The Ultimate Guide to Buying Second Hand Furniture, Clothing and Everything in Between
11 Minute Read
Second hand. That term used to have the words ‘cheap,’ ‘dirty,’ and ‘less-than-desirable’ written all over it. But today, people are buying second hand items more than ever, especially when it comes to second hand furniture and clothing. And they’re not ashamed of it one bit. On the contrary, more and more people are boasting about the incredible deals they got. To really drive this idea home, here’s a stat you won’t forget anytime soon: the second hand clothing market is predicted to grow to $51 billion in the next 3 years (Source: Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company).
Now, buying second hand used to be reserved for people who couldn’t afford to buy new. But with increased awareness around the perils of fast fashion, the resurgence of “vintage cool,” and the shift from owning stuff to having experiences, second hand clothing shopping has become the new “new.”
That means a whole lotta people are not only buying second hand, they’re using it as their primary way to shop. And I’m not just talking about clothing and furniture – I’m talking refurbished iPhones, limited edition books, and so much more.
The benefits of second hand shopping are endless.
Compared to buying new, you save money and divert items from going to the trash when you buy second hand. This is super important because once something makes it to the landfill, their raw materials no longer have any value. Shopping second hand also allow you to halt on your demand on the ever-extracting, ever-producing consumer market. You see, their primary goal is to never stop making and selling new products, which puts a huge strain on the world’s limited [yes! they are limited!] resources. On the contrary, second hand shopping is the embodiment of a circular economy, where everything always has a purpose and never becomes obsolete.
What’s the added bonus? Well, second hand shopping also happens to be one of the most sustainable ways to shop since you’re not extracting new resources to get what you need and want. Since the product already exists, you as the consumer are not adding to the pressures of extracting more and more resources from the planet. Whether it be a sexy red jumpsuit or that decadent West Elm sofa you’ve been drooling over for the past 5 years, a second hand product is there and ready for the taking. And you don’t have to feel bad about it since you’re giving this item a new lease on life, preventing it from heading to the landfill as its owner grows bored of it.
Now, unlike days of the past, where the only way to shop second hand was to go to your local Salvation Army, consignment shop, or garage sale, there are so many websites today that allow you to shop for just about anything – right from the comfort of your living room. Plus, they offer wayyyy more options than any single store can.
Here are the best websites for second hand shopping
[many of which you can also use to sell your own stuff!]
The Best for Second Hand Clothing
Poshmark is a platform for buying and selling second hand clothing and home goods. Sellers post their items directly on the website or on the poshmark app. Once something is purchased, they ship it straight to the buyer. Poshmark functions more like a social media site, where you like, comment, and share items that you’re interested in or selling. And with over 50 million users, they’re by far the #1 website for buying second hand clothing.
Things to know: Poshmark has a money-back guarantee for items you receive that aren’t what you thought you were getting. But outside of that, they don’t allow returns unless the seller specifically allows it.
Unlike Poshmark, Swap is an online second hand store that handles it all. They have a physical warehouse where all items are sent, inspected, photographed, shipped. They function more like a traditional online retailer, and carry all kinds of second hand clothing, along with shoes and toys too.
What makes them great? You get free shipping on orders over $60. They also accept returns (while most local thrift stores don’t). And they pay for return shipping if something doesn’t fit.
Similar to Poshmark, Depop.com is a direct buying-and-selling platform with a bunch of social media features. You can like, share, buy and sell items directly from other users on the app without needing a middleman or warehouse to facilitate the sale.
Things to know: Because you buy items directly from the seller, returns are at the seller’s discretion. However, Depop does allow refunds for items different from what the listing described.
Known as the largest online second hand shop, thredUP adds 15,000 gently used items every single day. And all of their items are inspected, photographed, and listed by the thredUP staff.
Things to know: ThredUP offers free return shipping minus a $1.99 restocking fee.
What makes them different? For items that aren’t like new (missing tags, buttons or hardware, or in need of some DIY action), thredUP offers rescue boxes where you can select a size and how many items you want, and they’ll send you a very inexpensive box filled with potential! They also have goody boxes where you can take a quick style quiz and receive 10 items in your size that are in great condition.
The Best for Second Hand Furniture (and other household goods)
AptDeco is a simple, safe, and inexpensive way to buy second hand furniture. They handle everything between the buyer and seller, including housing and shipping the items. When their staff picks up an item from the seller, they inspect it to ensure there aren’t any surprises, giving customers the confidence that no one is pulling a fast one on them. AptDeco also issues refunds for any items that never come (for whatever reason), are the wrong item, or don’t match the listing.
Things to know: While Aptdeco doesn’t offer returns for something if you decide you just don’t like it, they offer free reselling of the item on their site (meaning you don’t have to pay them a seller fee) as long as you list it within 30 days of receiving it. Currently, AptDeco is only for those living in and around the NYC metro area. Click here to see a full list of where they ship.
Kaiyo handles the scary stuff for both buyer and seller. They pick up good-quality, second hand furniture from their sellers and inspect and clean it to make sure there aren’t any questionable stains or bed bug situations going on. Then they photograph the furniture and post it on their site, usually for about 50% off the original price.
What makes them great? Kaiyo’s staff will deliver and assemble the second hand furniture for you. You can return items for any reason with a $20-$40 restocking fee. Kaiyo caters to many areas in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
Chairish specializes in unique statement pieces that are pricier than your standard second hand furniture shop, but is still cheaper than buying something completely new. They have the option of picking up your item directly from the seller (if they’re local), or they can handle the shipping if the seller isn’t located near to you. Their return window is two days, but they handle the return shipping.
Oh Craigslist…how I love thee! Craigslist is a 100% free website where you can buy and sell just about anything. Not only is it a great place to find local second hand furniture, but you can also find things like plant pots, movers, used-but-in-perfect-condition TVs, and so much more. And the best part about it is: there are no commission or listing fees, so it’s accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Things to know: Because Craigslist is a direct transaction between buyer and seller, returns are determined by the seller and they’re not obligated to anything. It’s also important to be careful of scammers since Craigslist holds no responsibility for any part of the transaction. And, especially as a woman, it’s important to meet in safe places or to take a buddy with you if you’re collecting something from the seller or directly from their home.
The Best Place to Buy Second Hand Miscellaneous Items (books, electronics, etc.)
I used to look at eBay as the poor loser in the eBay-Amazon fight to dominate the online shopping space. But eBay has actually become my favorite place to buy second hand books online. eBay sells all kinds of new and used items. Use their Buy-It-Now option or try an auction, where you can offer a price and the seller can choose if to accept it or not.
What makes them great? eBay has a money-back guarantee and customer service support, so if there’s anything wrong with your order, they can help you rectify the situation.
If you love to read but don’t wanna spend $15 bucks on a new copy, or if, like myself, you enjoy giving an old book a new life, thriftbooks is your new jam. They carry any book you can think of, including cookbooks and textbooks (which are almost always outrageously overpriced when purchased new). It is such a big platform that almost every listing has multiple copies in various conditions. So you can select which condition you want with price tags anywhere from $1 and up.
Amazon, oh Amazon…how the love-hate relationship continues. Amazon.com has a second hand side to their platform, where you can find used versions of their listings. And if you wanna browse exclusively from their second hand items, you can select the “Amazon Warehouse” category from the drop-down menu on the left of the search bar. Here you can find pretty much anything you can think of.
Best for Second Hand Cars
Cars.com is a great platform for finding second hand cars. You start out by defining your search with your max price, new or used, brand, type of car, and how far you are willing to travel. Each listing has an asking price, car mileage, and a vehicle history report (so you know what you’re getting). Once you’ve decided on your new baby, you contact the seller and can see it in person before buying.
Autotrader is very similar to Cars.com, but some people simply prefer one platform over the other. Both of these sites feature a search engine for certified, pre-owned vehicles. A technician has inspected them, so you can feel extra comfortable with what you’re buying.
[P.S. You can also find second-hand cars on eBay and Craigslist]
How about second hand furniture and second hand clothing for freeeeeee?
Buy Nothing Project
The Buy Nothing Project is just about the best damn thing since the invention of sliced bread. I’ve given away countless second hand items and received a whole bunch, too – absolutely free! I’m talking air-conditioning units, ceiling fans, sofas, dining tables . . . the works! The second hand items are listed through location and neighborhood-specific Facebook groups. For example, I’m part of the Buy Nothing Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY group. And the reason it’s so location-centric is to ensure that collecting and giving away items is easy, close, and convenient for everyone. And the best part is: it doesn’t cost you a thing. Instead, it’s goal is to create a shared, gift economy.
Bunz is a trading app that, like Poshmark and Depop, has a lot of social media features. After creating a profile, you can post second hand items that you’re interested in giving or trading for other items. It’s mostly predominant in Canada, but has branched out to a few major cities in the U.S.
So now that you know alllll about this second hand magic, which one of these websites are you gonna try out first?