Things Not to Buy Used

What Not to Buy at Flea Markets and Yard Sales

Secondhand shopping at yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, etc. saves you tons of money. It also nets some unique furnishings and fashions you just can't find at retail stores. But, there are some things you really should buy brand new, even if that means saving up for a while. Here are 10 things you should never buy used:

  • 01 of 10


    Woman moving mattress
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    There are so many reasons to avoid used mattresses. I'll start with the most disgusting. Used mattresses are full of the previous owner's shed skin and dust mite feces — and we haven't even gotten to bodily fluids. And, if the mattress looks too new and nice to have any of the aforementioned problems, the seller may be dumping it because it's infested with bed bugs.

    Additionally, mattresses do not last forever, even those from high-end manufacturers. If someone is selling her old...MORE mattress, that probably means the reduced comfort and support convinced her to buy a new one. 

  • 02 of 10

    Sleeping Pillows

    young woman relaxing on bed pillow
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    As with mattresses, buying someone's used sleeping pillows means a probable lack of support and a big ick factor. Do you really want to sleep on a stranger's drool? If that's not enough to put you off, male dogs sometimes mark their territory on their person's pillows. 

  • 03 of 10


    Buy new cosmetics to avoid bacteria and viruses.
    Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    If you buy used cosmetics, you may get a free gift with purchase: a virus or bacteria. There's no way to know if the previous owner suffered from pink eye, cold sores, or other contagious conditions. 

    Exception: At many flea markets, you'll see booths packed with boxes of new-in-package cosmetics. They're usually safe if the original packaging is intact and if the products aren't out of date. To check the latter, look at the bottom of the box, bottle, etc. for the batch code....MORE Then, use your smartphone to check the manufacture date on Cosmetic Calculator or CheckFresh.

  • 04 of 10

    Baby Car Seats

    Baby asleep in car seat
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    Never, ever buy a baby car seat at a flea market, yard sale, or thrift store. The seat may have been compromised through mistreatment or during a crash.

    If you can't afford a new car seat, check with your city or county. Many have programs that provide new car seats to low-income parents.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Safety Helmets

    woman wearing bicycle helmet for safety
    Scott Markewitz/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    Don't risk your noggin by buying a used safety helmet. If it's already been through a crash, spill, or tackle, it may not be up to protecting your head. Your brain is worth the investment of buying new.

  • 06 of 10

    Scratched Cookware

    stack of non-stick cookware
    Brian Hagiwara/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Old cookware can be a fabulous find. But, if the lining — especially a non-stick lining — is scratched or flaking, it's best to leave the piece behind. You don't want that stuff to make its way into your food.

    Exception: If you find a good-quality heavy copper pot or pan with a scratched lining, it may be worth the cost of having it relined. But, re-lining isn't always cheap and there aren't many places to have it done; you may have to ship it off.

  • 07 of 10

    Packaged Food

    The savings of buying food used isn't worth the risk.
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    Beware of packaged foods — canned, bagged, or boxed — at flea market booths and yard sales.

    At yard sales, you may be buying food exposed to bugs or excessive heat; perhaps it was forgotten in a car trunk or salvaged after a fire. At flea markets, the food may be expired or even scavenged from a dumpster. A man in my hometown used to snag out-of-date Little Debbie cakes from the dollar store dumpster.

    Exceptions: It's fine to buy from specialty markets and vendors who offer gourmet packaged...MORE foods. It's usually safe (and delicious) to consume the bread, pastries, and cakes sold at bake sales to benefit churches and schools. And, when it's hot outside, don't think twice about handing over a buck to buy a cold bottle of water from the yard sale seller's kid who's manning an ice chest.

  • 08 of 10

    Portable Computers - Laptops, Tablets, and Smartphones

    Used laptops and smartphones can cost a lot to fix.
    Klaus Vedfelt/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are pricey, but you may not save a penny by buying them used. You may, in fact, be buying nothing but a need for pricey repairs. Portable devices get banged around and dropped, perhaps even dropped in a toilet if the device is small enough. And, aside from physical damage, you have no idea what malware and malicious scripts you're inheriting from the seller.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Over the Counter Medications

    Never buy OTC medications at a flea market or yard sale.
    Tetra Images/Getty Images

    Over the counter medications aren't expensive enough new to risk buying them used from a stranger.

    Even if the seller doesn't mean you any deliberate harm, the contents of the bottle may not match the label. For example, I frequently use an empty aspirin bottle as a pill case for various prescription drugs; it's easier than keeping all those individual bottles in my purse. 

    Even if the contents are still sealed, you don't know how it was stored. And, it's way too easy to glue a...MORE safety seal back on or inject something dangerous using a syringe.

  • 10 of 10

    Home Electronics

    couple putting flat-screen tv on stand
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    Buying used televisions, DVD players, and other media electronics is risky. Perhaps the seller upgraded, but maybe he's selling because there's something wrong. You don't know. And if there is a problem, fixing it frequently costs more than buying new -- if it can be fixed at all. The days when every small town had a television repair shop are long gone.

    Exception: If you spot a vintage gaming system like the one you used to have, go ahead and risk it if the price is right --...MORE especially if it comes with a stack of games.