Buying something used vs. new is a classic way to save money. Garage sales and thrift stores are standard for this type of commerce. But these days, thanks to apps and the Internet, there are dozens of ways to buy treasures sellers want to get rid of. There are a few rules of thumb for effective ‘treasure hunting.’
Read more: 8 things to always buy used
How to find quality used stuff online
1. Explore the uncharted territory
Before you start buying, get familiar with the ins and outs of the site you are visiting. Some sites, like Etsy — where you can not only buy handmade items, but used items as well — are pretty straightforward. EBay can be a bit more complicated, with its variety of options for buying and selling and tricks to scoring the best stuff. Their Bidding and Buying Help page can help you get the lay of the land.
Before making a purchase, form a solid understanding of important details like shipping fees, shipping times and return policies. The information should all be accessible – read it so you know what you’re getting into.
3. Be discerning
From the old guard like Craigslist to newer players like local re-selling marketplace Wallapop, most of these sites offer seller ratings or reviews. They are all a little different. But before you buy from someone, try to figure out if this person is reliable. Look for top-rated sellers with reviews confirming quality merchandise, responsiveness and fast shipping times.
4. Look for a quality guarantee
While it’s pretty much a free-for-all on most of these sites, with sellers posting and selling their wares with no oversight, some sites, like clothing and accessories re-seller ThredUp, hand-select the merchandise on their site. If an item is less than perfect, the imperfection is indicated so you really know what you’re getting.
Read more: Beware of sketchy retailers on Facebook
5. Know you’re not alone
Buying items from individuals may be unnerving, but most of these online marketplaces have protections in place to ensure you are a happy customer. A good example of this is clothing marketplace Poshmark’s Poshprotect, which does not release your payment to the seller until you give the A-OK. And if you’re unhappy, they make it fairly to return your order (it has to be for a good reason, not just because you changed your mind). Local re-selling marketplace OfferUp offers an extra layer of security with its TruYou verification system, which helps to ID the seller as a “trusted” user.
6. Meet face to face & do it safely
If you see something you like on a local re-selling marketplace like Craigslist or competitors LetGo, OfferUp and Close5, be sure to meet the seller somewhere secure – you are meeting a stranger after all! Some communities offer designated Craigslist sale zones outside fire or police stations specifically to ensure the safety of these face-to-face sales. You might consider bringing someone with you, and if that’s not possible, let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be home. Also, do not buy anything until you have thoroughly looked it over and tested its functionality.
Read more: 4 ways to stay safe using Craigslist
Keep in mind too that your payment method offers some protections as well. For example, some credit cards offer purchase protections when used on online marketplaces to protect buyers from goods being delivered broken or not as promised. Take a look at your cardholder agreements closely to pick a credit card that has the best protections.
On the same token, you don’t have to buy just anything because it’s a good price. Spending for spending’s sake is a fast way to get into debt.