If you’re like me, you’re probably a sucker for a deal. I love saving money so much that I happily carry the title of Frugal Geek with me in both my professional and personal life. One of the secrets to being a frugal geek is knowing exactly when and how to save money on the technology you love. Sometimes, this means buying things secondhand.
While not everything is a great deal in a used capacity, you can save a lot of money without suffering through the headache of product quality and/or life. Let’s face it, some products just don’t carry the same luster and magic that they do when they’re brand new out of the package for the first time. There are, however, a bunch of great products out there that hold up remarkably well over time.
In fact, some items build character as they age. This is one of the reasons so many antique stores are still doing pretty well. Wooden furniture, though not in this tech-influenced list, is perhaps one of the best examples of potentially excellent values when purchased used. An antique chair, table, or desk increases in value with age and can last for generations past the home assembly kits sold in budget furniture stores today.
Here are five things you should buy used.
CDs and DVDs
As long as the disc is free of scratches, the media contained within should be just as good as it was the day the original owner took the ridiculously difficult to open packaging off the jewel case. If you want to save 10 or more dollars on your average DVD, holding out for a couple weeks and browsing your local movie rental place can fetch you quite a bargain.
Another great place to find used media is a used book store. Typically, they deal in CDs and DVDs that have been at least moderately inspected and are usually guaranteed to work for 90 days.
Console games, like CDs and DVDs, are generally in good condition as long as they have no obvious damage. The cool thing about console games over PC games is that they are usually easier to buy and sell secondhand as the DRM is typically tied to the disc rather than some account in the cloud. This has already changed for some modern titles, and may change for many others as time goes on. The best rule of thumb is if you see it in the Redbox or at your local rental place, it’s probably safe to buy used.
Speaking of these places, you can often buy titles outright through them. After a few weeks of peak sales, excess inventory is often liquidated to make room for new stock. This means you get a great deal, and the stores get to keep inventory flowing. Cool, huh?
I’ve made my passion for military surplus and other secondhand stores that deal in bags public in a number of posts here on LockerGnome over the past year. A good bag can make a trip easier, protect your gear from various hazards, and stand the test of time.
Buying a bag used shouldn’t be done unless you’re going through an actual licensed store so some quality assurance is done prior to making it available for purchase. I’ve managed to pick up some pretty nice (seemingly unused) luggage from a thrift store at one point, and it served me well for almost a decade.
You certainly want to make sure things are clean, so buy a bag you’re willing to give the once over after purchase. Laptop cases, backpacks, and other everyday goods can be very expensive if bought new. Rather than saving your money by taking something that isn’t built to last, you might be better off getting a good bag used.
Factory Refurbished Goods
I love my factory refurbished iPhone. It came without a scratch on it and the screen is absolutely flawless. In fact, the refurbishing process replaces pretty much any part you can see from the outside, leaving only the circuitry inside either used or returned. The warranty is just as good, and Apple has never given me trouble with any refurbished goods in terms of returns or exchanges. The same can be said for Dell, HP, and Lenovo.
A lot of the gear in my home office is refurbished by the manufacturer and sold through discount electronics stores. This is a great way to get a good deal on merchandise without spending top dollar for a shiny new box. Honestly, is the box that important that you would pay double for what is essentially the same product? After all, don’t new products have a chance of problems as well?
If your new iPhone is defective or otherwise fails under warranty, Apple will replace it with a refurbished device. The same goes for virtually any high-end consumer electronic product on the market that falls under a warranty. Refurbished products are a great way to save money without sacrificing experience.
I’ve been tempted to buy a new car in the past, though every time I’ve needed to buy a vehicle, it’s been used. By paying a significantly reduced amount for a relatively new car, I’m able to drive around in a vehicle that I could never afford new.
There are plenty of very happy new vehicle leasers and owners out there. That said, the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that while 14,550 new cars were bought and/or leased in 2010, over 36,000 used vehicle sales were reported during the same year. That makes used cars a much more popular choice among consumers.
There are obvious downsides to buying a used car. For example, factory warranties may or may not cover your purchase, previous abuse may be present and yet not obvious upon initial inspection, and like any complex machine, there can be problems buried deep within the mechanism that don’t present themselves for months or even years after ownership is transferred. That said, even new cars are not without issues. That’s why so many states in the US have laws that protect consumers from lemons.
If buying a used vehicle over a new one is an option that you’d like to investigate further, check out our list of tips for saving money on a used car.
On the other hand, there are plenty of things that you should not buy used.