What’s not to love about buying second hand or, better still, helping yourself from someone else’s council clean-up? It saves you money, reduces landfill and sometimes you can score a bargain.
But before you buy, check out this Choice list of 10 second hand items not to buy: using any of these products without knowing their history or taking proper precautions could lead to serious injury.
What’s more, surveys have shown that recalled products still frequently end up for sale second-hand, so check your find on www.recalls.gov.au before you buy.
A mistake here can be deadly. In 2001 a man was electrocuted while adapting a soldering iron he’d bought in a garage sale for 50 cents. It’s because of this kind of safety risk few second hand or op shops now offer second hand electrical tools for sale.
If you do acquire a used tool or other electrical appliance, check that it has a valid tag or have it checked out by a registered electrical contractor or licensed electrician before you plug it in.
Car jacks already cause serious crush injuries and deaths every year, mostly from people using them at home to raise their vehicles for under-car maintenance (a big no no) instead of using a trolley jack and safety stands.
But many second-hand jacks are also dangerous because they don’t meet the recently improved mandatory safety standards. Some older jacks didn’t even pass the previous standard, so don’t take the chance.
Life jackets do save lives, no question. But in the past they were often so uncomfortable people didn’t actually put them on. What’s more, the most comfy designs were the ones that didn’t keep your head above water, which is a big problem if you’re knocked unconscious in a boating accident. If you buy second-hand, you could be buying these problems.
So particularly when it comes to your kids, it’s worth spending the money on modern jackets which are safer and more comfortable to wear. But whether you’re buying a new one or second hand be sure to get the jacket fitted properly.
If you or your kids ride a bike, you need a bike helmet that fits properly. Bike helmets can slide off if they aren’t properly fitted. Also, bike helmets are made to withstand only one big crash and you often can’t tell by looking if a helmet’s already been in an accident.
As bike helmets should be replaced every five years anyway, a second hand helmet is a poor deal all round. It’s better to buy a new helmet from a bike shop and they’ll make sure it fits.
Yes pools are expensive to put in, but buying second hand isn’t always the bargain it seems. Not only can second hand pools come with cracks and other defects in their shells, they may also be supplied with old and dangerous skimmer boxes (part of the filtration system) which have been responsible for serious injuries.
If the box can be sat in, or if there is damage to it, you have to replace it before your pool can be used. And if you buy a house with an existing pool, make sure you check the skimmer box and the pool fence (see below) before you take the plunge.
Swimming pool fences
Recent Choice tests showed even many new pool fences were poorly constructed and failed the safety standard so if you’re buying a second hand pool fence you’re taking some real risks.
But if you’re still keen, make sure you check:
- Is the fence robust and unable to be pushed apart using moderate force with your hands?
- Is it free of footholds or handholds?
- Does the gate still close properly?
- Has the fence ever been recalled?
Who gets injured by a stationary exercise bike? Unfortunately the answer here is young children, mostly when they put their fingers into the wheel spokes or the chain while another person rides the bike.
The current mandatory safety standard requires securely fastened frames around all moving parts, but older-styles exercise bikes, often seen on council collection days, don’t cover the moving parts adequately.
Baby car seats
There’s nothing to recommend buying a baby seat second-hand: no baby seat should ever be re-used if it’s been in a car crash; car seat design has improved over the last few years so older models may not comply with current standards; and manufacturers generally advise against using a seat that’s more than 6-10 years old.
So unless you know its complete history and there isn’t any wear, fraying or cracking, give all second-hand baby seats a miss.
Cots and mattresses
It’s accepted that second hand cots are dangerous because they may not meet the new mandatory standard. Some older designs can trap a child’s head (by having bars that are too wide), pose a strangulation risk (particularly clothing catching on decorative knobs), or may be coated in dangerous lead paint.
But second hand mattresses also pose a danger. Old mattresses can be full of dust mites. Dust mite droppings contain allergens that can set off asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis attacks and they could trigger an allergic reaction.
Criss-cross accordion baby gates
Baby gates are meant to stop toddlers falling down stairs but unfortunately this older-type gate, which opens criss-cross like an accordion, can trap a child’s head or clothes. Overseas they’ve caused major injuries and deaths.
Instead choose a gate style with a straight top edge and openings too small for a child’s head to fit through.
Dispose of goods thoughfully
As well as taking care when buying second-hand goods, you can also take steps to make sure your old things don’t pose a danger to someone else.
We suggest you de-commission all devices that shouldn’t be re-used. For example, cut off the electrical cord on appliances before putting them on the rubbish pile.