A used good, or second-hand good, is a piece of personal property that is being purchased by or otherwise transferred to a second or later end user. A used good may also simply mean it is no longer in the same condition as it was transferred to the current owner. When the term used means that an item has expended its purpose (such as a used diaper), it is typically called garbage instead.
Used goods may be transferred informally between friends and family for free as hand-me-downs. They may be sold for a fraction of their original price at garage sales, in bazaar-style fundraisers, in privately-owned consignment shops, or through online auctions. Some things are typically sold in specialized shops, such as a car dealership that specializes in the sale of used vehicles or a used bookstore that sells used books. In other cases, such as a charity shop, a wide variety of used goods might be handled by the same establishment. High-value used luxury goods, such as antique furniture, jewelry, watches, and artwork, might be sold through a generic auction house such as Sotheby's, more specialized niches or privately-owned auction marketplaces.
Governments require some used goods to be sold through regulated markets, as in the case of items that have safety and legal issues, such as used firearms or cars. For such items, government licensing bodies require certification and registration of the sale to prevent the sale of stolen, unregistered, or unsafe goods. For some high-value used goods, such as cars and motorcycles, governments regulate sales of used goods to ensure that the government gets its sales tax revenue from the sale.
Secondhand goods can benefit the purchaser as the price paid is lower than that of the same items bought new. If the reduction in price more than compensates for the possibly shorter remaining lifetime, lack of warranty, and so on, there is a net benefit.
Selling unwanted goods secondhand instead of discarding them obviously benefits the seller.
Recycling goods through the secondhand market reduces use of resources in manufacturing new goods and diminishes waste which must be disposed of, both of which are significant environmental benefits. However, manufacturers who profit from sales of new goods lose corresponding sales. Scientific research shows that buying used goods reduces carbon footprint and CO2 emissions significantly compared to the complete product life cycle, because of less production, raw material sourcing and logistics. Often the relative carbon footprint of production, raw material sourcing and the supply chain is unknown. A scientific methodology has been made to analyze how much CO2 emissions are reduced when buying used goods like secondhand hardware versus new hardware.
Quality secondhand goods can be more durable than equivalent new goods.
Secondhand goods may have faults which are not apparent even if examined; purchasing sight unseen, for example, from an Internet auction site, has further unknowns. Goods may cause problems beyond their value; for example, furniture may have not easily seen bedbugs, which may cause an infestation that is difficult and expensive to eradicate. Faulty electrical and mechanical goods can be hazardous and dangerous. This is especially a big issue if sold to countries that do not have recycling facilities for these devices, which has led to an issue with electronic waste.
Types of transfers
Many items that are considered obsolete and worthless in developed countries, such as decade-old hand tools and clothes, are useful and valuable in impoverished communities in the country or in developing countries. Underdeveloped countries like Zambia are extremely welcoming to donated secondhand clothing. At a time when the country's economy was in severe decline, the used goods provided jobs by keeping "many others busy with repairs and alterations". It has created a type of spin-off economy at a time when many Zambians were out of work. The used garments and materials that were donated to the country also allowed for the production of "a wide range of fabrics" whose imports had been previously restricted. The trade is essentially executed by women who operate their small business based on local associations and networks. Not only does this provide self-employment, but it also increases household income and enhances the economy. But while many countries would be welcoming of secondhand goods, it is also true that there are countries in need who refuse donated items. Countries like Poland, the Philippines, and Pakistan have been known to reject secondhand items for "fear of venereal disease and risk to personal hygiene". Similar to these countries, India also refuses the import of secondhand clothing but will accept the import of wool fibers, including mutilated hosiery which is a term meaning "woollen garments shredded by machine in the West prior to export". Through the production of shoddy (recycled wool), most of which is produced in Northern India today, unused clothing can be recycled into fibers that are spun into yarn for reuse in "new" used goods.
United States taxpayers can deduct donations of used goods to charitable organizations. Both Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army websites have lists of items with their estimated range of values. Another way that people transfer used goods is by giving them to friends or relatives. When a person gives an item of some value that they have used to someone else, such as a used car or a winter coat, it is sometimes referred to as a "hand-me-down".
Used items can often be found for sale in thrift stores and pawnshops, auctions, garage sales, and in more recent times online auctions. Some stores sell both new and used goods (e.g. car dealerships), while others only sell new goods but may take used items in exchange for credit toward the purchase of newer goods. For example, some musical instrument stores and high-end audio stores only sell new gear, but they will accept good quality used items as trade-ins towards the purchase of new items; after the store purchases the used items, they then sell them using online auctions or other services.
When an item is no longer of use to a person they may sell or pawn it, especially when they are in need of money. Items can also be sold (or taken away free of cost) as scrap (e.g. a broken-down old car will be towed away for free for its scrap metal value). Owners may sell the good themselves or to a dealer who then sells it on for a profit. They may also choose to give it away to another person this is often referred to as freecycling. However, because the process takes some effort on part of the owner they may simply keep possession of it or dump it at a landfill instead of going to the trouble of selling it. It has been common to buy secondhand or used good on markets or bazaars for a long time. When the web became popular, it became common with websites such as eBay and Yahoo! Classifieds.
The strategy of buying used items is employed by some to save money, as they are typically worth less than the equivalent new items. Purchasing used items for reuse prevents them from becoming waste and saves the costly production of equivalent new goods. Motivations for purchase include conserving natural resources and protecting the environment, and may form part of a simple living plan.
Used cars are especially notable for depreciating in value much faster than many other items. Used cars may have been bought or leased by their previous user, and may be purchased directly from the previous owner or through a dealer. George Akerlof published a paper entitled "The Market for Lemons", examining the effects of information asymmetry on the used car market. Used cars may require more maintenance or have fewer features than later equivalent models.
Used books are often re-sold through a used bookstore. They may also be given away, perhaps as part of a program such as the Little Free Library's programs. Used bookstores may also sell secondhand music recordings or videos.
In developed countries, unwanted used clothing is often donated to charities that sort and sell it. Some of these distribute some of the clothing to people on low incomes for free or at a very low price. Others sell all of the collected clothing in bulk to a commercial used clothing redistributor and then use the raised funds to finance their activities. In the U.S., almost 5 billion pounds of clothing is donated to charity shops each year. Only about 10% of it can be re-sold by the charity shops. About a third of the donated clothing is bought, usually in bulk and at a heavy discount, by commercial dealers and fabric recyclers, who export it to other countries. Some of the used clothes are also smuggled into Mexico.
Used clothing unsuitable for sale in an affluent market may still find a buyer or end-user in another market, such as a student market or a less affluent region of a developing country. In developing countries, such as Zambia, secondhand clothing is sorted, recycled, and sometimes redistributed to other nations. Some of the scraps are kept and used to create unique fashions that enable the locals to construct identity. Not only does the trade represent a great source of employment for women as well as men, but it also supports other facets of the economy: the merchants buy timber and other materials for their stands, metal hangers to display clothing, and food and drinks for customers. Carriers also find work as they transport the garments from factories to various locations. The secondhand clothing trade is central to the lives of many citizens dwelling in such countries. A dress agent will often deal with a buyer and seller directly, taking unwanted clothes that still have value, and reselling them in a shop.
Importation of used clothing is sometimes opposed by the textile industry in developing countries. They are concerned that fewer people will buy the new clothes that they make when it is cheaper to buy imported used clothing. Nearly all the clothes made in Mexico are intended for export, and the Mexican textile industry opposes the importation of used clothes.
The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, argues that secondhand purchasing of furniture is the "greenest" way of furnishing a home.
Vintage guitars also became increasingly desired objects among musicians and collectors during the nineties and afterward. Some music stores specialize in selling used musical instruments, used copies of printed music, and related paraphernalia.
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- Atomic Ed and the Black Hole, a documentary film about a unique secondhand shop
- Auto auction
- Car boot sale
- Flea market
- Secondary market
- The RealReal
- The Market for Lemons, a book discussing a phenomenon that may make it difficult to maintain quality in markets for certain used goods, such as computers and cars
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Do not buy used furniture (especially bedding items or upholstered items) ... until inspected carefully for any signs of bedbugs
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