8 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed When Buying Used

Christie Haskell

Buying used is a great way to save money when you're having a baby. Craigslist and other used item websites can be an absolute godsend, but you have to know how to shop smart. For every listing with a great price and great product, there is a dangerous, overpriced, or completely un-usable item.

We already know you absolutely should not buy a used car seat (you can get new ones, safe ones, for free), and cribs usually aren't a great idea either, but what else should you avoid and how can you avoid getting scammed?


1. Check the price.

Often people will write, "I want $70 for this. It was $140 brand new!" but when you Google it, you'll discover it's more like $95 brand new. Maybe they did buy it for $140 (sucks to be them), but you need to know how much it costs new so that you can consider if it's worth buying it used after all. Also, knowing the current retail prices allows you to:

2. Haggle.

But don't be a jerk about it. If that $70 item really is $140 brand new, that's a pretty damn good deal. Offering $40 after they've knocked it down so much already is likely to just piss them off, and you might lose out on a deal.

3. Read reviews.

Pull up Amazon or Wal-Mart -- sites with lots of customer reviews -- and start reading before you buy anything. Look for common problems, such as "this buckle sticks" or "this part comes off" so you can ask about it, or check it out yourself BEFORE you hand over your cash. You may discover you don't really want that particular item anyway. Also make sure that the item wasn't recalled.

4. Look at pictures.

Now, this hurts people who don't have digital cameras or aren't super-tech savvy, but generally, skip anything where the buyer didn't put up pictures. Not just stock photos from a website, but their actual own pictures of the item. You can ask for photos when you e-mail them, too. Now, this isn't always a deal breaker, but can save you from driving 30 minutes across town to find out that the item was really torn, dirty, or not at all what you expected.

5. Deal in cash only.

Don't agree to checks, credit card, or bank info, or anything other than just cold, hard cash. It's just not worth the risk. They never need to see your ID or know where you live for any reason, ever. Make sure you have the right amount of cash, too. Makes for an easier transaction.

6. Ask a ton of questions.

It's okay to ask why they're getting rid of something if it's not something their child has outgrown. Asking for the dimensions if you can't find it online is totally valid, too, since after all, you're not going to be able to "take it back" if you discover that swing doesn't fit in your living room. If you are allergic to smoke or animals, you need to find out if anyone in their house smokes or if they have pets, too.

7. Check out the item before you hand over cash.

Though some people can act like you're being rude, it's worth your time to thoroughly inspect the item before you hand over the cash. Look for anything that could jeopardize your baby's safety or the quality of the product in general. If it takes batteries, bring them with you (and you'll know what type because you researched it, right?) and a screwdriver and insist on testing to make sure it works first. Also, SNIFF the item. I am serious. I almost bought a stuffed animal from a consignment store, but when I smelled it, I realized it had the scent of animal pee -- no thank you!

8. Meet somewhere public.

This is about our own safety. If possible, meet in a public place or make sure you aren't putting yourself in any danger when buying from a stranger. 


Now, I don't want people to think Craigslist is all bad -- they're absolutely not. In fact, it's invaluable and I've gotten tons of things for my daughter from there, and sold just as much. But there have been plenty of things I have passed on as well because it just didn't feel right, or people were obviously not being totally honest. I hope these tips help you make the most of your used shopping experience!

Have you ever had bad experiences buying used?


Image via ivanpw/Flickr

Read More