Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

The fact that a lot of people are cash-strapped these days has made it an ideal time to consider whether it's better to buy new or used. While you can get away with buying many everyday items used, there are quite a few others that are worth paying the extra few dollars to be the initial owner.

Recently, the bargain hunter site FreeShipping.org compiled a list of 40 items we all use regularly with recommendations of whether to buy them new or used. While there are many no-brainers on the list, there are quite a few interesting surprises.

 A few excerpts:

 Consumer Electronics - Used

Most folks (like guys) prefer shiny new toys, but refurbished electronic goods are a much sweeter deal. Consumer electronics are returned to the manufacturer for different reasons, but generally, they'll be inspected for damaged parts, fixed, tested then resold at a lower price. Just make sure you get a good warranty along with your purchase. You also might look for deals on floor models, which are basically new but have received a bit of wear while serving as display models.

Car Seats – New

Even if a used car seat looks OK, damaged car seats aren’t uncommon. Safety technology improves every year and new seats cost as little as $50, so buying new is usually the better option.

Games and Toys – Used

How long do games and toys remain your child's favorite before they're left forgotten under the bed or in a closet? You can find used children's toys in great condition at moving sales or on Craigslist, or you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family to trade used toys. Just make sure to give them a good wash before letting junior play. (One tip: Infant toys should be purchased new to avoid bacterial transfer.)

Bike Helmets – New

A crash usually will only crush the foam inside the helmet casing, which means damage may not be visible. However, helmets are designed to protect against just one accident, so it's a lot safer to buy new before you hop on the bike again.

Hand Tools – Used

Simple tools with few moving parts, like hammers, hoes and wrenches, will keep for decades so long as they are well-made to begin with and well-maintained. These are fairly easy to find at neighborhood yard or garage sales. If you don't need to use hand tools very often, an even better deal is to rent a set of tools or borrow them from a friend.

 Sure, in a perfect world we’d like everything we own to be brand new.  It’s inherent to our consumer culture. But that’s just not always possible or always necessary. Well, except for mattresses and bedding. It’s a third of your life. Spend the money. You’ll thank me later.

Be sure to also visit our Recent Recalls page to make sure that the item is safe to buy – new or used.

-- Darius Schwarz, AGO Public Affairs Intern

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