Buying secondhand is a good way to score a deal on high quality items, while avoiding fast fashion. With so many resale sites like Depop, Mercari, Poshmark, and Etsy, it’s easier than ever to find a secondhand version of that perfect piece.
That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure you get a good deal from a reliable seller.
Smart secondhand shopping tips
- Look at seller reviews. Be sure to check seller reviews before you buy. If the seller has a substantial record of positive reviews and lots of feedback from happy buyers, you’re more likely to receive a quality item and good customer service. On the other hand, if a seller has mixed reviews and buyers make comments like “The item doesn’t look anything like the pictures” or “There was damage not mentioned in the listing,” it’s probably a good idea to steer clear, even if you think you’ll be passing up a great deal.
- Search for sellers on multiple platforms. If you follow a particular shop or seller on one platform, search for them on other second-hand sites too. Sometimes a seller will list an item from their Instagram shop on Depop too, at a much lower price.
- Give each item a thorough inspection. Before you buy, take a close look at the seller’s photos. Be on the lookout for stains and tears and think about whether you’d be willing or able to repair them. A closer look at tags and zippers can also help you determine the age of the piece, if the seller hasn’t added those details to their listing.
- Know your measurements. Many consumers hesitate to buy vintage clothing items online because of varied sizing. You can solve this problem by knowing your measurements. Measure your hips, waist, and bust, and keep the sizes handy while you shop. Many serious sellers understand the sizing struggle and will include specific measurements along with the size marked on the tag.
- Expand your search. When you are looking for something specific, you may need to expand your keywords as you search. Instead of looking up “Ralph Lauren Blazer” and giving up when you find no results, try searching alternative terms like “Ralph Lauren Jacket,” “Vintage Blazer,” “Double Breasted Blazer,” or something similar. Not everyone uses the same exact terms to list an item.
- Reach out to sellers. A good seller is happy to communicate with potential buyers. If you don’t see specific size measurements, for example, reach out and message the seller. They should be happy to answer questions about sizing or shipping when they come from a serious potential buyer.
- Mind your manners. Sellers can be your allies, but only if you treat them right. Don’t make unfair offers. Keep in mind that sellers have plenty of costs to cover just like any other business. Always respect the seller’s policies on returns and bundling items and be patient about shipping. You shouldn’t hold a seller responsible for post office delays caused by the pandemic or holidays.
- Make sure designer items are authenticated. If you’re looking to purchase high-end clothing, purses, shoes, and accessories, play it safe by purchasing from a site that authenticates designer items.
- Get help finding something special. Many sellers are happy to search out specific items for clients. Don’t be afraid to ask a seller if they can look for something specific for you.
- Check back with vendors you love. One of the beautiful things about buying secondhand vintage items is the fact that they are one of a kind. If you have a good experience with a particular seller, check their shop regularly to see what new items they list. You can find some real treasures this way, and you won’t have to stress about whether the seller does good business.
- Ask about returns. Some sellers are happy to accept returns, while others have a sold as-is policy that doesn’t allow for any returns or exchanges. Find out what the seller’s policies are before you make a purchase, and keep in mind that a no-return policy means you’ll need to do even more research about the item before you hit the “buy” button.
For more information
If you spot a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker where your report can help other consumers avoid falling prey to shady sellers.