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Buying Guide For Secondhand Tools (page 1 of 4)

Secondhand tools can save you money without sacrificing quality. Learn how to find bargains on used, but useful tools.

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Buying used, or secondhand, is something that never really goes out of style, but it's certainly more popular now, considering the current condition of the economy and that frugality is now more common. People are usually quite proud of themselves when they score a good deal on a used tool. And buying secondhand is considered green because the item is given new life.

But how do you find good-quality used items, and how do you know you're not overpaying?

Start With Research

If you are completely unfamiliar with tool brands and the features available on tools, do a little research. Visit the websites for Sears, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Menards, True Value, Ace Hardware or any retailer that sells tools, and take a look at their new selections. Most websites organize tools in a straightforward way so you can easily find what you're looking for.

Head to a local store to get a firsthand look – many tools will be on display and out of the box so you can actually pick them up. You'll see the most-recent models, from low-end to top-of-the-line. Make notes on the prices and available features (especially relating to safety). This is your base from which to work when evaluating prices.

Keep in mind that these retailers may also have tools on clearance or closeout – items that are going to be discontinued, have been returned or are refurbished. We'll discuss that more later.
The next step is to look at online auction sites, such as eBay, to get an idea of prices for used tools. This gets a bit tricky because you'll need to really look at the age and condition of the tools as described by the seller. But again, make notes for a range of features and prices. Don't try to list everything you see – just make a list of price ranges for the tools, with notes on the variances in relation to brand. For example, for circular saws that range in price from $30 to $60, jot down what separates the bottom-priced tool from the top.

Head over to pawnshops as well. Pawnshops only buy items they know they can turn around and sell, so they won't have tools that don't work (everything they purchase is tested), and a pawnshop won't carry poor-quality brands. Also, the prices will accurately reflect the current value of tools in the marketplace. Make sure you visit operations that are members of the National Pawnbrokers Association, as these businesses abide by a code of ethics established by the association.

There isn't an official “blue book” for tools, but one site does tout itself as being a “blue book” for various items, including power tools: You can look up tools by brand and model. It's a subscription service, so it might only be worth subscribing if you're considering purchasing a premium tool.

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