5 tips for buying tech at the thrift store


While it’s great to have the latest and greatest technology in your pocket, it’s expensive and not cost effective. But if you really need an accessory or peripheral and don’t have the budget for it, a thrift store can be a lifesaver.

So, to help you out when you’re on a budget, here are some things to consider before buying from the thrift store.

1. Always think about your safety

a fire burning on the ground

You should never cut corners when buying a security-related item. You should take this into account, especially if you need a new charger and USB cable. That’s because anything you plug into an electrical outlet deals with heat and high voltage.

Most modern USB chargers and cables contain microchips, allowing them to talk to your phone or whatever device you’re charging. This ensures that they only deliver the amount of power that your phone’s battery can handle. Moreover, it prevents the phone from overcharging, thereby extending its battery life.

However, cheap USB chargers and cables do not guarantee these protections. This could lead to reduced battery life, a swollen battery, or worse, burning it out. That’s why if you’re buying a security-related device, you should stick to branded items.

Related: Understanding USB cable types and which one to use


2. Don’t expect perfect quality

cheap wireless speakers on a desk

Inexpensive tech items from the thrift store are generally not of impeccable quality. For example, if you buy a speaker, you can’t expect it to sound like you’re at a concert. Most of the time, it sounds tinny or hollow, just enough for you to hear what you’re listening to, but as if you’re listening to a phone line at the end of the line.

If quality isn’t as crucial to you and all you need is something functional, that’s okay. However, before making the purchase, you should at least test the item you are buying so you know what you are getting into.

Otherwise, try looking for brand name items on sale or consider a used unit instead. You might get better value for money with these items compared to a poorly constructed gadget from the thrift store. Nevertheless, if you have the patience, you can find hidden treasures there.

3. When you need reliability

Lexar 64GB microSD card

If you are looking for a device that will contain something of value, you should always consider its reliability. This is especially true if you buy memory cards and flash drives. Indeed, if you choose a brand that suddenly and completely fails, you may find yourself looking for a solution at the most inopportune moment, and you risk losing data in the process.

For example, if you bought a cheap memory card and decided to store a project on it, it suddenly fails, you are going to be in a lot of trouble. This could also apply to batteries, as they power the sensitive electrical components of your devices.

A generic unbranded battery may not last as long as an original battery. Also, if the battery you purchased is mislabeled, it could damage your gadgets and brick them. So it’s best to stick with proven brands for the essentials you depend on.

Related: Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a MicroSD Card

4. Ideal for static articles

mobile phone on a stand

Some of the best items you can buy from the thrift store are the ones you don’t usually move around much. These include stands, brackets and other accessories. That’s because these items are usually left alone – you only move them when you put your gadget on or take it off.

However, if your item is heavy or fragile, you should first check the build quality of the item. After all, you don’t want to put your $1,200 camera on a tripod that will break if you put weight on it. But if you’re looking for a cell phone case and you’re very careful with your gadgets, a cheap and cheerful silicone case should suffice.

LED light strips are also great buys at thrift stores. That’s because you don’t usually move them once you’ve installed them. Plus, they only use a little electrical current and generate almost no heat, making them safe to use even if they come from a generic brand.

5. Easily replaceable gadgets

old wireless keyboard and mouse

When all you need is something functional and not much else, the thrift store is the best place to go. For example, if you have a laptop but want to use it with a stand, you can go to the thrift store to get an inexpensive keyboard and mouse set. You can even get a wireless pair for a bit more.

You can also consider getting LED desk lamps, HDMI cables, and Ethernet cables from your local store. Since these items usually stay in place once you install them, they don’t need to be as heavy as your other gadgets. Plus, these things are easy and inexpensive to make to start with, so you don’t have to worry about quality issues.

Unless you’re an enthusiast, where you want quality and reliability, or you’re a professional, where high performance matters, thrift stores can give you what you need without breaking the bank. Nevertheless, you should always check the item you are buying to be sure that you are not getting a faulty device.

Save a buck or two

Thrift stores can provide what you need, especially if you’re on a budget. This is why they remain popular even though people already have options through online shopping. Nevertheless, there are some things you should never compromise on.

If the gadget you are buying is related to security (chargers and USB cables) or if you need reliability (memory cards and USB drives), you should always opt for branded items. If you can’t afford them at retail price, you can wait for sales, like Black Friday, to get the things you need. In the meantime, consider buying a second-hand item instead.

But if you need a gadget or accessory that you usually leave alone or can easily replace, the thrift store is a great place to find it. Just be sure to compare prices online first, inspect what you’re buying carefully, and test it out if possible. That way, you know what you’re getting into when you buy an item from your friendly neighborhood thrift store.

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