Ask any parent-to-be that’s begun outfitting a nursery and they’ll tell you baby gear is expensive. But once the sticker shock wears off, many parents begin hunting for bargains by looking for fellow moms and dads ready to unload some gently used baby gear at a much lower price than new.
Some parents hit Craigslist and consignment shops and sales, but many also have become active members of Facebook yard sale groups where the deals are plentiful, the geography is right and the feeling of better security attracts many shoppers.
We talked to some moms who are part of such a group — the Little Park Cities Online Yard Sale. The almost 5,000-member group has a lengthy list of rules for posting and buying, designed to keep the volunteer moderators sane and its members (who hail from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area) safe.
For Allyson Harrison of Dallas, finding duplicate gear for the grandparents’ house is one of the reasons she shops on Facebook. She prefers shopping on Facebook because she feels more comfortable buying from someone whose profile she is able to see.
Dallas mom Andrea Perkins agreed, saying, “Craigslist has too many unknowns, and I'm not as comfortable with it. The [good] Facebook groups are moderated and administrated well enough to do away with most of the scammers or creepy people.”
“You're selling within a limited community who are regularly interacting through deals and sharing advice, tips, etc.,” Hilary Moorhead added. “Plus the ‘deal’ is at least partly communicated in public, and the admins are really great at monitoring and taking action to keep the groups safe.”
Amber Grand said that her steals have included high-end clothing, strollers, toys and nursery decor. Her favorite find? A City Select Stroller and her daughter’s bedroom set.
“Everything I have bought from here has been in great condition and fit the description the seller has posted,” Julie Norine enthused. “I have gotten our stroller, baby bath tub, MamaRoo, and ExerSaucer from Little Park Cities Online Yard Sale.”
For others, it’s not only the bargains but also the community that draws them to these groups.
“As a new foster mom who hasn't had a baby in 10 years, I've loved buying the newest things in baby gear,” Mindy Tullis of Dallas said, adding that her finds have included a Rock ‘n’ Play for $10, swaddle blankets, and boys and girls clothing for every season.
“The best part has been how generous people have been when they find we are fostering,” she added. “People on the Facebook yard sales are incredibly generous.”
But for all those deals and steals, there remains one thing Jenny Martin, a certified child safety seat technician at Texas Health Presbyterian Plano, says parents should never buy used.
“You should never buy a used car seat from someone you don’t know and trust,” she said. “You don’t know the history, if it’s ever been in an accident. You don’t know if there’s been a recall, and if the recall has been fixed, or even if all the parts are there. And you don’t know how well they cared for the seat.”
There are many important things to consider, experts say, when choosing a car seat. The list should include:
- Weight and height limits
- Five-point harness
- Harness adjustment
- Anti-rebound features
- Stay-in-car bases
- No accessories
- Avoiding convertible child safety seats for infants until the child has reached 7 pounds
“Expiration dates are very critical to know also,” Martin said. “They can vary from five years to 10 years depending on the brand and model. You can be buying a car seat that looks brand new but can be expired.”
Extending the used-gear bargain hunting to car seats is a common mistake, Martin said.
“With most of the parents that I work with that come in with a used seat from someone they don’t know, I would say most of them have been expired, and they don’t know the history,” she said. “They don’t know if the car has been in an accident. And I tell them that when you buy a used seat you’re having to trust someone you don’t know.”
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a bargain on a car seat.
“There are perfectly good car seats at every price point and all car seats have to meet the same criteria,” Martin said. “I will hear a lot, ‘Oh it’s safer because it costs more money,’ and that’s not true.”
Martin likened it to going car shopping and finding one car for $10,000 and the same make and model next to it for $30,000 because it’s fully loaded. It’s the same concept with the pricier car seat versus the budget model.
“You’re getting luxury features,” she said. “Those aren’t safety features; they’re comfort features or ease-of-use features.”
In fact, one of the most popular seats on the market is $40, Martin said.
And if even that is too expensive, Martin said there are programs to help families get a free or reduced-cost car seat, because making sure every child has a safe seat is important.
“There are programs out there for these families, and all they need is a referral from their hospital or doctor.”
If you are trying to find the right car seat for your child, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a search tool for parents, as well as tips for installing your seat and caring for it. If you’d like a certified technician to check your handiwork, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) or visit our Classes and Events Calendar to find the nearest station and schedule an appointment.