/ 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 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.

if i get chance iwill buy second hand how do you know how long something in the shop ie comet has been there???

A lot of second-hand items are of a much better quality than new ones on the market.

I’ve just cleaned and changed the drawer knobs on a wooden chest of drawers bought more than 30 years ago second-hand. It looks quite different. It is what was called utility furniture so not of fantastic quality to start off with but definitely better than all the chipboard and melamine for sale now.

I’ve bought a lot of crockery to match my existing on ebay. Online shops that specialise in this have made it so much easier to match. You can also list requests.

The British Heart Foundation shops have lots of good furniture. If you are lucky your Council will list these shops for you so that you can take – or they can collect furniture. Sometimes there are also projects where you can get your furniture mended, re-covered etc.

richard says:
3 August 2013

The only things I’ve bought second hand are a car and a freezer – both from friends – both lasted over 20 years (car). The freezer is still working after 40 years – a bargain at £7

Coincidentally, my only major secondhand purchases a car and a freezer. My freezer was bought with my house 31 years ago and is still in the garage and still working. The 3-year old car was bought from my father at a real bargain price, but was nothing but trouble.

richard says:
3 August 2013

Oops forgot Ebay – bought 1000s of DVDs literally – had one non delivery – one wrong format – All others in first class condition – Saved a fortune

Anon the Mouse says:
4 August 2013

When I first moved out my home was only second hand things. I appreciated how expensive everything was to buy and was grateful to everyone that helped me to set up my first home.

But over the years I’ve gradually replaced some of those old items with new ones. And those old items have in turn been passed on to my friends and family setting up their homes.

I still buy second hand for smaller items, but the large things now match how I’d like instead of on a pure need basis.

Sophie Gilbert says:
4 August 2013

I have saved a lot of money by buying second-hand furniture, like a sideboard I estimate would have cost me five times more if I had bought it new.

Some of the pieces you find can also be much more stylish and interesting than new stuff, which tends to be very samey and ordinary from shop to shop, unless you’ve got megabucks to spend. I recently found a old coat stand that looks just fab in my hall and is so useful. It’s older than I and I bet it will outlast me. (Unlike the Ikea one it replaces, which was starting to fail. Ikea can be good for some things, but not for everything. Another subject.)

Plus if you buy from a charity shop everybody’s a winner. Just examine as thoroughly as you can before buying.

We have never bought a new sofa. All the sofas in most furniture shops are junk, the few that aren’t are preposterously expensive. I will make one some day.

Our dining chairs are refurbished (by my father in law), proper chairs made of genuine tree wood. Our dining table is also refurbished.

I bought bookshelves from Ikea only because it was cheaper than making them myself.

A decent chunk of my model railway was bought second hand. You have to be incredibly careful to read the details, and always assume the worst (if it doesn’t say this is the new model with the better motor, it never is!). Buying model railway stuff is a good lesson in eBay buying. Set your budget, never pay more than x% of the new price, check the details and the feedback, watch the postage prices, bit carefully (set limits just above obvious round numbers, for example). And inspect everything carefully on receipt and be ready to argue with the seller.

I buy all my crime fiction in charity shops and swap books with some friends after having read them. This means that about four of us read the same book for very little money and it is then returned to the charity shop to be sold again. I noticed the stock of books in charity shops has reduced with the rising popularity of eReaders. Are you able to swap eReader books with friends without swapping the eReader itself.

I wanted to buy a set of coffee tables last year and set up a search on eBay. I waited in vain for the right proper oak wood ones to turn up and in the end bought a nearly right habitat set. They were very strong wood and very cheap and I was able to collect them so I was reasonably happy.

Because I have very wide windows and have two windows in my living room I have to spend quite a lot of money on curtains. I tried for a few months to find second hand curtains in a curtain exchange shop in Marylebone which sold very high quality curtains but I could not get the right sizes also they had too many swags and tails with sets. I gave up in the end and bought cheaper quality curtains elsewhere.

I am really pleased to see how many Which? staff buy secondhand. I wish it became fashionable for our throwaway society to do the same.

Philippa Sutton says:
7 September 2013

I’m cautious about electricals and wouldn’t buy computer goods 2nd hand – too quickly obsolete.

Most of my 100os of books were bought 2nd hand – I used to be a real connoisseur of the 2nd hand book shop – but now I get them via amazon and other online sources.

DVDs I will always consider getting 2nd hand – so many people want to buy a DVD (or get it given) watch it once and then get rid of it. I’m very happy to profit from that. The only thing I check is that it hasn’t come down so far in price that I can buy it new as cheaply.

Clothes I would buy 2nd hand, but as I can’t get round charity shops (which are rarely wheelchair-friendly) I buy my clothes online.

I’ve just got some cutlery from ebay which I couldn’t buy new and would cheerfully get crockery from a charity shop.

We always used to get 2nd hand furniture, but again finding and inspecting it are difficult when you’re wheelchair bound.

I would also buy straightforward children’s toys from a charity shop, if I could inspect them first – though I’d be cautious about broken wires etc.

Sharon Dean says:
9 April 2015

Very informative, great advice for facebook sellers/buyers, i will inform my new group BUYSELLHALTON on facebook

Looking for new members 😉

les says:
8 July 2016

I use to love looking round charity shops but since I bought a tv and paid for it ,went to pick it up and was given my money back because the person on the till said to this fella give me more money and you can have it ,didn’t even put it through the till , given money back and she put ten pounds in her bag …this shop is one big joke