Buying Second-hand Safely

Decking out your home with stuff for baby can be an expensive exercise. There's an ever-growing list of must-have items and now it seems customary for baby shops to have a catalogue of offerings the size of an encyclopedia!


Buying everything you need brand new is great if you can afford it, but for the cost-conscious families amongst us, buying brand new cots, change tables, beds and other bulky items is simply not an option.


So what to do to to purchase items that are safe and in good working order? There’s no room for risk-taking when it comes to the safety of your kids, which is why we’ve developed this checklist to use when shopping for pre-loved items for your littlies.


When buying a second-hand item, it’s important to know exactly how to put it together safely, and how to operate it without causing injury. The only way to ensure that you will get these two things right, is by only buying second-hand items that come with a manufacturer-issued instruction manual, or by knowing that you can download the instruction manual from the manufacturer if the seller no longer has it. These important leaflets will let you know exactly what the item should look like and how it works, as well as spell out any possible warnings.



Australian independent reviewer Choice has some good advice at for what to look for in a stroller or pram. There's is also advice on safety standards for prams at .



Buying an item that is broken or has missing parts is never a good idea. You might be snapping up a bargain by buying a less than perfect item, but trying to fix a broken cot or highchair yourself is usually a recipe for disaster.  Always remember to check for sharp edges and broken pieces before you hand over your cash.



If you are purchasing a second-hand item that is more than five years old, it may not comply with the government issued mandatory standards – the minimum requirements certain products must have before they are considered safe. Mandatory standards cover things like: the way kids’ furniture and toys are designed and constructed and which materials are considered safe.  If you are unsure whether a second-hand item is safe, it’s worth getting some extra advice by logging onto the Product Safety Australia, before you purchase anything.



As tempting and convenient as it may be, buying a product that you’ve never seen in person is not recommended. When you are browsing for second-hand goods online be aware that product descriptions and photographs may not tell you the full story – some damaged or faulty items may not be adequately represented.  If you are unable to go and see the item in person before you buy it, don’t be afraid to ask the seller extra questions about the history of the item or for close up photos of it.



Cot mattresses are one item that should purchased brand-new wherever possible. Second-hand cot mattresses may not show any physical damage and may look clean and in good condition – but looks can be deceiving. There is some evidence to suggest that bacteria residing in used cot mattresses may increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Whilst this evidence is inconclusive, it pays to err on the side of caution and buy a new mattress – one that has been manufactured specifically for the cot you are using, to ensure it fits properly.

You should also buy second-hand car restraints with care. Always check with the owner before buying to see if it has been in an accident. If it has suffered the impact of a car crash it may have structural weaknesses that you cannot see.



Once you’ve got the second-hand item in your possession, it is important to give it a good ‘once-over’ before using it:

  • Air it out – Wait for a warm windy day and take the item outside for about an hour of fresh air.
  • Clean it – Warm soapy water and a damp cloth can do wonders. Remove any dust and dirt and allow the item to dry thoroughly before using it.
  • Use the instruction manual – put the item together according to the instruction manual and then test it to make sure it is sturdy and safe.


  • If you’ve been given a second-hand item as a gift from a friend or relative don’t just assume it will be in good working order – check it out properly before you accept it.
  • Check for product bans or recalls on any item you are interested in buying. Bans and recalls can be researched Safety Australia.
  • Trust your instincts – if you feel uncertain about the safety of an item, don’t buy it!