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Safety tips for buying used baby clothes and gear

Before you buy used baby clothes or gear, like cribs or carseats, check out our shopping guide to help you and your baby stay safe.

Expectant mom looking at baby clothes in nursery


Baby clothes & baby gear you can buy used

“If an item still looks great and is back on the market — via thrift store, consignment shop, garage sale or otherwise — it’s survived another child’s use, it’s durable and it’s ready for another helping of abuse,” says Kristen Hagopian, author of Brilliant Frugal Living. “It’s also going to be priced about 90 percent off retail.”

Those adorable baby outfits fit little ones for a few weeks at most, which means they aren’t subjected to much wear and tear. “Buying used clothes is a great idea to keep your baby budget down; hand-me-downs are even better,” say Shannan Carr and Lisa Cattie, premier baby planners with Bottles to Britches, PA. Sizing may be a little off because materials can stretch or shrink, but keep an eye out for wardrobe basics — especially coats, shoes and little-worn special-occasion items. You can even buy used cloth diapers. (Bonus: They become more absorbent over time, say Carr and Cattie.)

As for used baby gear, strollers are at the top of the list. “They are grotesquely overpriced retail,” says Hagopian, who landed her double jogging stroller for free on Craigslist because it was disassembled and had some dirt on it. A little water and cleaning solution later, Hagopian’s free, used stroller looked brand new.

Expert TipsOther baby gear that is safe to buy used: diaper pails, high chairs, bouncy seats, exersaucers, baby monitors and toys

Baby gear you should buy new

Though you can buy any baby gear used, it’s highly recommended that you consider buying certain items new:

  • Crib: “Used cribs may have missing or broken pieces that go unnoticed and could compromise your child’s safety,” warn Carr and Cattie. “If you must buy used, check for recalls on the crib.”
  • Crib mattress: “Mattress coils can be affected by leaks or tears on the mattress cover,” say Carr and Cattie. Buying new also avoids the possibility of bed bugs.
  • Car seat: The inner workings of used car seats that have been in an accident “may have been crushed or already absorbed and won’t work next time,” say Carr and Cattie. If you choose to buy a used car seat, “Stick to one with a copyright date no more than two years old,” says Hagopian. “Call your local fire station and schedule a time to stop in and have it installed correctly in your vehicle (bringing a plate of baked goods is enthusiastically encouraged). They will meticulously check out the car seat and install it so you know it isn’t going anywhere.”
  • Feeding products: Purchase all bottles, nipples, pacifiers, serving dishes, cups, utensils and breast pumps new, advise Carr and Cattie.

Safety tip checklist for buying used baby gear

Buying used baby gear and used baby clothes comes with a few extra steps — but your little one is well worth the effort. Follow these tips from Carr and Cattie and enjoy used goods with confidence:

  • Check the US Consumer Product Safety Commissions’s website for recall information (baby clothes and gear are subject to recalls).
  • Check clothing thoroughly for loose/missing buttons or snaps, broken zippers and loose threads that may pose a risk.
  • Make sure all parts and pieces are accounted for and check for loose/broken pieces.
  • Check for expiration dates. Some items (such as car seats) have expiration dates because the plastic degrades over time.
  • Check for corrosion in battery-operated items.
  • Give every used item a thorough cleaning before use.

Hagopian adds, “If you’re buying anything that will be used to guarantee child safety (car seat, stroller, crib paraphernalia, playpen, etc.), check for recalls — 90 seconds on Google will tell you you’re in good shape.”

To be even kinder to your budget, let your family and friends know that you’re all for living frugally. “When it comes to a new baby, everyone is going to want to contribute,” says Hagopian. “Let your loved ones know what you’re looking for and that you’re fine with used goods.”

More ways to prepare for baby:

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