Driven by inflation and the decline in purchasing power, the second-hand market is growing rapidly. And that’s good news, because most objects deserve a second life. Their acquisition makes it possible to make significant savings, but also to be part of an essential sustainable consumption approach.
However, care must still be taken because the purchase of certain second-hand products can represent a risk for health and safety or prove to be financially much less profitable than expected. Here are the main products that you should not buy second-hand, and those for which caution is essential.
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Kitchen utensils: watch out for excessive wear
Plastic kitchen utensils do not pose a health risk. All the substances that go into their composition – more than 1,000 – have been approved after their evaluation by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). In particular, they comply with strict limits on migration to the foodstuffs with which they come into contact.
But these limits are established for materials that do not show excessive wear. Thus, abrasion of the surface of a plastic container can modify its properties and exacerbate the migration of these substances. The migration rate will also depend on the nature of the food that will be stored there. It is weak towards dry foods, pasta, rice, vegetables, and potentially more important towards fatty and/or heated foods.
Baby bottles: be extra vigilant
Beware also of the misuse of these second-hand objects. It is impossible to know if a plastic container has been used regularly in the microwave, although it was not designed for this. However, the increase in temperature can modify its mechanical properties. Finally, these objects may have stored non-food products, for example washing powder or solvents, likely to alter their composition.
Vigilance is even more important with plastic bottles. If they were made before 2015, they are likely to contain bisphenol A, a chemical now banned due to its proven toxicity to humans. Their origin being difficult to determine, it is better to refrain from buying them.
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Non-stick pans: they may contain PFOA
Used non-stick pans are also a problem. As we specified in our April 2022 study, Teflon utensils sold until July 2020 could contain PFOA, a chemical compound likely to cause various pathologies.
However, this can migrate into the food, if the utensil has suffered abrasion. And this alteration is difficult to avoid after several months of regular use. For these reasons, it is better to turn to a new product, the price of which is now reasonable.
Mattresses: look for bedbug droppings
Currently, nearly 97,000 mattresses are for sale on Leboncoin. Even of impeccable appearance, some may have served for many years. The shape may have adapted to the morphology of the former owner.
Above all, watch out for bedbugs, which can quickly colonize the home. Scan the mattress for their droppings. When in doubt, run away!
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High-tech devices: an uncertain lifespan
Connected objects are everywhere: speakers, wireless headphones, watches, voice assistants, toys. Even electric toothbrushes now want to communicate! What do all these products have in common? They are equipped with non-removable batteries. And therefore condemned to obsolescence, but when?
Impossible to predict, especially since it is not the age of the object that determines it, but the number of charge cycles supported by the battery since the first use. However, the lifespan of a battery is almost never specified by the manufacturer, especially since it can vary according to use (temperature of use, complete emptying before recharging, prolonged storage of the empty battery, etc. ). In short, the device can still work for many years or give up the ghost after only a few months.
Smartphones and Laptops: Obsolescence and Hidden Costs
Smartphones are also affected by this obsolescence, to which is added the cessation of operating system updates and security patches. If the phone is more than five years old, it may have a vulnerability to hacking, and some apps won’t work.
Laptops are also affected by the obsolescence of the operating system. However, the oldest models, equipped with Windows 7, may not be powerful enough to support Windows 10 or 11. It will nevertheless be possible to install a free OS, such as Linux. The removable battery probably needs to be replaced, it will be necessary to ensure that it is still marketed.
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Motorcycle helmets: shocks suffered not apparent…
Should you buy a used motorcycle helmet? This is a question posed by motorcyclists who occasionally carry a passenger. However, the safety of the latter is just as important as that of his driver. First, as Road Safety points out, a used helmet may have suffered an impact that has weakened it.
However, the impact is not necessarily visible if the object has struck a soft surface, such as a carpet for example. The manufacturer Shoei indicates that a fall from a low height should not damage the helmet, which is designed to absorb very violent shocks, but without guaranteeing it 100%.
…and padding that compresses
Like most other manufacturers, however, it recommends changing helmets every five years, on the pretext in particular that expanded polystyrene (EPS), which absorbs most of the shock, compresses over time and loses its effectiveness. Difficult to know what it really is, especially since the European approval ECE 22-06 (ECE 22-05 until June 30, 2023), which appears on the chinstrap of the helmet, does not indicate any maximum duration of use.
What has been proven, however, is that over time, the comfort padding that is in contact with the skull tends to compress; efficiency suffers, as does comfort. This padding can be replaced on some models. This is probably the best thing to do if you want to keep your old helmet to help out an occasional passenger.
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Bicycle helmets and baby car seats: safety in question
As for the bicycle helmet, compulsory for children under 12 and strongly recommended for adults, it limits the risk of injury during a fall or a collision at low speed. Buying it used is possible, if it has no major scratches or traces of impact. In addition, the chinstrap and the internal protective foam must be in perfect condition. And it must have the CE approval label.
On the other hand, we do not recommend the purchase of a used car seat. In fact, even in the event of a minor accident, the fasteners which connect to the seat belt buckle, the straps and the energy-absorbing devices may be weakened or even inoperative. However, this failure is difficult to detect.
Do not overlook any detail for electric bikes and scooters
- Although removable, the batteries can represent more than 30% of the price of these vehicles. However, if the new generations of bicycle batteries support 2,000 charge cycles on average, older models hardly exceed 1,000 cycles.
- As for scooter batteries, they support between 500 and 1,000 cycles. Do not buy these vehicles by mail, because the test is essential to ensure proper operation. Before the appointment, ask the salesperson to fully charge the battery. The charge indicator should not show less than 80%.
- Beware if the vehicle’s console displays too low a mileage with regard to age and general condition. Indeed, on some bicycles and scooters, simply replacing the console resets the counter. On other vehicles, such as those with Bosch systems, the mileage is stored in the engine and cannot be changed.
- Carefully check all the mechanical parts, which should show no play or signs of shock. Look for any oxidation on the connectors, which can indicate a leak and cause a short circuit. Finally, refuse any bike or scooter sold without a battery charger. It is most likely a stolen vehicle.
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