About three years ago we needed to buy a fridge and a washing machine. In true fashion, I went to a used white goods store and bought both of the appliances second-hand. At the time it was a matter of looking at the outside and negotiating price and delivery.
Now, three years later, I regret my decision. Let me tell you why.
Second-hand appliances become second hand for a reason. In our case we have (minor) issues with both appliances.
Our washing machine, for example, builds up washing residue easily and needs to be cleaned regularly. On more than one occasion has our washing come out dirtier than it went it.
This seems benign though compared to the fridge.
The fridge – no I should say fridges – has been annoying us to the point of starting to look at a new fridge.
The first second-hand fridge we got broke down completely after only seven months. The thermostat was broken and we ended up replacing it with another second-hand model. The second one freezes food in the fridge section. Here, as well, the thermostat is not working accurately.
In general, it’s important to keep in mind that although a shop offering second-hand white goods might check them generally for any faults but cannot do a long term check. So, even if you get your appliance from a shop, it doesn’t mean it will be fault-free.
With mechanical faults comes the history of an appliance: where has it been, how many times has it been moved, how has it been treated?
When you buy a second-hand car you should be provided with a history of that car. Appliances don’t come with such a history. Sure, your life might not depend on certain safety features to work, but flooding your house because of faulty pipes in a washing machine might also be an issue.
When you get a second-hand appliance you won’t know what has happened to it (unless you know the previous owner and can ask). And you can’t find out why it is being replaced. This not knowing can lead to minor issues (like in our case) or be quite severe.
With mechanical faults and an unclear previous history comes the question of how long the appliance will actually serve you.
As mentioned, the first of our two second-hand fridges gave in after seven months. The shop we bought it from had given us a six months warranty but that was is. We did end up getting a good deal from them again but having to buy a new fridge after such a short period of time was annoying.
Aside from our personal experience with two appliances, there is also one issue to keep in mind when thinking about second-hand appliances: energy efficiency.
If your power bill is something you care about than energy efficiency can be substantial. The rule of thumb is that appliances older than 15 years will use considerably more energy than new models (for the US, the energy efficiency of fridges has risen by 60 percent over the last twenty years).
Even if you are able to compare a star rating system, ensure that the scale is the same (which is unlikely since these ratings have changed as well).
The difference in energy efficiency is mainly due to technological advances in the last years. Fridges in particular have undergone major changes. However, general wear and tear in appliances also contribute greatly to their energy efficiency.
But it’s not all the appliance itself, I might add. Energy effeciency also has a lot to do with behaviour: how often is the fridge opened, what temperature is it set to, what is the ambient temperature, are there any heat sources around the fridge? And knowledge around those issues has changed as much as the models have.
The good thing about second hand appliances
Although I would personally never go second hand for an appliance again, there is a good reason FOR them: cost.
Buying a second hand appliance comes in at about one third (or even less) of the price of a new model. When you need a couple of appliances at once, second hand can be a great way to save money.
However, also an option before going new is renting an appliance. There are more and more places offering this service. It pays to make a quick calculation of the fee versus buying second hand. And, mostly, rented appliances are newer than second hand ones.
But then again, you could end up finding a great appliance second-hand, without faults and for a low price. And it could last you years. It’s all a gamble.