How To Buy Used Tools: A Buyer’s Guide

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If you’re shopping for tools, save some money and search for good used tools online instead of heading to your local hardware store for pricey new tools. Due to the economic crunch of the past few years, now is the perfect time to get a great price on gently used tools. However, before you start searching eBay, Amazon or Craigslist for tools, you need to do a bit of homework first. This Used Tools Buyer’s Guide will help you get a great price on quality used tools.

Used Tool Buyers guide

Photo: Samuel M. Livingston/Flickr

1. Research Tools Before Shopping
Before you even start looking online for tools, you need to spend some time researching products first. If you go to eBay and search for a power drill, you’re going to find anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand results. Do you want a Craftsman drill or a Kawasaki? Will a 3.6V cordless drill suffice or do you need a 19.2V to do the job? If you know exactly what you need, you’ll spend less time searching through hundreds of products that won’t meet your needs.

2. Find Products that Meet Your Specifications
Once you know exactly what you want, use the search function on your target website to find the tools that meet your specifications. If you are looking for a specific brand, then make sure that you include the brand name in your search query. For example: “Black & Decker cordless drill” will provide you with better results than “cordless drill.”

3. Compare Prices
After finding the product or products that meet your specifications, now you need to compare the price of each product. If the used cordless drill has a price of $29.99 but you know that Home Depot has the same model on sale for $24.99, you’re better off purchasing the new product. Just because the product is used, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a good deal on it. Also expand your search beyond a single site and search multiple sites: eBay, Craigslist and Amazon are all great places to find preowned or refurbished tools. The $29.99 drill on eBay might be available for $29.99 plus free shipping from an Amazon seller.

4. Research the Seller
This step is tailored more towards eBay and Amazon purchases as it is a bit more difficult to research a seller on Craigslist. One problem with purchasing used tools online is that you don’t know if that Ryobi drill you just ordered is real or a knockoff. A seller with a higher approval rating and more successfully completed transactions is less likely to be selling knockoffs. You’re also more likely to have a smooth transaction with an experienced and highly rated seller. If you’re buying used tools online to take the hassle out of shopping local pawn shops and garage sales, you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a messy transaction with an inexperienced seller.

5. Secure Your Purchase
Once you have found the right tool, at the right price and being sold by a seller that you feel you can trust, you need to secure your purchase. Securing your purchasing goes beyond the standard encrypted web browser recommendation but actually using a payment method that offers you some consumer protection. One common online payment option, PayPal, has a comprehensive consumer protection program in case the product you receive is not as described. Another option is to use a credit card to pay for your purchase. If you have a product dispute that cannot be resolved with the seller, you can dispute the charge with the credit card company and in many cases have your money refunded to you.

6. Before You Use Your New Used Tools
Once you receive your new used tools, there are a few steps that you should take before you start using them. First, verify that the tools you received were the tools you bought. Bait and switch is not uncommon on eBay and even with an experienced seller, mistakes can and do happen. After you verify that you have the correct tools, find the user’s guide and instructions. This is particularly important if it is a power tool. If the seller did not have the manual available, visit the manufacturer’s website or call the manufacturer directly and request one. For your safety, do not use the new power tool until you have read the instruction manual. The last step is to sanitize your tools. You don’t know whose dirty hands have been on the tools and a quick cleaning is wise.

By following these steps you’re more likely to find the perfect tool at the perfect price without the hassle of driving around town trying to find the best deal.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.