Some people I know only buy things new. I get it; there’s a certain appeal about getting something brand new or being the first owner. But for me, purchasing some things used sometimes makes sense. Okay, let’s be realistic, I do it is because I can save money.
Many items are significantly cheaper when bought used. I’m not browsing thrift stores here; I’m looking for high-quality items that people are ready to part with. I’m more than happy to let them take the depreciation hit while I keep my wallet happy. I’ve managed to save tens of thousands of dollars total by buying the following things used.
For a few years, my wife and I didn’t own a car. We would use ZipCar or borrow our parent’s vehicle when necessary, but it was always a bit of hassle. Since we were saving for a home, buying a car was a major expense, so we decided to buy used – the cost savings just couldn’t be ignored.
We wanted a Subaru Impreza Hatchback. The retail price at the time was about $30,000 which we could have easily afforded, but a 3-year old one had a listed value of $18,000 in the Canadian Black Book. We browsed autoTRADER until the exact model became available and made a fair offer. Knowing how much I saved; I’m not sure I would ever buy a new car again.
When we started to search for our home, our realtor asked us if we were interested in new construction condos – it was a firm no. The price was obviously a major factor. New build and pre-construction condos tend to be more expensive than condos that are already completed. Some of the pre-construction condos had prices that were above current market value; it’s as they’re priced with future appreciation already accounted for.
Buying a completed condo also had some other benefits. The maintenance fees were stable, and the reserve fund was fully funded. The amount of space we got was also larger compared to new builds. Since we bought in an established neighbourhood, there weren’t many surprises. Everyone has an opinion about real estate, but buying a “used” condo saved us tens of thousands of dollars.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been buying electronics used. It started with computer parts since they were pretty expensive, but then I began to focus on cell phones. When cell phones first came out, I thought paying $400 for a new one was insane, so I bought used ones off people who were looking to upgrade. Now phones cost upwards of $1,000, even buying them used can cost you a small fortune.
Yes, I bought my gym membership used. About ten years ago, a guy online was selling his Goodlife membership for $200. Sounds crazy that I would PAY a lump sum just to take over a contract, but the details were too good. His membership was $16 bi-weekly whereas current rates were closer to $25. I did the math and figured it would take me about a year and a half to break even. I still go to the gym this day (well I try to), so paying upfront ended up saving me money in the long run.
Textbooks / books
Before entering college, I was warned how expensive textbooks would be. Every class required a textbook which ranged from $30 – $100. Even though my parents would be paying for my textbooks, I decided to try and find them used.
I was studying broadcasting and there was a job board available for students. I put up an ad stating that I was looking for used textbooks. In less than a day I was able to get all my textbooks for 50% of the retail price. When I became a second-year student, I sold any textbook that was still being used in the curriculum, so I almost ended up breaking even. I technically was up since I pocketed the money (sorry dad).
When I was younger, I loved to play video games. Heck, I still like to play video games, but I don’t have nearly as much free time these days. During my prime gaming days, I was spending on average $80 a game. That’s an expensive hobby!
To keep my costs down, I looked to buy games used. I knew that everyone would buy the same A-titles, so if I waited a month, I could probably get them for 25% off. Many retailers now sell used games, but if you look for them online, they’re often even cheaper.
Buying things used have helped me save a lot of money over the years, but I’ve also been smart enough to sell some of the things I no longer need. The key is to get rid of things while they still have some value. Sentimental value means nothing if you’re trying to make some extra money.
Barry Choi is a personal finance and budget travel expert at @barrychoi. He has been quoted in The Financial Post, The Toronto Star and more. You can follow him on Twitter: