New vs. Used: Where to Spend and Where to Save

We could do a lot of saving of the environment and our pocketbooks by becoming the second owner of a few items. There are some things like laptops that you should not buy used. However, lots of other stuff depreciates quickly while still having plenty of usable life left. Here are some of the dos and the don’ts…

Books: USED: the reality is that most books don't get read more than once, if that, and they're astonishingly easy to find used at steep discounts -- if not absolutely free. Your local library, for example, may allow you to reserve titles online. This is the same for DVDs and CDs. The used versions of movies and CD's are  lot cheaper. Amazon, Barns & Noble , and offer deals on used items. An exception to this rule are reference books that you will use over and over again. However, you can usually find them used as well. Also, there are websites for textbook rentals for students. is one of the websites that will allow you to rent textbooks, but also offers free shipping for sending them back to their store.

Sports Equipment: USED: Happy hunting grounds: yard sales, newspaper and online ads, resale stores like Play It Again Sports. We buy many different types of equipment with the full intention of using it, but more often than not, they end up sitting gathering dust. However, an exceptions to this rule are shoes, and anything else that molds to the wearer's body.

Helmets: NEW: A crash typically crushes the foam inside the helmet casing, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, so the damage may not be visible. Since, you cannot tell if a helmet has been involved in an accident, it is much smarter to buy new. Kid's sports and bike helmets retail for about $20; you'll pay $30 to $40 for the adult size. Motorcycle helmets usually start around $100. Spend the money. It is far less costly than a funeral for a loved one.

Car Seats: NEW: A car seat that's been in one accident may not protect your child in another. And damaged car seats aren't uncommon. Brand-new car seats can often be purchased for as little as $50, and safety technology tends to improve with each year. If you do decide to use one from a family member or someone that you trust check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make sure the model you're getting hasn't been recalled. Also, here is a National Highway Traffic Administration link to the Children's Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator. These services are often free of charge.

Hand Tools: USED: If you're not going to use a tool frequently, you may be able to rent it or borrow from a friend or neighbor rather than buying. Well made tools can last for years. If you're looking at power tools, and are a busy do-it-yourselfer, you may want to buy new because power tools have a limited lifespan.

Formal Wear: USED: Sometimes you'll need to buy formal clothing for special occasions, such as weddings or prom. Most people will take good care of formal clothing but will only wear it once or twice. Thrift stores, yard sales, online sellers and even some dress shops offer fantastic buys on used formal wear. Also many students donate their dresses. offers information on where to donate and receive dresses.

DVD Players, Laptops, and Camera Equipment: NEW: If you're going to spend the money on these high end items, you might as well buy new. While it’s smart to buy used DVDs, this doesn’t apply to DVD players. DVD players have lasers that will eventually wear out. The cost to repair or replace may cost more than the player is worth. Because of their portability, laptops are prone to all abuse and problems. Unless it has been refurbished, you don’t get the warranties and tech support that come with buying new.

Vaccum Cleaners: NEW: Vacuums are among the heavy-duty household items that  get a lot of use and abuse. They can also cost more to fix than if you bought them new right from the start.

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