Wednesday, June 27, 2012

20 Things You Shouldn’t Buy Used

I’m an avid garage sale shopper. Most of my furniture was bought used, and I’ve saved more than 50 percent off the cost of some pieces. But a few things I would never buy used – especially if they put my health or safety at risk.

Here’s more information on why you shouldn’t buy those seven things used, plus more than a dozen others…

1. Cribs

Cribs – especially the drop-side kind – are frequently on recall lists, and the reasons why are pretty terrifying. For example, in April, Nan Far Woodworking recalled their drop-side cribs for repair. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had this to say about it:

"The cribs’ drop sides can malfunction, detach or otherwise fail, causing part of the drop side to fall out of position, creating a space into which an infant or toddler can roll and become wedged or entrapped, which can lead to strangulation or suffocation. A child can also fall out of the crib. Drop-side incidents can also occur due to incorrect assembly and with age-related wear and tear."

So how do you know if that crib you’re eyeing on Craigslist hasn’t been recalled? You could check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of crib recalls, but you don’t know if the crib was sent back for repairs or not. You’d just have to take the seller’s word for it. It’s better to play it safe and buy a new crib.

2. Car seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says car seats can be safely reused after minor crashes – if the air bags didn’t deploy, no one was injured, and the car drove away. But it recommends car seats be replaced after moderate crashes.
So how do you tell the difference between a car seat in a minor crash, one in a moderate crash, or one that wasn’t in a crash at all? You probably can’t. The damage could be internal and not visible. Don’t risk it. Buy a new one.

3. Helmets

In a crash, the thick foam inside a helmet absorbs shock and protects your head. After a crash, the helmet may look fine, but it often has breaks or tears inside the foam. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends replacing a helmet after any crash – even a minor one. Otherwise, the helmet might not protect you in the next crash.

4. Laptops

If you take great care of a laptop, it can last through years of heavy use – but you can’t know how someone else treats their stuff. Maybe they dropped it or spilled coffee on it. The laptop could work great at first, but break down after you take it home.

I just paid $119.99 to replace the hard drive in my laptop – and it was working great until it wasn’t. Had I sold the laptop to someone else, they wouldn’t have known about the failing hard drive.

5. Video cameras

The same goes for video cameras. You may not see any visible damage, but it could have been dropped, exposed to water, or otherwise mistreated. Video cameras are costly to repair, so it isn’t worth buying one used.

6. Mattresses

A used mattress can come with a lot of extras you don’t want – dead skin cells, bacteria, hair, and every other gross thing you could imagine. It might also have bed bugs. The bugs are such a growing problem that Terminix has released a Top 15 Cities for Bed Bug Infestation list.

Bed bugs live off human blood, leave itchy bite marks, and can cause skin infections. And they multiply. According to Orkin:
Females can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live over 300 days.

Bring a bed bug-infested mattress into your house, and you’ll pay a hefty fee to an exterminator.

7. Shoes

I believe you need a good mattress and a good pair of shoes – since you’re usually in one or the other. The problem is, those used shoes may have been great for the original owner, but they’ve conformed to his or her feet. They might not be great for you. Used shoes that don’t fit just right can lead to feet or leg pain and back problems.

8. Makeup

I see makeup at almost every garage sale I go to, but I’d never buy any. Cosmetic brushes and wands come into contact with skin and can’t be cleaned very well. That barely used tube of lipstick? It might be hosting illness-causing bacteria. Considering drug stores and beauty shops regularly run makeup sales, risking your health isn’t worth the savings.

9. Plasma and HDTVs

Old tube-style TVs held up a lot better than modern flat-screens. While MSNBC says TVs cost an average of $500 to repair, the repair costs run much higher for plasma screens and for more complicated issues.
Even at the lower end, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new TV under warranty than a used one.

10. Hats

The inside of that hat could be brimming with someone else’s dead skin, hair, or worse – lice. Head lice feed on blood and cause itchy and painful reactions in the scalp. The nearly invisible bugs also travel quickly onto other people and your stuff.

Getting rid of lice requires two treatments of pesticides on everyone in the household. Then you’ll have to clean your bedding, linens, clothes, mattresses, and any other soft fabric in the house. The treatment can take hours or days of hard work – all because you bought a cheap hat.

11. Swimsuits

Swimsuits hug the body. The close contact can transmit bacteria and other diseases – which may transfer to you when you wear the suit. Swimsuits are also fragile. If the washing instructions aren’t followed, the straps might rip or the swimsuit might lose its shape. So you could be buying something that may fall apart after only a few uses.

12. Vacuums

Vacuums take a lot of wear and tear. (This morning I slammed mine into the wall three times trying to reach some dog hair in the corner.) That can lead to costly repairs. Considering you can buy a new vacuum for under $100, it isn’t worth the risk to buy a used one.

13. Tires warns that thin tread isn’t the only safety hazard for tires – old and used tires can pose a safety risk. As tires age, they lose elasticity. As a result, the tread could separate from the tire, causing an accident. Even if the tire isn’t that old, it could have been treated poorly. Bottom line – you can’t tell a tire’s condition from the tread alone, so don’t buy a used one just because it looks good.

14. Software

Software comes with a product code, and most software manufacturers put a limit on the number of times you can reload it. When you buy software used, you have no way of knowing how many times the product code has been used. For example, if the code has a three-time limit and the original owner used it twice, you’ll only be able to load the software onto one more computer before it’s no longer good.

15. DVD players

DVD players often cost more to repair than replace. For example, a friend of mine took her DVD player to a repair shop because the DVDs wouldn’t load. The repair shop told her she’d need a new DVD drive tray. It would’ve cost $55 for the repair. She bought a new one for less.

16. Stuffed animals

Children love to stick stuffed animals into their mouths, dirt, and gooey substances. Since the stuffed animal has a fabric surface, bacteria and dirt are absorbed in the fibers. Do you really want your child putting that teddy bear in his mouth if you don’t know where it’s been?

17. Halogen lamps

Those old halogen lamps may look cool, but they’re a fire hazard. Anne Ducey, the marketing coordinator for Seattle Light, told the The Seattle Times that halogen lamps have been linked to at least 350 fires, $2 million in property damage, 114 injuries, and 29 deaths across the United States.
Instead of buying that retro-looking halogen lamp at a thrift store, look for new
CFL or LED lamps – they’re safer and cheaper to use.

18. Blenders

Blenders are subject to loads of abuse. (I’ve broken two myself trying to force-feed frozen strawberries and ice through the blades.) Not to mention most blenders have not-always-invisible old bits of food stuck to the underside of the blades and in the blending bowl.

Since you can buy a new blender pretty cheap – I just paid $25 for one at Target – the savings isn’t worth it for used ones.

19. Costume jewelry

Children and adult’s costume jewelry can contain poisonous substances like nickel, cadmium, and lead. The problem was so prevalent that testing and subsequent legal action by the Center for Environmental Health in 2004 led to the recall of more than 150 million pieces of jewelry for kids. While lead testing is stricter now for new products, the used costume pieces you’re buying may have lead or other chemicals.

20. Pet food and treats

A recent outbreak of pet food recalls has me worried – after all, salmonella causes serious health problems for pets that eat recalled food.
So why would I buy used stuff? Even if the food hasn’t been recalled, open bags of dog food and treats can contain bugs and bug eggs. Where I live, it’s not uncommon for pet food to become infested with roaches. The possibility of food poisoning and bugs isn’t worth the potential savings.

Those are the 20 things I would never buy used.

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

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