She'd rather buy older items

Why Older Is Better

by Lynn Bulmahn


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Advertisers often tell you something is new and improved. I beg to differ. Often, older items or designs are better. Secondhand is cheaper. Frugal shoppers should understand this principle and make it work for them.

Today, my microwave oven died (may it rest in peace). I can't make the "on" button on the touch pad work anymore. I bought it about five years ago for $20 at a church garage sale. It's a 1980s model.

This is the second microwave to "die" of the same cause. Before this one, I'd bought a brand new microwave and paid full price. It lasted about two years. I was out a lot more money when it went on the fritz. So I feel satisfied I got my money's worth (and then some) from my $20 microwave.

Still, I wish I'd never gotten rid of my old Amana Radar Range when I moved. It had dials, not touch keypads, and I bet it's still running today.

Today's events remind me of a lot of "old" or old-style appliances and products that are arguably better than new models.

For instance, when I moved into my house in Florida, the kitchen stove was "digital." Its touch keypad, too, went out. Thanks to the homeowner warranty, I got it fixed. It didn't stay fixed. A second repair was needed within weeks.

Long story short, "digital" means "computerized." Computers break down when they get too hot. When I cooked on that electric range, the heat affected the digital works.

The appliance salesman advised me to buy a warranty for my stove. He explained that I'll need to have it fixed a lot of times. What happens when the warranty expires? The salesman turned beet red and began stammering when I asked that question.

My solution? Forget the warranty! Forget the digital stove! I junked it. I went to a rent-to-own-store and asked for a "bottom of the line" model stove, the kind landlords put in rental units. I bought a new one with knobs and dials to turn instead of touch pads. It works much better than the fancy digital stove. Because it lacks digital parts, I can cook up a storm, and heat won't hurt it.

My burglar alarm system requires a landline phone. Today's models aren't as sturdy as older ones manufactured by the phone company. The vintage Bell telephone I bought at a thrift store is virtually indestructible. It still works if the electricity goes out.

If you're lucky enough to have a Maytag washer and dryer manufactured in Newton, Iowa, you own a treasure. According to a laundromat owner, those Maytags have the same drives as commercial laundry appliances. They are built to last! (Alas, Maytag was sold, and the Newton factory closed. How tragic!)

My present Maytag laundry set conveyed with my house. I wouldn't want to "upgrade" to something more recent. Mine has features newer washers lack, such as a warm rinse option.

I'm content watching shows on my 20- and 30-year old TV sets. I just added digital adapters. They work great. They don't take up too much room. No burglar would steal them. And, I don't have to replace any expensive bulbs after a year or so.

When I go to estate or garage sales, I always look out for older items, especially American-made ones. Tools, scissors, furniture, linens, household items, cleaning equipment, gardening tools, and kitchen items manufactured years ago are incredibly durable. They're better built, heavier, and sturdier than the poor-quality imports flooding today's market.

There's just no comparison between my dad's solid old Craftsman tools and the lightweight imports sold at Harbor Freight. The old Sunbeam Rain King lawn sprinklers were heavy metal; most sprinklers sold today are flimsy plastic. I still use my inherited 1940s set of kitchen knives. Sharp and well made, those knives probably will be slicing, cutting, and chopping another 70 years from now.

I'm usually able to buy older items for less money than a new one. Even if I have to pay premium prices, it's worth it. Older USA-made products last just about forever. Someday, you'll be able to buy them at my estate sale!

Take the Next Step

  • You can also get secondhand items at Ebay

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