The Smartest (and Cheapest) Way to Buy Used Equipment

Buying home appliances was stressful enough before the COVID-19 pandemic threw global supply chains into chaos. If you are lucky enough to find something that you like and can actually afford, it is likely either discontinued, not ordered, or stuck in logistic uncertainty.

For this and many other reasons, people are increasingly choosing used household appliances over new ones. But finding the perfect used refrigerator, washer, dryer, or stove isn’t much easier than buying a new one — it’s a completely different overwhelming effect. Here’s how to find what you need without losing your mind.

Why look at used equipment

Price is the most obvious plus for buying used equipment. According to the November 2020 Consumer Reports blog post, which is a great in-depth guide to the entire process, you can often get little-used devices with 50-75% off. If you’re willing to buy something older, you can get an even better deal.

Older appliances (think before the IoT) have more benefits than their price tags. They tend to have fewer components than modern versions, which gives them less chance of breaking. Plus, these components are generally durable and easily replaceable, so when they fail they don’t take the entire machine with them. Old appliances can still add to repair bills and flood your kitchen – they just don’t break in overly silly, unnecessary, often permanent ways like computerized ones. (Plus, an unexpected repair bill costs less for a $ 250 used refrigerator than a $ 3,000 new refrigerator.)

Recalibrate your expectations

Before diving, you should know that only a few used devices are easy to find. If you are looking for a cooker, refrigerator, freezer, washer or dryer, you can probably find a solid used model without much trouble. Used dishwashers certainly exist, but they’re a little more difficult to track down; smaller items like microwaves are so rarely found in good condition that you might be better off buying new ones.

In terms of style and aesthetics, your options will depend on what is popular in your area, or more precisely, what was popular in your area until recently. Most used home appliance sellers acquire their inventory as a result of refurbishment, so expect to see a lot of things that are pretty close to brand new, a lot of things that went out of style a few years ago, and not much more.

Find out the average lifespan of your device

Unforeseen breakdowns are always possible, especially with used equipment that knew better times. Before you buy anything, check its average lifespan so you know what you’re getting into. Generally, the more moving parts an appliance has and the more water it is exposed to, the faster it will wear out. This is why washing machines and dishwashers usually fail several years earlier than dryers, refrigerators, ovens and stoves.

Unfortunately, this is as specific as possible. Sites like Consumer Reports and This Old House list life expectancies for various categories of home appliances, but these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. The lifespan of an individual appliance depends on its make, model, age and, most importantly, its condition: how long has it been used? How well has it been cleaned and maintained? Has it been exposed to harsh conditions such as hard water, extreme temperatures, or buildup of detergent? These are just a few of the factors that affect its lifespan; the only way to say it is to take a close look, in person and up close.

Always shop for used equipment in person

As with all used products, you should only buy used appliances from people who know what they are doing. This means going to reputable local dealers and repair shops and avoiding the Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. (If you don’t know how to repair home appliances yourself, in which case, do it.) Good stores only sell properly repaired and / or refurbished appliances, usually with some sort of warranty – neither will you get from Craigslist rando …

Many establishments are listing their inventory online these days, so check out pricing, selection, and guarantees. (Don’t forget to look at pickup, shipping, and setup.) But when it’s time to shop, do it in person. It is important to check everything as thoroughly as possible: ask to plug the device into an outlet and make sure that all knobs, scales and settings are working properly. You can also ask what repairs were required to get it ready for use on the sales floor. Be sure to check for cosmetic damage, strange odors and alarming sounds, and anything else that makes the appliance difficult to use.

It can take some time between preliminary research and purchasing to find a suitable used device. But with a little patience and a little luck, you can get something that works like new for a small fee.

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