Monday, November 20, 2023

Used Tire Dealers, Used Appliance Dealers - Avoid Both!

Yes, you can find good deals on used appliances or even tires - from individuals.  Dealers, on the other hand...

I wrote before about used tires and what a lousy bargain they are.  One of Mark's co-workers, who didn't make a lot of money, but felt the need to drive a Chevy Tahoe (15 MPG at best!) asked Mark if it was a good idea to put used tires on their truck, as her boyfriend suggested.  The local used tire dealer had a set for $75 a tire, and WalMart wanted almost twice that!

Mark tried to explain that with mounting and balancing costs of two sets of used tires would more than equal the delta in pricing on a new set of tires.  Moreover, there is the safety factor - running around on end-of-life tires is never a good idea.  Also there is the hassle factor - having to constantly buy another set of used tires every year or so, as they wear out quickly.

Surrounding every urban ghetto or rural trailer park are used tire dealers.  There are several around the impoverished "city" we live nearby.  They con poor people in to paying nearly as much for used tires as an an inexpensive set of new tires would cost.   And they get these tires - often for free or very low cost from chain tire stores who pay to get rid of used tires from customer's cars.  So it isn't like they have a huge inventory cost.  And often they let the tires "sit" out in the hot sun and rain, for years, before a sucker customer comes along.

Once in a while you do see a set of barely used "take-offs" from a new car, listed under "for sale by owner" on Craigslist, but when you call, they answer the phone, "Joe's used tires!"  They lied - to Craigslist and to you.  Where do you think the relationship is going from there?

I was thinking of buying a used microwave to replace out old one, which has a burned-out magnatron. Microwaves, like most appliances, have a design life of about 15 years and ours is 18 years old, albeit lightly used.  There is nothing to be gained by replacing it with a 15-year-old used microwave.   The replacement would just fail shortly thereafter.  It is like a lightbulb - they eventually burn out and a used light bulb isn't "as good as" a new one, nor even worth half as much.

Like with "take-off" tires (which some idiot took off a brand-new car because they wanted bling rims) there are folks (also idiots) who will throw away nearly new appliances because they decided to change to stainless steel or whatever.  If you can pick up such appliances for a few bucks, you can score.  I've bought a dishwasher for $75 this way, and a microwave (in Mark's studio) for $50.   I was hoping to score again, but such was not to be.

The problem again, is that used appliance dealers list appliances under "for sale by owner" and that means they are liars twice.  And if you do business with liars, expect to get burned.  Most had outrageously high prices on the appliances - enough that you'd be better off just buying anew.  And many of the "reasonably priced" appliances were old and worn out - near the end of their lives - and not worth anything.  A yellowed microwave is a bad deal, no matter how you slice it.  Expect the handle to crack and fall off.

So I looked online at prices of new microwaves and it turns out you can get one for under $200 - sometimes far less.  The days of the $99 under-cabinet microwave are long gone (although I did score one for our condo - it was cheaper than a plain range hood!).  But $175 for a brand-new unit beats $75 for something of questionable vintage.

Used appliance dealers, like used tire dealers, often operate in poor areas, where people think they are entitled to nothing better and fail to see the overall costs involved in owning appliances or tires.  Which is a better value, buying a brand-new appliance that will last more than twice as long as a used one, or paying the same amount - if not more - to buy two in succession?

Of course, the kicker is, the poor person is thinking in terms of cash-flow.  They can afford to put one tire on their car this pay period, provided it is used.  So this way, they can re-shod their car, without having to up-front a lot of cash.  And since their credit sucks, odds are they can't finance the purchase, or if they did, the cost would be staggering.

The poverty snowball accelerates down the hill....

Like used tire dealers, many used appliance dealers get their inventory for free or at a greatly reduced price. New appliance dealers don't want some junky old stove hanging around the loading dock, probably infested with roaches.  So they give it away or even pay to get rid of these things, which they offered to "take away for free" as a courtesy to their new appliance customers.  These used appliance dealers aren't paying a lot of their inventory - if anything.

Now to be fair, the better dealers clean and repair older appliances to put them in proper working order.  New knobs, new heating elements - whatever.  But the overall appliance is still old and you can't repair your way around the Weibull curve - there comes a time to throw things away.

I enjoy repairing things.  However, after 60-some-odd years doing this, I realize that when you take something apart, you change it forever, as Col. Waddington learned with his B-24 Liberators. You can patch something back together, provided you can get parts, but the need for repair is just a harbinger of things to come - particularly as you reach the end of the design life of an item.

So, even a "fixed up" used appliance is no bargain, if it is particularly old and something else will fail in short order.  Time to fish further upstream.

Which is what I will do, after Thanksgiving.