The modern expansion of consumer choice, largely due to our globalized economy which allows the overseas manufacturing of cheaper goods of all sorts, has had two seemingly contradictory effects: while making new goods a lot more affordable and easily replaceable for many people, it has created a much larger market for second-hand products. Although some people are still reluctant to buying used items, doing it offers many advantages when it comes to some specific goods.
It is an open secret that one of the main reasons why opting for second-hand goods is advantageous lies in the desire to save money. However, many people still think that buying used products is the sole preserve of the poor, which is completely false. Actually, even those who live comfortably and earn a great income have something to gain from buying certain used items: spending less on furniture, books and even cars, for instance, is a good way to invest money elsewhere.
As J.D. Roth, founder of Get Rich Slowly and author of Your Money: The Missing Manual, puts it: “Buying used isn’t just for weirdos or the working poor. Buying used is for anyone who’d rather pinch pennies on keeping up appearances so they can spend the big bucks on things that matter more”. Saving a few hundreds of dollars on you next dining set or sofa, for example, could allow you to go on a sweet escape for a weekend. This can sound sketchy, but it is true. Cutting superfluous expanses here and there can allow you little pleasures that you could possibly not afford otherwise.
Cars are among the most sold second-hand items: tens of millions of them are sold each year in the United States. Based on industry statistics, 3.3 used cars are sold for every single new one. Why are used cars so popular? It is doubtlessly due to the fact that purchasing a brand new car is quite expensive and not necessarily worth it because of how fast depreciation happens: the minute it leaves the dealership, a new car loses 11% of its value. This proportion reaches more than 60% after five years!
Although used cars call for more maintenance that brand new ones, they generally represent very good deals: if the purchased brand is reliable, if the former owner properly maintained the car and if the new owner expects to keep it on a rather long period of time, investing in a used car is definitely a good way to save big bucks. Old cars also tend to be less costly to insure.
Finding Discontinued Items
Buying used also is a good way to find goods that you cannot realistically expect to find on the shelves of any store. If the look of your house is a little vintage, for example, it may be difficult to find the right accessories to decorate it. Visiting garage sales and looking up the Internet are good ways to find exactly the kind of object you are looking for.
Used items also have a peculiar character, for there is a history behind them. More than that, old goods sometimes are more reliable and long-lasting than new ones, for they often were not manufactured with the intention of seeing the consumer replace it within a few years. Have you ever wondered why your grandmother has never changed her toaster oven and her eggbeater? Probably because she has never needed to! Old stuff was meant to last!
Buying second hand also is a good way to cut useless consumption. Every time we need something, the easy way is to throw the old one away and go buy a new one as quickly as possible. But every time we do that, old materials are lost and new ones only wait their turn until they suffer a similar fate. This exacerbated consumption cycle has negative environmental consequences, and if people massively decided to buy second hand (or to fix their stuff instead of discarding it when possible), maybe this process could be slowed down and eventually bring some companies to manufacture more long-lasting goods, like they did decades ago… A tiny bit of idealism can’t hurt!
Also, when you possess stuff that you don’t need anymore, think about giving it or selling it at a low cost to someone. Babies’ clothes, for example, are very pricey goods that can not only be worn by different kids within the same family, but that can also be passed on to other families’ kids if they have been probably taken care of. Does it really matter to a toddler if is it Fred Flintstone that appears on one of his numerous t-shirts instead Lighting McQueen?
About the author:
Alexandre Duval is a freelance writer who writes about environmental issues and other topics of interest such as cool things to do in Montreal, Quebec. He is also currently completing his master’s degree in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.