Buying Second Hand: Ten Items to be Cautious About

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I posted here about the ten things you should always shop for second hand before buying new.

Photo by mattjiggin

Unfortunately, second hand shopping cannot completely eliminate your need for shopping a new retailer.

Here are ten things to be cautious about buying at a second hand store:

  1. Children’s car seats. I know in Canada it is illegal for second hand stores to sell car seats, but I have still seen them sold there.  Because you are unsure about the history of the seat, you are probably better off buying a new one or getting one from a friend who is no longer using the car seat.  As car seats have expiration dates, the issue is not the age of the seat, but that the accident history is unknown when you buy the seats second hand.
  2. CDs, DVDs, and Tapes. This depends completely on the policy of the store.  If the store has a no return policy (as many do) you will be continually frustrated when you find items you purchased that don’t play or skip because of scratches.
  3. Electronics. Again this depends on the store policy.  However, there is the potential for so many things to go wrong that it simply is not worth the savings to buy a used electronic item.  Also, many of the items are so outdated that you couldn’t possibly find anything compatible with them.
  4. Computer software. Often the software will be outdated or it will not include necessary documents for you to legally register the product.  In fact, it is quite possible the original owner is still using the licensed copy.  Save the legal and technical hassle.
  5. Technology-specific and previous edition books. There are lot of books on computers at second hand stores that deal only with obsolete computer functions, programs, or languages.  They are worthless.  The same is typically true of older edition text books.
  6. Board Games. Some second hand stores tape up board games and such. If they do, avoid the item.  There is a good chance that you will get home to find that the game only has half as many parts as it should.
  7. Undergarments. Do I need to say any more?
  8. Anything that is taped shut. If they won’t let you see it, you probably don’t want to buy it.  If you are really interested in the item go to the front and ask if you would be able to take a look inside before buying it.
  9. Rechargeable and electric tools.  Because you don’t know the history of the items it is hard to judge how much life is left.  When you are working you want safe and reliable tools.  Second hand stores don’t satisfy those requirements.
  10. Food items. Yes, I have seen food items in a second hand store.  I guess I don’t need to say much about this.  I wonder how it ended up on the shelf in the first place.

Of course, with all of these items you need to be the judge if the cost/savings outweighs the risk of purchasing the item.  Proceed with caution.

Personal Note:  While I was typing this blog my wife asked me if I could take the kids for a few moments so she could rest.  I decided to take them for a walk to a local second hand store just to see if it inspired any ideas.  Guess what I bought?  Computer speakers! An electronic item!  They were a dollar and I decided the value outweighed the risk.


  1. Dave says

    As an owner of a second hand shop, I agree with most of this, however the board game one I do understand, but from my perspective I spend a lot of time making sure they are complete and then tape them, not to hide anything, but to keep the parts in the box, too many people let their kids do whatever they want in a store and if you don’t someone will either steal parts to replace ones they are missing or kids will get into them, scatter and lose parts. Its very frustrating to take all the time to make sure your product is complete just to have someone’s Wild Child come in and mess it up, so I suggest to not avoid buying them just ask the clerk if they will open it for you.

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