The excitement around a new baby is exhilarating—there is so much to plan and so many choices to make. While it can be fun sorting through all of the products, it can be overwhelming—and costly.
With a little know-how, you can find unique, stylish secondhand options that may suit you and your little one better than something brand new. Our breakdown can help you avoid expensive mistakes, stay safe while making a transaction online or in person, and ensure that you and your family can get the most of your used purchases.
Why Parents Buy Secondhand Items
Reducing both your carbon and financial footprint are two of the most prominent upsides of buying secondhand. When it’s hard to gauge what your growing little one will like, this can be especially helpful. Because of this, the economy of secondhand items is growing rapidly.
“The rise of resale is being seen across multiple industries and is expected to rise by 11-fold within the next five years,” says Kristin Hood, gear expert for used baby gear site GoodBuyGear.com and mom of two.
This feels especially true for parents, who want the best products for their kids for less money. “Children are expensive, and being able to get name-brand gear for great prices is a no-brainer, especially when they outgrow things so quickly,” says Hood. “Plus, keeping gear out of landfills and helping support the environment in a more eco-friendly way is important to many parents these days.”
Brittany Caito, a Raleigh, N.C.-based mom of one, used to turn her nose up at second-hand items. “I was one of those people that didn’t love secondhand items and always preferred new,” she says. “But when I became a mom and realized how fast kids grow out of things and how quickly your child advances into new toys.
Buying used became a really great option and a cost-saver too.”
Where To Buy Second-Hand Items
Most modern second-hand purchases begin online, even if the final transaction is in person. Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can help you facilitate an in-person meet-up. Whereas apps and websites like Poshmark, Mercari, and ThredUP bring a direct-to-consumer experience to consignment.
Despite all the modern takes on buying used, you can still go into consignment stores that specialize in gently used items for babies and kids. These classic shops are a great option for anyone who needs to touch before they buy, or for those who want expert advice before purchasing.
Items to Avoid Buying Secondhand
In the interest of safety, there are a few items that you should not buy used. Breast pumps and crib mattresses especially should not be bought second-hand.
Personal breast pumps are specifically designed for single-use only, and can easily be contaminated. But you can still be mindful of waste by recycling yours. Most breast pumps have instructions on how to do so; check the manufacturer’s website.
Crib mattresses are subject to a lot of bodily fluids—blowouts, runny noses, spit-up, and more. Since you can’t just throw a mattress in the washing machine, it’s difficult to ensure you’re investing in a sanitized place for your baby to rest their head. You want your baby’s mattress to be clean, so it’s best to skip buying these second-hand.
Items to Buy Second-Hand
Clothing and gear are the safest categories of used baby items to shop. Clothing of course encompasses things like pajamas, onesies, jackets, and everyday attire for your baby. Whereas gear covers pretty much everything else (except a few items listed above) including high chairs, playgrounds, strollers, toys, and more.
If you can score a crib or car seat second-hand, you can save some real money, but it can be tricky to navigate. For both cribs and car seats, try to only do these transactions in person so that you can really examine them before purchasing. If you are starting your search online, ask for relevant pictures before committing to meeting up, and skip buying cribs and car seats from an online-only reseller to avoid hefty shipping costs and safety risks.
It’s generally safer to buy new car seats, but there might be a circumstance where buying a used car seat suits your needs, such as one for a grandparent’s car. Car seats come with an expiration date, about six to 10 years after they were produced. Every car seat has a white label with the expiration date clearly marked.
If you are buying off of a site like Facebook Marketplace, for example, request a picture of the expiration date.
Ask the seller if the car seat has been in any car accidents; if it has, it should be disposed of. You can also cross-reference an image of the car seat from the internet against an in-person inspection to ensure all the details are still intact. Additionally, you will ensure the fabric parts of the seat can be removed or deep-cleaned.
Find out the age of the crib. If it was made after June 2011, there are standards in place to ensure that the crib is up to government regulations. If you have your heart set on a crib made before 2011, look to make sure that all crib pieces fit together tightly and that the slats have no more than 2-3/8″ space between them.
You should always check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website for any gear that might be recalled but especially check for cribs and car seats since there are so many added safety considerations.
Navigating Secondhand Transactions
Unlike purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store or a large e-commerce site, buying secondhand comes with a lot of unwritten rules. Things like forms of payment, price, and how you’ll ultimately get your hands on your purchase are all up for negotiation. While this may sound overwhelming, knowledge is power.
Once you know the best way to buy secondhand, you may even prefer it over buying new.
Making a Smart In-Person Transaction
If you are in a physical consignment boutique, inspect the item for any signs of damage. (If the price seems too good to be true, it usually is.) If you are meeting up with someone in person, but sure to meet at a neutral location, inspect the item, and pay via cash or a secure peer-to-peer payment app like Zelle or Venmo. And don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Getting the Most Out of Online Purchases
The sheer number of used items available online is daunting, but there are tips to make your search more targeted. First, do your research. What kinds of items are you interested in? What is the brand’s sizing like if it’s clothing or shoes? Read reviews.
If it’s a large purchase, such as a stroller, go into a retail store to test it out. Know the exact models or product names you are looking for.
If you are looking online or on an app, set keyword alerts for those products, brands, or styles, such as “Stokke Tripp Trapp,” “Mushie,” or “Liberty print dress.” All sites like eBay, Mercari, and Facebook Marketplace will allow you to do this. You’ll get targeted push notifications or emails telling you when those items have been posted. Some sites will allow you to “like” the item to save it to your profile, and you’ll get alerts if the price changes.
Kate Davis, a mom to one 19-month old who lives in Nashville, TN is all for buying second-hand clothing. “Most of my daughter’s clothes are from Buy-Sell-Trade groups on Facebook,” she says. Her biggest tip is to be specific when you’re buying and selling.
She suggests using (and scouting out) lingo like “EUC” (excellent used condition) or “OBO” (listed price, or best offer).
How to Negotiate
When it comes to negotiating, retail consignment boutiques will each have their own policy around doing so. For independent sellers and shops alike, always be respectful and polite. Before asking for a lower price, take a look at the data.
If it’s been up for sale for a while or is an out-of-season item, the seller might be more willing to accept a lower price. Know that shipping is usually non-negotiable and set by the platforms.
Washing Second-Hand Baby Items
Regardless of COVID-19, you should always take precautions when bringing a used baby item into your home. Be sure to clean the items thoroughly to rid them of dust, dander, dirt, and bacteria by washing items with soap and water, wiping them with disinfectant wipes, or tossing anything made of fabric in the washing machine.