budget

New or Used: Which Is Better?

4 Minute Read

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?

Things to Buy New

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” deals. Your tires are standing between your family and the road below, after all. You should always by new, but know that doesn’t mean you have to buy ultra-high performance Michelins to be safe.

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Mattresses.

Never buy mattresses used. 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.

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. (Same goes for shoes and hats.)

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.

Humidifiers.

Take a stroll through a Goodwill store, and you’ll see plenty of used humidifiers. One word: No. Here’s why. 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.

Things to Buy Used

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!

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.

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 just an obvious flaw.

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!

Books.

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.

Video Games.

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 50%. Just make sure the game isn’t scratched and still works!

Exercise Equipment.

Typically, 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.

Of course, there are always exceptions. We always say it’s perfectly fine to buy a new car if you’re a millionaire because the depreciation hit won’t affect you that much. Or if you’re buying a bicycle helmet from your trustworthy brother who only used it once before he decided it wasn’t a good fit—that makes sense too. Just use common sense 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 budgeting tool, EveryDollar. You can create your first budget in just 10 minutes.

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