better?

When you’re paying off debt, buying used seems to make sense. After all, you’re saving anywhere you can! You hit up thrift shops, Craigslist, eBay, and every yard sale you drive by. But sometimes, buying used can get you in trouble.

So, when should you buy used, and when should you buy new?

10 Things to Buy New

1. Tires

You’re treading dangerously with used tires. How much life is left? Is there a difficult-to-spot nail lodged in there? Sure, new tires can be crazy expensive, but wait for those “buy three, get one free” deals. Your tires are standing between your family and the road below, after all. 

You should always by tires new, but know that doesn’t mean you have to buy ultra-high-performance Michelins to be safe.

2. Mattresses

Never buy used mattresses. Ever heard of bedbugs? Bed-wetters? Don’t chance it! Most mattresses only have a life span of 7–10 years anyway. The same goes for your sheets and pillowcases. Buy those new too.

3. Bathing Suits/Underwear

This really goes without saying, but we’re saying it. Why? Because people actually buy this stuff used. Gross. Splurge. Please. Buy your underwear and bathing suits new. 

4. Hats

Okay, so this definitely isn’t as nasty as buying used underwear, but still. Do you really want to wear a used hat that someone else has sweat in or worn when they were trying to cover up 7-day-old unwashed hair? Ew. No. Be better than that.

5. Sports Safety Equipment

A lot of things like safety goggles, climbing gear, helmets, elbow pads and knee pads are designed for one hard impact only. After that first nasty spill, they should’ve been thrown out. You can’t put a dollar amount on your family’s well-being, so don’t play around with used safety equipment.

6. Cribs

There are plenty of baby items you can (and should) buy used, but a crib probably isn’t the best bet. Between recalls that seem to pop up each year, lead paint on older cribs, and not knowing the history of the crib itself, just go ahead and buy this one brand new. 

7. Car Seats

Technically you can buy a used car seat or borrow one from somebody. It’s not illegal or anything. Still, there are a lot of questions that come with buying a used car seat. Was it in the car during a wreck at any point? Are the harnesses still in good working order? Is it a recalled model? That’s a lot of variables when it comes to a safety device you’re putting your child in. 

All that to say, you don’t have to buy a new car seat for each new baby. If your car seat isn’t expired and wasn’t in a crash, then you can definitely reuse it. You know the history of the car seat and that makes all the difference!

8. Cookware

No, we’re not talking about that antique china you found at Goodwill for cheap. Instead, think of cookware with plastic or Teflon that gets exposed to a lot of heat and has the potential to crack, peel and flake. Did you know that junk can actually make its way into your food? No thanks. 

9. Humidifiers

Take a stroll through a thrift store, and you’ll see plenty of used humidifiers. One word: No. Don’t do it! You don’t know where those humidifiers have been, and you don’t know what mold and bacteria could be lurking within! Brand-new humidifiers are fairly cheap anyway.

10. Vacuum Cleaners

It’s not so much that you don’t want everyone else’s dust bunnies coming into your home (you can just dump the container out). But think about it this way . . . if you buy a used vacuum cleaner, how long until your little dust buster bites the dust? Yeah. If you buy a used vacuum cleaner chances are it’s not going to last too long. Invest in a brand-new sucker. It’s okay, really. 

10 Things to Buy Used

1. Cars

New cars drop in value the second you drive one off the lot. When you buy a used car that’s at least two years old, the previous owner takes the majority of the depreciation hit. Just make sure you buy the car outright so you can avoid years of car payments. Let’s say you buy a $9,000 car and finance it. In five years, you’re out $12,000 (thanks, interest) on a car now worth $5,000!

2. Appliances

Need a new dryer? How about a new dishwasher? Buying these types of big appliances used can really save you a ton! If you don’t feel totally comfortable buying something like that at a garage sale or on Craigslist, then take a look at stores who sell refurbished or cosmetically damaged appliances. 


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Ask around at the store to see if they have any working but slightly less-than-perfect appliances they’re selling at a discounted rate. Most of the time, it’s just a scratch or two that’s barely noticeable—but you’re sure to notice the hefty price difference! Sears Outlet stores are perfect for this!

3. Furniture

Despite what you’ve heard, buying used furniture isn’t just for broke college kids. Anyone can benefit from picking up tables, chairs and bookshelves secondhand! Notice how we didn’t say couches and upholstered furniture there? Go ahead and skip those for the same reasons you’d pass on buying a used mattress. Stick to things that can be wiped down and won’t pass along germs and grime.

And if you’re extra crafty, you can always spruce up the piece of furniture with some TLC and a little paint.  There are great, pre-owned pieces out there with a lot of life left in them.

4. Pets

By “used pets,” we mean free pets or those that come with a low adoption fee. Breeders can be insanely expensive—and almost all of those pets are guaranteed a home at some point. Puppy mills, which often supply pet stores, are known for treating their animals poorly and for selling sick or injured animals. Avoid those. Consider shelter pets. You could save an animal’s life! A good deed done at little to no cost? Count us in.

5. Tools

Have you ever held a hammer? Seriously, hammers have a longer life-span than sea turtles. Most hand tools are well-made, so there’s no reason to buy new unless there’s an obvious flaw.

6. Baby Clothes

Your little bundle of joy will wear that cute onesie twice before it’s covered with mashed carrot stains. Then, they’ll outgrow it. So don’t pay big bucks for new baby clothes—no matter how cute they are. Babies grow fast!

Instead of paying an arm and a leg for new clothes every time your kid has a growth spurt, hit up children’s clothing consignment shops near you. You can buy onesies, T-shirts, pants and more for way less than you would pay if you bought them new. We’re talking $1–3 an item or even less sometimes! So get out there and do a little bargain hunting. 

7. Board Games

Are you a board game person? Look for the classics like Clue, Sorry and Trivial Pursuit for sale at thrift stores and garage sales. Just give them the once-over to make sure the game has all the pieces. No one wants to be stuck with Colonel Mustard in the dining room but no candlestick to speak of. 

8. Books and Textbooks

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, it’s a little distressed, but used books are just as easy to read as new books. The words are exactly the same! They might have a coffee stain here or there, but those are just character marks.

Did you know a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that the price of new textbooks has gone up four times the rate of inflation? And buying a new textbook from a bookstore will set students back an average $134! But students who buy used textbooks online could average a savings of 58%.(1)

That’s nuts! Save a bundle and buy used—you’ll only need the books for a semester anyway. 

9. CDs and Video Games

You know what goes great with your used car? Used CDs! You remember those things, don’t you? Compact discs that play music? If you’re driving around in an older car, it’s probably not decked out with satellite radio, an auxiliary input or anything fancy like that. So pick up some classic tunes at a thrift store or on eBay and get ready to jam!

Most video games are gently used because they’re forgotten after a few months. A brand-new game can easily cost $60. But if you wait a few months for a used version, you could save a bunch. Just make sure the game isn’t scratched and still works!

10. Exercise Equipment

Usually, exercise equipment gets used for a few months before becoming a makeshift clothes hanger. You’ll likely find outstanding deals on treadmills, ellipticals, and all kinds of exercise equipment that are less than a year old. Look for those before you consider buying new—and keep your budget in good shape.

How to Sell Your Used Items

These days, it’s pretty simple to clear out unwanted stuff and make some cash off it. Sell your gently used clothing items on eBay, Poshmark, thredUP, at a consignment store, or at a good old-fashioned garage sale

When it comes to larger things like furniture, equipment and appliances, unload those hefty items to eager buyers at your garage sale, or on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Ready to part with your old CDs, books and DVDs? Check out sites like Decluttr that will buy your stuff outright. 

Keep This in Mind When Buying New or Used Items

Of course, there are always exceptions when it comes to buying new and used items. It’s perfectly fine to buy a new car if you’re a millionaire because the depreciation hit won’t affect you that much. You know what else makes sense? Buying a bicycle helmet from your trustworthy brother who only used it once before he decided it wasn’t a good fit. Just use common sense and good judgement while making the most of your money.

Whether you buy new or used, make sure you’ve budgeted for it! For the easiest way to budget, get our free tool, EveryDollar. You can create your first budget in just 10 minutes.

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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