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New or Used Baby Equipment?

When Used Products Are Not a Bargain for Grandparents

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Collaboration: Grandfather and grandson assembling furniture
FredFroese/E+/Getty Images

When grandparents are equipping their houses for grandbabies, many consider buying or borrowing used baby equipment. After all, they reason, the grandchildren won’t be at their house full-time, so why invest in brand-new equipment? Although great bargains can be found in used baby equipment, grandparents should consider all factors before choosing to take that route.

Why Buy Used?

The major reason for purchasing or borrowing used equipment is budgetary. Most of the time, you can buy something for half or less of what it cost new. Sometimes you can pick up items of a higher quality than you would be able to afford if purchased new. Besides saving money, many grandparents are thrifty souls who like the idea of using something for more than one child.

Why Borrow?

If you are able to borrow items, that’s even more of a bargain. If you have more than one grandchild, you may be able to lay claim to some items that have already been through a couple of children, especially if the parents of the new grandbaby have their hearts set on a brand-new nursery. You’ll feel more secure in owning a piece of equipment when you know its history; sometimes the original papers are still around.

Why Buy New?

Safety is the major reason for buying new equipment. I recommend that you buy a new car seat unless you can get one from a family member that is almost new. Car seats have an expiration date, usually six years after manufacture. That precaution is because plastic weakens with age, especially if it has been exposed to extremes of heat, light and cold. In addition, when buying a used seat from a stranger, you risk buying one that could have been in a crash. Before putting a grandchild in a used seat, check the date of manufacture, which should be on one of the labels. Learn more about used car seats here.

Baby cribs also require caution on the part of the buyer. New cribs must meet rigid safety standards. If planning to use an older crib, grandparents should check carefully for broken or missing parts, as well as being sure that the slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that the mattress fits snugly into the crib. Learn more about used cribs here. You can also check for recalls on used cribs.

Other items are probably less critical than car safety seats and cribs, but you will want to avoid older items made of plastic due to the problem of plastic fatigue. Before actually utilizing any used item, it is a good idea to get the manufacturer and model number and go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to check for recalls.

Sources for Used Equipment

Although family and people you know are the best sources for equipment that you can trust, other sources can work. You can look for bargains online or the old-fashioned way.

  • Online Sites

If looking online, you will have the advantage of being able to look at a number of items without having to drive to each location. Sellers who post their equipment online will often post a photo, model number and other information which will enable you to check for recalls, user reviews and other helpful information without leaving your computer. Shipping will be expensive for most pieces of baby equipment, but sites such as Craig's List make it possible for you to look only at items in your own area. Ebay also has a search option that allows you to search for sellers within a certain radius of miles. Some Ebay sellers, however, do not allow pick up.

  • Garage Sales and Resale Shops

These venues require the most caution. You'll want to check items carefully for damage and for readable model numbers so you can check for recalls.

  • Classified Ads and Bulletin Boards

The disadvantage of classified ads is that they are usually too short to include important information, meaning that you have to make a phone call to get the information you need and then travel to view the item. Bulletin board notices may be more detailed.

  • Group Swaps

Some grandparents' groups serve as clearing houses for baby equipment, allowing members to borrow items at no cost. Perhaps you could organize a similar process in your Sunday school class or civic organization. An online community, the Freecycle Network, is designed to allow members to transfer items they no longer need to someone who can use them. Users join local groups and post unneeded items or search for needed items. Everything is given away rather than being sold.

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