how to shop second-hand online

Let’s talk shop. 

So you miss the thrift store and want to try second-hand shopping online? Great, there’s an almost unlimited market just waiting for you to dive in. But with so many options right at your fingertips, the shopping process can sometimes feel overwhelming. Unlike physical stores, online thrift stores don’t have a clear beginning and end, making it easy to miss out on hidden gems.

The following tips & tricks are designed to help you easily navigate the digital second-hand market and find more opportunities to incorporate used clothing into your wardrobe. 

WHERE TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

First, you need to know where to look. After getting acquainted with the offerings and format of each of the following apps, you’ll be able to decide where to focus your time and monaaay.

What you’ll find: Each app has its own niche. Some offer more mainstream brands, others luxury or streetwear. Get to know each app’s “vibe” and use those observations to avoid information-overload. 

Consignment vs. direct-to-seller: Consignment means the items for sale have gone through quality control & authentication. In direct-to-seller, the seller lists and manages their items independently. This process will affect the cost of what you’re buying. Consignment typically is more expensive because it’s been vetted by a third party.  

Buy, Barter, or Trade: Apps sell their products in different ways. Bartering usually gives you a better price than buying outright. And if you decide to sell on any of these apps, trading with another seller could get you a mutually beneficial deal. 

Restocks: Second-hand stores don’t follow typical inventory. That makes striking while the iron’s hot and checking back regularly critical to finding the items you’re after. 

Poshmark – The People Pleaser 

  • What you’ll find: Caters to major brands like Madewell, Everlane, Zara as well as some sustainable brands, like Eileen Fisher and Girlfriend Collective 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Barter & Trade 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Be cautious when buying designer brands. Unless you spend above $500, items aren’t authenticated by the app. Also, note that ‘boutiques’ are not always second-hand, so do your research before buying!

Depop – The Rebel with a Cause 

  • What you’ll find: Streetwear brands & vintage
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy, Trade & Barter
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Going in with some knowledge of obscure brands will help you navigate the app 

ThredUp – The Cool Mom 

  • What you’ll find: Popular mid-range brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Great for basics, but not as many interesting statement pieces 

Etsy – The Girl Who Doesn’t Wear Labels 

  • What you’ll find: Eclectic styles, hand-made clothing & vintage 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Varies by seller 
  • Wise words: Try finding sellers you like & following them to narrow down your options

Curtsy – The IT Girl 

  • What you’ll find: Trendy styles & popular brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy & Barter 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Not as many high-quality/long-lasting brands available 

The Real Real – The Luxe Lady 

  • What you’ll find: Authenticated luxury & designer brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Yes! If an item has sold, you can sign up to be notified when it’s restocked 
  • Wise words: Pricey compare to other second-hand sites 

Lovanie – The Sustainable Sister 

  • What you’ll find: Sustainable brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet
  • Wise words: The site is new & in Beta testing 

HOW TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

Unless you have incredible patience, apps are not necessarily a great place to browse. To find the right pieces, try going in with a gameplan. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need and help you cut through the clutter. 

Brands & styles 

Go through your closet. What brands do you have the most of? Which fit you best? What styles do you wear most often? Many of these apps do not accept returns unless the item you bought is damaged. That makes it all the more important to feel confident that what you’re getting will work for you.  

Want list 

If you follow brands on IG or email, you probably have a sense of what they’re selling each season. When you spot a new item you like, copy & paste the name into any of the app(s) to see if you can find it gently used & nicely priced. You’d be surprised just how often you can find what you’re looking for. 

Search Terms 

Know the correct names of styles by doing some research beforehand and you’ll be able to weed through options more quickly. 

Size(s) 

Each of the apps lets you create a size range. To allow for some wiggle room, I recommend you set this feature to your size, slightly smaller, and slightly larger. 

Colors 

Pictures can distort colors. Always ask questions or, better yet, try to find the item on its original brand website for a more accurate portrayal. 

Read the Reviews

If a listed item is still available on its original brand’s website, read the reviews before buying. The site will have more specifics on fit and quality to help you make a better informed purchase. 

Saved Searches & Waitlists 

Some apps let you save your searches. If you’re consistently on the lookout for something, using these in-app features can save time and ensure you’re first to know if an item you want is available. 

KEYS TO SECOND-HAND SUCCESS 

Persistence 

Listings can happen at any time, so if you really want something, check in regularly.  

Know an item’s true value 

Just like you’d negotiate your salary, know what you’re buying and how much it’s really worth. What was its original price? Does it have signs of wear? How much are similar items being sold for? Factor all this in to know you’re getting a fair price. 

Shop them all 

The more apps you use, the more likely you are to know what’s available, where to get the best deal, and which app you have the most success on. 

Know your dupes

Be cautious when buying designer brands direct-from-seller. There are tons of videos out there on how to spot luxury dupes that can help you do this. If you’re looking for a fool-proof purchase, remember The Real Real and ThredUp do authenticate and perform quality checks. 

Start on Google 

If you know the name of the item you’re looking for, try searching “Item name Used” into Google’s Shopping tab. From there, you can go directly to the apps selling that specific product. 

Avoid cheap brands 

Most second-hand clothing is preloved. That makes cheap, used pieces even more likely to be pilled or damaged by the time you get them. Unless it’s a style or color you’re obsessed with, I’d say leave cheap brands in the cart. 

Like & Favorite

It’s hard to remember everything you see when browsing. Use in-app saving features to your favor. Depending on the store, you’ll be notified about sales, price drops, and if something sells.  

Okay, you’re officially ready to shop! Give these tips a shot and let me know which work best for you! 

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