Buy it new, or used?

Here’s something you may have missed from the Money page.  

Experienced shoppers weigh the pros and cons of thrift-store finds.

Bedbugs. Weird smells. The possibility of imminent breakdowns. People have all sorts of excuses for not buying used stuff.

Those who deliberately buy used items, though, say such fears are not just overblown — they’re also expensive.

“You save money. You make a decision that you feel good about. There’s no reason to stop,” says Wolk-Stanley, who blogs as The Non-Consumer Advocate.

Why do it?

People who buy used help keep stuff out of landfills, reduce their environmental impact, and maybe best of all, save money.

New can mean expensive:

“You save money. You make a decision that you feel good about. There’s no reason to stop,” says Katy Wolk-Stanley, who blogs as The Non-Consumer Advocate.

The decision to buy new can be costly. Take cars, for example. The average transaction price for a new vehicle exceeds $34,000, and it will lose as much as 22 percent of its value when driven off the dealership lot, according to car research site Edmunds.com. 

Household goods prices often are inflated as well. Furniture, appliances, and electronics tend to have big markups, and there’s an $8 billion rent-to-own industry devoted to making them even more expensive. The weekly or monthly payments often add up to twice or more what the item would cost if purchased outright.

When to buy new:

Some things are better if purchased new. Safety experts recommend avoiding used bicycle helmets and car seats, for example, in case they were damaged in previous accidents.

People leery of buying used appliances and furniture can consider refurbished versions, floor models or the “scratch and dent” section of home improvement stores, where imperfect merchandise can be bought at steep discounts.

What to avoid:

Some people who buy most things used avoid mattresses and upholstered furniture for fear of bedbugs. Wolk-Stanley hasn’t found any yet. The blogger washes clothes and linens before using them. Anything upholstered gets thoroughly inspected before it enters her home.

Hunting down good used items can take more time than snapping up something new, but Wolk-Stanley believes she ultimately saves time as well as money.

“I’m looking for a higher-quality item that would not necessarily have been in my budget originally,” Wolk-Stanley says. “That item will last longer and not need to be replaced, and therefore, I’m buying things once.”

Where to go:

Find stuff online on Craigslist, Buy Nothing, and The Freecycle Network which are groups that connect people who have stuff to give away with those who want it.  Or go in person to garage sales and thrift stores like the Goodwill or the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity ReStores which sell donated paint, flooring, appliances, furniture, and building materials.

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