/ Shopping

Do you risk buying second hand?

£5 sign next to second-hand clothes

I love a bargain, and there’s rarely a better one than a good quality second-hand item. Be it clothes or a camera, there’s a booming market for second-hand goods. But does buying second hand sacrifice your rights?

The answer is both yes and no. It depends on how you buy the item and who from.

If I buy from a retailer or online from an eBay trader then I’m covered by the Sale of Goods Act . So If I buy a pretty vintage dress it should be of a satisfactory quality when sold. However, I must also make allowances for the dress being second hand. So, if there’s a little bobbling of the fabric I can’t necessarily send it back and ask for a refund or replacement.

Buying second-hand goods from private individuals

It is however a different ball game when buying second-hand goods from a private individual. Buyer beware! Private individuals do not have to disclose faults; the goods sold just have to be as described.

For example, if I bought a camera lens from a private seller and it had mould in it (which is a bad, bad thing for an SLR lens) I may not be entitled to my money back – depending on how the lens was listed. If the seller simply said ‘SLR lens, Canon Eos fit’ and the lens is an SLR lens Canon Eos fit I’m unlikely to have recourse even though I won’t want to use the lens due to the mould. However, if the seller had written ‘in good condition’ anywhere then I can argue to have my money back.

Do you play the second-hand game?

It’s a difficult juggling game – maintaining your consumer rights while still getting a bargain – and not everyone wants to play it. Which? Convo commenter Carole likes to play the game:

‘These are austere times, so why not buy second hand? I have over the years bought many electrical items second hand, and to be fair I haven’t had any problems.’

David makes sure to properly research items before buying second hand:

‘Equally some things are well worth buying second hand if you first research what a good product/model is, know what it costs new and then look at buying from somebody with a good record on eBay. For example, buying a good pair of Hi-Fi speakers, and amplifier and a CD player is much much cheaper [than buying new].’

While I may be inclined to buy camera lenses and clothes second hand, I’m far more wary over big ticket electrical items like laptops. However, I did buy a second-hand sofa – although that was from a retailer, not a private seller.

What items would you buy second hand? Would you buy from a private seller or just from a retailer?

Which of these would you buy second hand (multiple choice)?

Cars, motorbikes (16%, 799 Votes)

Books (15%, 789 Votes)

Furniture (13%, 657 Votes)

Bicycles (10%, 503 Votes)

Clothes (8%, 426 Votes)

Jewelry and watches (7%, 376 Votes)

Hand tools (7%, 372 Votes)

Kitchenware (eg crockery, cutlery) (5%, 259 Votes)

Smaller gadgets (eg camera, mobile phone) (5%, 238 Votes)

Power tools (4%, 214 Votes)

Big kitchen appliances (eg washing machine, fridge) (4%, 198 Votes)

Big ticket electricals (eg TV, PC, Hi-Fi) (4%, 186 Votes)

Small kitchen appliances (eg kettle, microwave) (2%, 97 Votes)

Other - tell us in the comments (1%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,023

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As a volunteer in one of the major charity shops I have definitely noticed a wider range of people are willing to buy from Charity Shops, buying 2nd hand has become more acceptable and even seen as sensible.
It is a very good way of recycling through re-use and though I personally have had no real problems buying 2nd hand on Ebay I would always prefer to be able to handle the goods first and buy from a known entity like a charity shop even at a higher price. Gets round the sort of problems you had with the SLR lens.
However even on Ebay some sellers go out of their way to describe every fault or blemish and this must give people confidence as they usually achieve the higher prices


I love buying second hand – I really like the idea that one person’s trash is another’s treasure! I have lots and lots of books that were either bought second-hand or snapped up on freecycle.

I prefer second-hand furniture too (antique is probably too impressive a word for the things I’ve bought!). I furnished most of my house second-hand, a lot of which was bought from eBay. My top tip for eBay furniture is to check the item fully when it is delivered, while the courier is there – a beautiful table I bought was completely ruined by the seller who gaffer-taped the eBay information to the top of it. It was impossible to remove the tape without tearing off the finish underneath – I was so annoyed, but I didn’t discover this until after the courier had gone, so that left me with the option of arranging expensive redelivery (the original courier would have taken it back to the seller if I’d spotted it before he left) or accepting a very small partial refund from the seller to buy materials to re-varnish the table. I went for the latter.

But I wouldn’t want that to put anyone off buying second-hand! I’ve got so many gems in my house that I bought second-hand, having only one problem is pretty impressive!


I’ve just furnished my lounge for a grand total of £50 (including delivery) with second hand furniture bought from a charity shop. A great bargain! Buying new would have cost me a few hundred.


I would be wary about buying second-hand mains electricity items privately for electrical safety reasons. Best is to ensure that the seller gets them PAT tested (a standard and inexpensive safety check many electricians are equipped to do), or you have it done yourself if you decide to take the chance.


Good suggestion. One of our Conversation regulars mentioned that he does this for a charity, so hopefully the charities that accept electrical goods (not all do) are beginning to take the responsibility seriously.


PATS testing : most double insulated items without a heater element are unlikely to fail a PATS test or be unsafe as long as the mains cable, plug and case is undamaged.
Many electronic items rely on plug type adaptors or power supplies so no mains reaches the item itself – again check the power supply for physical damage .
If the mains plug isnt moulded on checking the plug wiring is essential – amazing what you find – and check the fuse is suitable for the cable size.

What is an issue with some charity and 2ndhand shops is that they get the items PATS tested BUT do not have the expertiseor resources to actually check the item functions correctly.
Testing functionality is what I spend most of my time doing, followed by cleaning, researching prices then PATS testing ( 20 secs).


I thought it was you, rarrar. Do you find any dangerous counterfeit goods, such as 3-pin mains fuses with no fuse or a partially sleeved earth pin? We have been discussing these on another Conversation.


I have noted the other conversation but decided it was too “hot” for me !
We do of course get European devices donated which have to be dealt with
Most devices use removable “fig 8” plug leads and I always make sure items for sale have a “proper” moulded plug version.