Why You Should Only Buy Pre-Owned Products

Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

My New Year’s resolution is to commit to, in all circumstances, save for a few exceptions, forgoing new products in favor of purchasing used ones.

Why purchase pre-owned products? Here are a few reasons:

You Save Money

My parents gave me some money for Christmas, so I decided I wanted to buy a Peak Design 20L backpack for myself. I’ve wanted one for years and I’m starting a YouTube channel for work, so it seemed like the perfect time.

I could have gotten on the Peak Design website or Amazon to purchase their backpack for the crispy price of $259.95 (not including shipping), but I had a better idea.

Instead, I purchased a used Peak Design 20L backpack on eBay. How much did I pay? $182.98. (cha-ching! $78, or 9 Chipotle bowls, saved).

Oh, but it’s used, right? Surely it’s going to have rips or tears. At the very least, it won’t be lovely and new. Right?

Wrong. The backpack I purchased was sold as a refurbished unit by Peak Design themselves. It was in fantastic condition. It is still in excellent condition. The bag I received clearly had either never been worn or never been worn outside. It came packaged with all the accompanying bubble wrap and bubble inserts inside.

It’s also easy on your wallet because once you know where and how to buy used goods, it’s easy to get started selling your own well-loved possessions once they’ve served their purpose in your life

You Become Less Consumerist

Buying new stuff is an experience. You get to go into the gleaming store with the shiny white displays and browse aisle after aisle of products. Everything is new and trendy. You grab a cart and hem and haw over what you want.

What you do end up buying comes in such swanky packaging. Ever since Apple, consumer packaging has become fancy and enjoyable. Unwrapping new things feels like unwrapping a gift or a special treat just for yourself.

Hello! Your new phone says to you. A rush of dopamine hits your brain.

Buying used, on the other hand, typically isn’t fun. Yes, you are saving a crapload of money, but consignment shops are often cramped (to say nothing of thrift stores). eBay and other used product websites aren’t nearly as fun to shop on as Amazon is (and they don’t come with two-day shipping). It doesn’t give you the same rush Target does.

When people say America is consumerist, this is what they mean. We don’t buy new things because we need new things; we buy new things for the rush. In America, people consider shopping a leisure activity. Shopping is a drug, and America has perfected the formula.

The people pushing the drug, Amazon and Macy’s and Target and every other big box store, know that the more potent they make the drug the more they can charge for it. Shopping is no longer about finding an item you need, but about selling the rush.

Like any drug, you need to detox from consumerism. The purpose of shopping isn’t to get a rush; it’s to acquire a physical item you need. Shopping is not a hobby. Shopping is an errand. We forgot that. Certainly, it would be nice if this errand were also enjoyable, but that’s not the point.

Once you’re detoxed from shopping, you’ll be horrified to realize just how much time you wasted chasing that high. I know I was.

How much better would your life be if every minute you’ve ever spent shopping had been spent taking a walk outside? Or reading a book? Or anything other than shopping?

Getting Gifts Becomes Special Again

Once you’re detoxed from consumerism, receiving gifts becomes a special event. When you routinely buy new things for yourself from stores, getting a gift feels kind of like any other day. When you don’t often give yourself the rush of a new product, getting one from someone else feels truly special.

It also becomes more special because when you don’t purchase new things, you merely buy things less often. This is for a couple of reasons, such as the products being less emotionally appealing and reduced availability of used goods in the first place.

It’s Better for the Environment

Buying a used gasoline-fueled car is actually better for the environment than purchasing a new Prius or Tesla.
Fast Company

Buying a pre-owned product is always, always, always greener than buying a new product of the same kind. When you buy a new product, the environmental cost of the product includes all the materials of the product, plus any pollution required to acquire and process those raw materials. For used goods, on the other hand, the only environmental cost you incur is the cost of getting it from its old owner to you.

When you buy something used, you’re also keeping it out of a landfill, where it pollutes the soil and air and takes hundreds of years to break down.

us, leaving garbage everywhere

My favorite example of this is clothing. People often don’t know this, because they fuss about automobiles and greenhouse gases, but clothing is a massive pollutant in America. The dyes in modern clothing are toxic and poison soil and the water supply. Clothing is worn on average three times before people dispose of it. All this clothing fills up landfills. Billions of dollars a year are spent making clothes that end up in landfills.

On average each American throws away roughly 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles per year, equivalent in weight to more than 200 men’s T-shirts. 
Huffington Post, We Buy A Staggering Amount Of Clothes, and Most Of It Ends Up In Landfills

Another lovely quote from that article?

Fashion is considered to be one of the most polluting industries in the world.

Not to mention all the people across the globe trapped in abusive labor situations making this clothing that ends up in the ground. Where do you think their job motivation levels are at?

“We are so happy to be making shoes that will get worn like four times before being thrown away. Oh, and they cost more than our annual salary.”

So how can you save the water supply, soil supply, landfills, save money, not support punishing overseas labor practices, and support small businesses? Buy your clothes pre-owned.

These principles apply to any category of used goods, from kitchen appliances to clothing to consumer electronics. Buying a product used is always greener than buying it new.

“But what about product quality? Bugs? Warranties?”

There are two types of ways to buy used products: buy fixer-upper things at thrift stores and invest your time and energy into creating something new for you.

Or… just buy things that are like new.

People who are into #simpleliving like to thrift and fix stuff up. These people get a lot of attention, especially on YouTube. I have a lot of respect for people who take their time to save stuff from the landfills and make it their own by doing this.

However, I, and a lot of other people like me, have neither the time nor the will to be buying stuff and fixing it up. We want the experience of a brand-new item.

Luckily, there’s an entire world of barely-used like-new things you can purchase for yourself. They often come with quality guarantees, manufacturer warranties, and other benefits new products come with.

Take eBay, for instance. There are many companies that sell their returns and refurbished items on eBay (like Peak Design, mentioned earlier) and include warranties with them. eBay itself also offers a warranty program. If you consider warranties to be an essential part of your purchase, you can purchase used products with warranties easily.

Another used product concern a lot of people have is about bugs, especially with respect to used furniture. That used couch/bed/desk could have bedbugs! Termites! You never know what horrors lurk in used furniture… right?

Also wrong. Perhaps you run these risks when you pick up furniture from the curb, but consignment shops that sell furniture often have procedures to check for these things. In Ohio, stores that sell used furniture are not allowed to sell used furniture until it has been chemically treated for pests, regardless of whether the store owners think there are any. (Our consignment stores also have lemon laws for things which can be faulty, like electronics). It is for this reason that I intend to buy all my furniture from consignment shops for as long as possible.

For any used product that you think is gross (mattresses, gym clothes), there is somewhere you can find it that it is not only not gross, but indeed, in like-new condition.

Are There Any Exceptions?

In my experience, most people have some category of purchases that they could not stand to purchase used.

For me, it’s consumer electronics. Computers, smartphones, tablets, e-readers, cameras, you name it. Electronics and gadgets are both part of my job and a beloved hobby. I love to have the latest gadgets when they come out.

The downside of this is that it’s really, really hard to find the latest version of electronic products used.

The category of purchases you would never make used differs for everyone. For many people, it’s mattresses. I’m young and can sleep on a crap mattress, but many people who are older and have more resources are willing to pay for a fresh new mattress for their back.

Maybe you’re six and a half feet tall and three hundred pounds, so consignment shops don’t have your size. Maybe your hobby is to collect specialty kitchenware, so the weird and unusual items you love can’t be found used.

Don’t beat yourself up if there are some things you just won’t buy used. But really, for everything else, buying used is good for the environment, your wallet and your self.


For 2019, I am going to give up shopping for new products in the following categories:

  • Clothing. There are so many consignment and thrift shops in the world. If they don’t have something that tickles my fancy, online used clothing retailers like thredUP should have what I’m looking for.
  • Kitchenware and household supplies. A consignment shop called New Uses in my area has a large supply of rice cookers, mini fridges, wine chillers, and other kitchenware in stock. If they don’t have what I’m looking for, I can check eBay.
  • Accessories for my electronics. There is no reason to buy a $40 phone case when I can find that same $40 phone case pre-owned in like-new condition for $12.
  • Sporting goods. A consignment shop in my area called Play It Again Sports has a wide selection of sporting goods. If I can’t find what I need there, I can find it on eBay. Since I’m not currently playing any sports at a competitive level, used equipment is more than good enough for me.
  • Household decorations (rugs, floor mats, vases, etc). This is going to be a challenge since these things are highly subject to both trends and personal preference. It may take me longer to decorate my room, but I think my wallet and the environment will thank me for it. I am making an exception for paintings, which I buy directly from the artist when I buy new.

In addition, I will give up shopping in person for consumer electronics. I’m personally vulnerable to impulsive tech purchases. If I want a new tech toy, I have to buy it online and wait for it to arrive. If I’m not willing to wait, I don’t really need it.

In addition, I will also restrict myself from shopping in stores with new products wherever possible. When I need more shampoo, soap, or other disposable items, I’ll purchase them online and have them shipped. Some say this is worse for the environment, but whenever I go into the store, I see the products there are both more expensive and not as suited to my needs. In addition, the aisles and aisles of products drag me away from what I came in for, and I end up making all kinds of other purchases as well.

Exceptions:

  • Items I can’t find used. If I have to have a particular item (such as a particular microphone for my camera) and I am not able to find it used, I will purchase it from Amazon, probably.
  • Novelty clothes. This is any kind of clothing that is branded, such as a Supernatural T-shirt or Rick and Morty pajamas. I want to incorporate more novelty clothes into my closet, but it’s difficult to find them pre-owned.
  • Socks, bras, underwear. These will be purchased on Amazon at a low cost instead of going into a store. (This does not include sports bras. I’ve found more than a few at local consignment shops).
  • Surprise gifts from others. I can’t ask someone to buy me these things, but if they do it without telling me I am allowing myself to keep it. Is this not the point of a gift, after all?
  • Paintings. When a piece of art speaks to me, it speaks to me. Mass-produced art in big box stores rarely speaks to me, but if I see an original painting by an artist or a print that speaks to me, I give myself permission to buy it.

Now, this does not mean I can’t buy things, or that I can’t spend a lot of money. It looks like 2019 is going to be the first year in a long time that I will have real wiggle room in my budget, so I’m probably going to spend a bunch of money on stuff I don’t need. But since I’ll get that stuff used, neither my wallet nor the environment will hate me for it.