Save on brand-new clothes... by buying 'em second-hand

We've seen a £197 bodysuit for £6 and a £36 Asos dress for £3

Second-hand shopping has grown in popularity, both online and in charity shops. But what some don't realise is that you can often find BRAND-NEW clothing on second-hand sites. Not only can this save you £££s, but it's a more sustainable option for the planet too.

According to The True Cost, a documentary looking at the environmental impact of the fashion industry, around 80 billion new pieces of clothing are bought worldwide each and every year – four times more than just two decades ago. Many of those get worn just a few times, and some not at all. 

One way to reduce your impact on the planet is to buy second-hand clothing. If you're not keen, you might not know that this doesn't always mean you're buying clothes that someone else has worn. 

Second-hand sites such as Vinted, Depop and Ebay, and charity shops often have brand-new, still-tagged clothing for sale at rock bottom prices. These items could be from online orders where the return date was missed, or people just deciding they no longer want an unworn item. 

Here's how to search out the brand-new from the pre-loved...

Use filters and seller photos to find the brand-new items 

If you're using an online platform such as Vinted or Depop and you know what you want, then the most obvious way to find the brand-new stuff will be to look at the photos that the sellers have included to see if you can spot any tags. Here are a few examples I've spotted of items in pristine condition, as bought, and ready to go to a new home: 

You'll want to make sure you have some of these 'home-taken' photos so you can see the tag. If they've only included professional photos clearly taken from a shop's website, be wary. 

But perhaps the best way to easily find the brand-new stuff without rifling through thousands of items is to use the filters available on each site to sort through your preference on its condition. You can also do this for size, brand, fit, and many more. When you're shopping in-store at a charity shop, you can easily see whether an item has its original tag on it.

Although the 'New with tags' filter will guarantee a brand-new item of clothing, there is often also a 'New without tags' option. These claim to be unworn items that the seller previously removed the tags from, perhaps thinking that they were going to wear it but didn't.

This can't be verified, so you have no real way of knowing that it hasn't been worn – you'll need to weigh up if the risk is worth the saving. However, if your item arrives and it doesn't fit the description, you would be entitled to a refund as mentioned earlier. If it's very important to you that the item is brand new, perhaps so you can gift it to someone, it's probably safer to only select 'New with tags'. 

From left to right: Vinted, Oxfam Shop, Depop, Ebay.

This really works – we saw a £36 Asos dress for £3 and a £197 bodysuit for £6

Now you know how to do it, I'm going to take you through the main places to buy. I've listed strong examples, plus some of the positive and negative features of each site or way of buying... 

Vinted

I was browsing Vinted recently and found a 'New with tags' Asos dress for £3. I decided to see if I could find the dress still for sale on Asos, and it was being sold full-price for £36 – that's a difference of 91%.

Vinted automatically adds 'Buyer Protection' to a purchase, which is usually between 3-8% of the item's cost and entitles you to a refund if your parcel doesn't arrive, is damaged, or is significantly different to described. You need to report these issues within two days.

If the item doesn't fit or you don't want it anymore, you have no automatic rights to a refund, but you might be able to talk to the seller and negotiate one. But remember, never take payment off the platform.

MSE Katie saved over £150 on an unworn occasion dress from Vinted

I asked around MSE Towers to see if anyone else had got any brand-new, second-hand bargains, and MSE Katie said: "Vinted is a treasure trove of new, unworn clothes with the tags still on. You can see if there are any faults in the description, and use the messaging function to check measurements. My biggest success was saving over £150 on an unworn occasion dress with the tags on, which I'm keeping for a wedding."

Depop

Depop works very much like Vinted, however, I've found that it has more 'on trend' clothes but offers a slightly less appealing buyer experience. On Vinted, the purchase money isn't taken from your account until you receive this item – this is not the case on Depop, as you'll be charged straight away.

Depop says that if your item doesn't arrive or isn't as described, you can either set up a dispute through your payment method (Paypal, Klarna etc) or you can alert it via the Depop app. As with Vinted, if the item simply doesn't fit or you don't like it, the seller is not obligated to give you a refund.

Ebay

Ebay is often a treasure trove of brand-new items. The bidding aspect is largely unique to Ebay, meaning that you could really snag a good deal. It's very easy to get caught up in bidding though, so make sure you set yourself a mental limit and stick to it. Check out MSE Jenny's second-hand buying tips for more on this.

If your item from Ebay doesn't arrive, doesn't match the product description, or is an incorrect item, you are covered under the Ebay Money Back Guarantee. Once you've started a return through your purchase history, the seller has three days to respond. If the seller hasn't responded after three days, Ebay will step in. Again, if the item doesn't fit or you change your mind, the seller isn't obligated to offer you a return.

Oxfam

Many people may not be aware that Oxfam has an online shopping platform. It seems to be a curated platform of individual store's best offerings, and you can get some great deals. It's considerably less likely that you'll get 'current fashion' online in the same way you would with Depop or Vinted, but fairly standard items like jeans and well-known brands often feature.

Like most online stores, Oxfam's Online Shop offers a 28-day free returns period.

Charity shops

When considering charity shops, many assume items will be exclusively second-hand, but it's common for brand-new items to come into stores, too. You can find decent deals (for example, the half-price boots from a British Heart Foundation charity shop below), but as their aim is to raise money for charity, it might not always be as good a deal as you could find elsewhere. However, you often can return items to charity shops, and besides this, giving money to charity is rarely a bad investment if you can afford it.

We've also heard reports that unsold clothes and surplus stock from brands such as Zara, M&S and Pretty Little Thing end up being sent to charity shops in bulk. Sometimes you'll even see rails of the same top, all in different sizes. 

Most charity shops offer returns within 30 days of purchase as long as you have a receipt. It's always worth checking before you buy though, as there are plenty of smaller chains or independent charity shops which may work differently.

One of best charity shop bargains I've come across so far is this example a friend sent me. She picked up a £197 designer-branded bodysuit for £6 in her local YMCA charity shop:

We asked MoneySavers on Twitter if they'd ever found brand-new items at a charity or second-hand shop, and MoneySaver Rachael told us she'd had lots of tagged items into the shop where she worked:

A few things to watch out for when buying second-hand

As with buying anything online or second-hand, there are a few things to watch out for and general tips to ensure you don't lose out on any money:
 
  • Stay protected by keeping all payments on the platform  if you buy on sites such as Vinted, Depop and Ebay do NOT take the sale off the platform. If the seller messages you asking to privately send them the money (via bank transfer, Paypal etc) it is likely it could be a scam. Make sure you stick to your chosen platform so you have the buyer protection given by them; they won't be able to intervene if you send the money to a seller privately.

  • Be wary of vintage stores – some places put their own tags on after altering clothes, so you're unlikely to be getting anything 'new' (besides accessories). I've seen some stores use the word "reclaimed" to market their wears, but that often means them charging above the odds to make minor edits, like simply cutting and hemming a t-shirt to crop it. 

  • Check prices elsewhere to make sure you're getting the best price – just because it's on a second-hand site, it doesn't guarantee it won't be cheaper anywhere else. As with anything you buy, make sure you check prices at other retailers before buying.
  • Sizing can vary between platforms – as MSE Jenny says in her Vinted guide, the women's sizing can often differ to what you'd usually expect, so it pays to check what's actually shown on the labels. As an example, Vinted equates a size 12 with an L, when at most other retailers it's an M. On Vinted, a size eight is an S; a 10 is an M; and a 14 is an XL.

    Luckily, most sellers upload a picture of the item tag, so you’ll be able to see the brand's size. If you're buying clothes from brands still selling the item now, most will have a size-guide online available for you to measure up against.

  • You may not always be able to return your item – there’s often no hard and fast rule for this, but it’s normally down to the individual seller whether or not they’ll accept refunds. If you do buy something and it doesn’t fit, you could re-upload it to a second-hand site and someone else could buy it off you.

  • Stock will be extremely limited, so flexibility is key – it will be much easier to find ‘evergreen’ items such as jeans, due to consistent production and sales. If you're after something more specific and you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can turn on notifications for the item you want on Ebay, Vinted and Depop.

Found any good deals on buying new products second-hand? Let us know on Twitter.