Buying secondhand is a great way to save money.
But sometimes the potential costs outweigh the immediate savings. Thrift stores and yard sales have long been popular among budget-conscious consumers, but they aren't great for everything.
These days it's even easier to find what you're looking for used, thanks to Craigslist and buy, sell, and trade groups on various social media platforms. Whether it's cars, clothes, furniture, or electronics, it's never been so simple to save by buying secondhand.
Still, there are a few products you should stay away from no matter the savings, as there's a good chance that buying them used could put the health and safety of you or a family member at risk. Here are the top four products that you should never buy used—and the reasons why.
1. Motorcycle and Bike Helmets
Both bicycle and motorcycle helmets work in essentially the same way—a hard plastic outer shell surrounds a thick layer of crushable foam inside. After a crash, a the foam in a helmet may develop hairline fractures that could cause it to crack into pieces during a later impact, leaving your head unprotected.
Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing a used helmet's history. Even if a bike helmet looks fine on the outside, it just isn't worth the risk to buy one secondhand.
2. Car Tires
Much like motorcycle and bike helmets, the outside appearance of a car tire doesn't tell you what damage may be lurking inside. Whether from overloading, under-inflation, or being driven at excessive speeds, a variety of conditions can lead to invisible tire damage.
That damage could cause them to rupture unexpectedly while you're driving. As in the case of helmets, the risk to your and your family's safety just isn't worth saving a few bucks.
3. Car Seats
As with helmets and tires, it's impossible to know what a car seat's been through and whether any of its components have been compromised. And even if a car seat hasn't been through a harrowing experience, most used car seats won't include the label or owner's manual, meaning that you'll be left without important information like the seat's expiration date and instructions for use.
Aside from not purchasing a used car seat yourself, Consumer Reports recommends that when you're ready to dispose of a car seat, you remove all harnesses, buckles, and fabric, then use a marker to write "Do Not Use" on the shell to prevent anyone else from picking it up and unknowingly putting their child in harm's way.
The risks of buying a used mattress are nowhere near as severe as those of buying used helmets, tires, and car seats, but they could result in some serious headaches for you and your family.
First and foremost, there's the matter of bed bugs. While the adult pests are visible to the naked eye, young bed bugs, known as nymphs, can be nearly invisible, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bed bugs aside, mattresses soak up bacteria, bodily fluids, and dead skin from their previous owners. Pretty gross, right?
Finally, most mattresses generally only last a maximum of 10 years, and there's no way of knowing how long one has been used.
Your beauty sleep is just one more area where it pays to splurge on a brand-new product.