When Is It Worth Buying New Instead of Used?

by Travis Pizel · 22 comments

Seeing something out of the corner of my eye, I could almost feel his presence behind me before I felt him tap on my shoulder.

“Dad, can I show you something?”

I followed him up to his room, where he anxiously pointed to the computer screen. It displayed an ad for a 24-inch computer monitor, which was regularly priced at $319 and was on sale for $189.

He’s been saving his money to upgrade his monitor, and after missing out on a great sale a few weeks ago, he didn’t want to let this one slip through his fingers.

He clicked a few more times and showed me the exact one he wanted to order.

Here’s why he wanted to buy this one in particular:

  • It was $20 cheaper, because it was used
  • Supposedly, the owner had only used it for a month, so it was practically brand new

My son had the money to buy the monitor brand new, but he thought he’d save a little money and purchase the lightly-used one. Though I’m normally a big advocate of buying used, I tried to talk him out of it.

Here’s why:

  • We really have no idea how long the current owner had it
  • We don’t know what kind of condition it’s in, since the seller lives across the country
  • The item is fairly expensive, and if damaged, would be difficult to return
  • We would have to investigate whether the manufacturer’s warranty is transferable
  • It wasn’t that much less expensive

We went through each of my points, illustrating how buying used could be to our advantage — if the seller lived close by. If that were the case, we could easily try out the item and get a copy of the original receipt. That way, if anything wasn’t to our satisfaction, we could easily walk away. While purchasing over the internet, however, the unknowns and the difficulty of obtaining the same comfort level just weren’t worth the $20 savings.

After our discussion, he agreed with me.

I ordered his monitor, and he gave me his cash. Three days later, the mailman made my teenager crack a smile — even though he’d barely gotten out of bed late on a Saturday morning. After hooking it up, he excitedly showed me the brilliant colors and smooth animation that finally complemented the graphics card he got for Christmas.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my son had investigated buying a used monitor. The stereotypical teenager wants all new, high-end stuff. I hope I didn’t quash his desire to save money, or to look at used items. My goal was simply to improve his thought process and help him make the best possible purchasing decision.

Would you have let my son purchase the used monitor to save $20? How much cheaper does an item have to be to make buying used worthwhile?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Kari says:

    I recently bought a new computer monitor for $100 and am very happy with it. I like to buy new because I know where it is, and I know it’s insured.

  • nancy says:

    This would be great lessons for my grandson

  • Karen Kinswater says:

    I recently came to realize a few things about the purchases we make regardless of whether they are new or second hand. I’ve been “wrestling with dinosaurs” for a while now, replacing some appliances and “disposing” of the old “Dinosaurs”.

    One of them was that I replaced my TV of 25 years and my “stereo” of 32 years! I’m still laughing about the stereo. I couldn’t get rid of it for love or money, but finally found a thrift store that would take it if I brought it there. I wrestled with the speakers alone being about 3 feet high and about 30 pounds EACH! The 2 speakers alone barely fit in the trunk of my car and even then, I had to bungy them in! The stereo components (3 of them) fit in the back seat of my car.

    My point is that this was originally a $2,000 stereo and worth nothing now. You have to pick your battles.

    • David Ning says:

      It could be tough to get rid of a purchase that used to cost a ton, so kudos to you Karen for making the leap!

      The trek out to the store sounds like it was a real workout though!! 🙂

    • We run into that sort of thing with garage sales all the time..my wife prices things with her sentimental value in mind……I have to remind her that nobody cares if the toy was our son’s first matchbox car. All they care about is that it’s over 10 years old and used. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • I would definitely purchase a new item, especially when it comes to electronics and gadgets. I had a similar issue before, I bought a second hand desktop that was 10 years ago, for 1 week the computer was working fine but after a week the computer kept crashing! I tried to contact the seller, but he refused to talk to me anymore.

    • David Ning says:

      Yikes. One week is such a short period of time to enjoy the laptop! But then again, the cost may be worth it if the experience keeps you from making bigger financial mistakes down the road!

    • That was exactly the fear, Marie….you could never make the seller deal with the situation if it didn’t work or broke immediately. It’s all basically a “sell as is” transaction.

  • David Ning says:

    Good job there Travis. I think most will agree that $20 is well worth getting it new. Just the warranty alone, even if it was for that extra month, is worth something. And by getting it shipped, you saved a few bucks (at least!) on gas.

    • Thanks, David, appreciate the support……$20 (for an item that expensive) is well worth knowing *exactly* what we’re getting!

      • David Ning says:

        Yup definitely. And speaking of monitors, I noticed that my screen has 3 green lines that won’t change color now. That side of the monitor has always given me issues, but before it would just need to warm up and everything would be fine. Now there’s three lines that say green.

        Maybe I would have a “monitor-buying” journey of my own soon 🙂

  • Hmmm good point. For some things like clothes or furniture, it’s easy to see exactly what kind of condition it’s in after being used. For others, like technology, it’s hard to tell.

  • Michelle says:

    I would have gone with the new as well. Yes, $20 could have been saved, but with an expensive product like that I would rather spend the extra $20 and know what I’m fully buying.

    • David Ning says:

      And plus, there’s always some value in unwrapping something brand spanking new! 🙂

      If anything, you will get all the cables and hookups for different connection types but someone selling his used monitor may not include anything extra he/she did not use.

    • Exactly, Michelle….my biggest thing was the warranty….$20 was more than worth getting the full warranty!

  • I think in this situation it made total sense to go with the new item. With the little savings, and it being across the country…not to mention not knowing how old it truly was I would’ve made the same decision. It could’ve been just fine, but not worth the $20 in my opinion. I think it’s great your son was looking for ways to save money on the purchase. I actually think you didn’t quash his desire at all. I think it likely helped him see the thought process you want to go through when making a purchase like this which is good knowledge to have and knowledge that not everyone has or exercises.

    • David Ning says:

      I agree with John. If anything, you taught your son to think about the purchase and the pros and cons before buying, which gets him most of the way toward making sensible financial decisions in the future.

    • I’m glad we had the conversation, John…..it helped him see that buying something takes a lot of thought, even more than “should I buy it?” and “I should try to save money.” I’ll be interested to see how he approaches his next purchase!

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