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8 Products You Should Think Twice About Before Buying New

How you can save the planet, while saving money.

Photo Credit: Ilya Shapovalov/Shutterstock


While you may already be purchasing new products that are deemed environmentally friendly, you can actually contribute to a sustainable ecology by buying used items, especially those that take a lot of energy and resources to produce. Of course, if you buy products used, you're likely to save yourself a ton of cash.

There are a few caveats to buying used products: You can get burned if you're not careful. Educate yourself about any product you intend on purchasing and know how to inspect it defects and hazards. Also, learn the value of any used item that still may carry a hefty price tag by checking out similar sales at online resale sites.

Before you head out to the thrift shops, check to see if there are local reuse or freecycle resources in your area. The Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City is a volunteer-run venue that sells used books, CDs, DVDs, and LPs they receive as donations. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland promotes solid waste diversion and conservation by selling used art materials, educational supplies, furniture, and home products. You can find such an organization or venue in your area by visiting the Freecycle Network, FreeLocal.org, Resale Shopping and the Thriftshopper.

Here's some products you should consider buying used instead of new.

Bicycles. There is little need to pay full price for a children's bicycle as they are quickly outgrown, and you can find a decent commuter bike for about the price of two tanks of gas. But you have to know where to look before getting a used bike. Be wary of private sales —especially for pricier, adult bikes — as stolen bikes make up a large part of the market.

One great place to look for mountain bikes and hybrids is at bike-rental shops. You'll frequently find deals in the autumn. It also wouldn't hurt to leave your contact information with a bicycle repair shop and ask them to call you if a bike sent for repair was abandoned by its owner.

I observed as an acquaintance sought and purchased a hybrid bike. The Specialized bike he purchased retails for around $500 new, but he found a used one for $100, although it needed a new saddle, tires and brakes. If you don't know how to spot worn items, ask the seller if you can can take the bicycle to a repair shop to have it looked over.

Exercise equipment. Weight-lifting equipment is a staple at yard sales, and you can also find some remarkably inexpensive weights on Craigslist. The quality of weights, especially those that are all metal, isn't likely to deteriorate over time; a good set should be indestructible. You should always check for broken and missing pins, bolts and fasteners. If the weights are rusted, be sure it's something you can clean without compromising their integrity.

You should be much more careful when buying exercise equipment with movable parts, such as treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes. Over time, they can flex and become less stable, and electronics are more prone to fail over time. If you're interested in buying an exercise machine, you should literally give it a workout and see how it performs. I recently found a NordicTrack exercise bike that retails for $800 for $100 on Craigslist and it had only moderate wear.

Musical instruments. Used musical instruments can be had at steep discounts. If you're intending to rent or buy a musical instrument for a child who is a beginner, it makes much more sense to buy one used. Renting a trumpet for a year might cost $200, but buying a similar used one in a private-party sale may cost only a little more. If the child doesn't take to the instrument, you can always resell it.

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