5 Things to Always Buy New

Rick Emerson, Author of "Zombie Economics," says there are some things we should always buy new.  He stopped by to share his top five picks.

 “Five Things You Should Always Buy New”

1) Safety equipment
Anything that stands between you and injury (or worse) is something you should buy brand-new.

Certain things are obvious: smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and other household items are the cheapest insurance you’ll ever buy. They’re also fairly inexpensive, even the high-end models. You hope to never need them, but if you do, you want them working properly…not left to chance.

Car seats for children should be an obvious “new” purchase, but a quick look online shows hundreds of ads for used car seats in the Portland area. The biggest danger with a used car seat is not the wear and tear or lack of paperwork…it’s that you don’t know if it’s already been in an accident, dropped, or has otherwise sustained a hard shock. (Even the owner might not know.) Like a lot of safety equipment, car seats are often good for one impact only….after that, they might look intact while having hidden internal damage which makes them unsafe in the future.

For the same reason, bicycle helmets, other safety headgear (or anything made to protect you from an impact) should always be purchased brand new.

2) Software
This is becoming less of an issue, because more and more software is purchased online (or as an app), but there are still a lot of programs out there that come on a disc….this is especially common at garage sales and second-hand stores. The biggest issue with buying used software is this: a lot of programs need to be activated with a code or serial number (usually written on the disc or the packaging). To fight piracy, there’s usually a limit to how many times these numbers can be used, or how many computers they can be used on. With used software, you might get home, put in that copy of Virtual Ant Farm, enter the number, and it see a message which says (basically) “Hello, pirate…we’re not going to let you install this.” Software is getting less and less expensive, so you’re better off sticking with something new.

3) Bedding
A lot of people don’t have to be told about this, because the whole idea of used bedding (or a used mattress) gives them the screaming heebie-jeebies. But all those used mattress sets and second-hand pillows are selling to somebody. A lot of people go right to the issue of bedbugs, and while that can definitely be a problem (especially in certain parts of the country), an equally-big concern is one you might not notice right away. Mattresses and bedding have the strange ability (almost a superpower) to wait a few months and then release the cigarette smell, or pet smell, or whatever was in the previous owner’s house. Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s humidity…and sometimes it never happens at all. Regardless, it’s nothing you want to gamble your peaceful sleep on.

If you’re watching your budget and need to outfit a bedroom, start by looking for mattress sets that are the same size, but mismatched (different brand, different pattern, etc.) You can also save a lot by shopping for bedding at the end of a season, just like with clothing.

4) Vacuum Cleaners
This one is very tempting, because vacuum cleaners (especially the really nice ones), can seem so expensive when they’re brand-new. The thing to remember is this: unlike most other tools and appliances, there’s no backup for a vacuum cleaner…nothing else does what it does. So unless you live in a stainless-steel house, a good vacuum is crucial.

It’s also crucial that it keep working. If you’re not a mechanical engineer (who’s also a wizard), you will not be able to fix a vacuum cleaner yourself. When your vacuum goes haywire, you’ll have to get another one, because you can’t make the kids clean the carpet with tweezers. So at your first opportunity, bite the bullet, put aside the money, and get the best vacuum you can afford. As a bonus, that will let you get the right vacuum for your house. (Take it from someone who not only bought his wife a Roomba for Valentine’s Day, but bought the wrong model….you want to choose these things carefully.)

5) Laptops
This one’s a little tricky. On the one hand, computers are updated and revamped more often than ever before, which means that there are a lot of barely-used machines on the market, frequently in great condition. On the other hand, without a paper trail, you don’t always know where the laptop (or tablet) came from. Usually, it’s a legitimate device that’s just being sold because the owner has a new one…but not always…and it’s very awkward to ask for a receipt or proof of ownership when buying something used. To complicate things further, new tracking technology means that a stolen laptop can sometimes be found weeks or months later. While that’s good news for the owner, if you’ve inadvertently purchased it in the meantime, not only are you suddenly in a very awkward situation, but you might be out the laptop and the money.

A great way to split the difference: consider buying a refurbished laptop. Many stores and manufacturers now sell slightly-used laptops or tablets for steep discounts, and often with the same warranty as their new products. Sometimes these are display units, or items that were purchased as gifts, then returned. Apple really led this trend, and other companies are coming on board, selling items that are just as good as new, but at a considerable savings just because they’re technically “used”.
 

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