Buying Used: When Older Is Better (and Cheaper)

by Shaunna Privratsky
Why Older Is Cheaper and Better photo

A higher price tag does not always mean better quality. Sometimes older is better and it’s often cheaper. We take a look at the many benefits of buying used.

With another birthday looming, I guess I qualify for the “remember the good ol’ days” camp. It seems like things were once simpler and money stretched further. I’m sure my parents faced some of the same challenges, but today’s society always seems to push to buy the newest thing.

I am not against buying new. However, I believe that many things that are considered “old” are definitely better than their new counterparts. Here are some examples of when tried and true triumphs over “latest and greatest.”

You decide if older is better.

Furniture is an area where older can mean much higher quality. Antiques and furniture from the 1940s to 1960s are sought after, mainly because of the solid wood construction and quality workmanship. Nowadays, high-priced furniture stores offer, at most, a thin “wood” veneer, which is usually made from various wood chips or outright man-made products. Pressed wood is another staple in mass-produced furniture.

When I needed a different dining room table, I discovered a wooden table with two extra leaves for a mere $50 at a thrift store. The Neo-classic style legs were painted mustard yellow but cleaned up nicely with a can of paint. The table was made in 1947.

I located a similar table made of wood chips and a fake Maplewood veneer. It was “on sale” for $189, with $40 for each additional leaf. I saved about $220 by buying the old rather than the new! I am much happier with my “recycled” table.

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Other “old” furniture we have in our home includes a cabinet with a drawer, a tall, thin bookshelf, two homemade wooden wheelbarrows that make darling flower containers outside, and an ottoman/vanity bench with a tag dated 1927. All of our furniture was bought used and in excellent condition; it only needed a coat of paint.

When we needed some deck and lawn furniture one summer, I couldn’t believe the prices! A set that we liked at Walmart was $399! Instead, I kept my eyes open. At two different homes, within a couple of weeks, I found a discarded wooden bench and two matching chairs. Based on the boxy, low shape and the thin metal strips to hold the cushions, I am sure they are at least twenty years old, but they’re sturdy and in great shape. The pieces looked like they were recently painted. I think the owners just got tired of them.

All I had to do was purchase three outdoor cushions, which were on sale for about $50. Now we have like-new outdoor furniture that will last at least ten years.

I still sew on my grandmother’s 1910 Singer sewing machine, which was passed down to my Mom and then to me. It only sews a straight line, but I can make curtains, drapes, blankets, quilts, pillows and even simple clothing items with ease. I recently completed a project for our three cats: new pet beds. The old machine has never needed repair. It is still going strong after almost 100 years of steady use!

I am not advocating that we throw away our modern conveniences. We should take advantage of the technological and modern advances that make our lives easier. Embrace the new, but don’t forget that sometimes older is better and cheaper too!

Reviewed February 2024

About the Author

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Visit her at The Discount Diva.

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