Spotting a second-hand bargain

garage sale sign and bric-a-brac

garage sale sign and bric-a-bracSecond-hand no longer means second class when it comes to shopping. But how do ensure your bargain won’t fall apart the moment you get it home? And how do you know if you are paying over the odds? Easy, read our guide!

If you want to make sure you get a good deal on second-hand goods then you need to shop wisely…

Buying furniture

Certain goods are best avoided when you’re hunting down great deals on second-hand furniture.

When you’re looking for staple items, such as sofas, beds and chairs, check out the workmanship.

On the whole, pine furniture should be avoided, as this tends to survive one owner and that’s about it.

Avoid chairs with stapled joints, and don’t buy second-hand mattresses. They may look in perfectly good nick, but consider what you’d rather not share with a past owner.

In addition, be careful about purchasing second-hand cots. While these can be a bargain, give them a thorough inspection for signs of wear and tear to make sure you’re not putting your child in harm’s way.

Compare second-hand prices with new – unless you’re paying peanuts, buying quality, or getting a genuine antique – in case you might be better off going to a discount store.

Checking quality

Whether you’re looking for a vintage 1960s winter jacket or a bike for your kids, think about its inherent value in terms of materials.

Be on the lookout for hardwood furniture, branded items which would be expensive if you bought them new, and clothes made from luxury fabrics such as silk or cashmere.

Look for general signs of wear and tear, how the product has been maintained, and ask as many questions of the seller if you can. How long have they had it, how much use has it had, and why are they getting rid of it?

Don’t assume that because a product has a low price, it’s a bargain – employ the same value judgement you would in a normal high street shop. If it’s not suitable for your needs, don’t buy it.

Spotting treasures

Sometimes we don’t see solutions staring us in the face – and that’s especially true when it comes to second-hand shopping.
If you’re looking for a new set of shelves, don’t be put off by colour or finish. A finely constructed unit in bright orange could be transformed with a lick of paint.

The same goes for clothes. A new set of buttons could breathe life into a classic cardie and mean you can enjoy its cashmere luxury for another decade!

Where to draw the line

In some cases, marks, discolouration, minor chips and dents are fixable.

You can also live with damage if it doesn’t affect the workings of an electrical item, or if it won’t put your child off a toy (or affect its safety).

But other problems, such as wood worm in furniture (lots of tiny holes in the surface), rips in clothing that you can’t repair easily, stains on fabrics that won’t come out, and missing bits to games and toys, mean your bargain is largely worthless.

Don’t be tempted by a designer label on a garment that you are unlikely to ever wear.

Keep your common sense

Before buying really significant items, do your research online and check out potential pitfalls – that way you’ll be sure to get a good deal.

Finally, older clothes or furniture often have a certain smell and this can be hard to get rid of (although it’s not impossible). If in doubt, follow your nose!