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Second-hand vs new: Which is better for my bank account?

Updated: May 8

Popular second-hand market, The Fitzroy Market. Photo: Charlie Kondos

There's no doubt Gen Z are some of the biggest consumers of pre-loved clothing, in particular curated second-hand pieces. The all-consuming thrill of finding an item no one else owns, paired with the familiar surge of pride when asked where you bought that pair of jeans from, only to playfully respond with “Sorry, it’s thrifted”. 

For many, second-hand shopping is an attempt to build a unique wardrobe, whilst saving their bank account. However, due to its popularity increase amongst Gen Z in recent years, so has its pricing. As much as we would like, the typical university student doesn't have an endless supply of money to spend on curating the ultimate wardrobe

This poses the question; Is second-hand shopping actually any cheaper than buying new?

Online op-shop platform Depop, image from

Popular second-hand platforms such as Depop, online vintage websites and curated consignment stores are at the forefront of where Gen Z is sourcing their second-hand items. I recently spoke to Depop seller Ava Hyland of Vintage Lily, to discuss the current market of second-hand shopping. 

When it comes to vintage, Hyland noted how businesses “usually price items higher”, in comparison to Depop, which is typically “more affordable” for the likes of university students. 

“I definitely think second-hand shopping is best tackled at the op shop,” Hyland said, “as well as platforms like Depop… you can often find stunning items at a more affordable price”.

Whilst Hyland believes that fast fashion is “much more affordable” than buying pre-loved, she feels second-hand sellers are beginning to “price a little more affordably” nowadays.  

“Second-hand sellers need to value not only the money they can make but also its wider impact on the environment and people”, she said. “If second-hand sellers advocated this and also did so in their prices… it would be more popular and considered a lot more practical!”

Op-shop enthusiast and RMIT student Sam Di Pasquale feels that whilst second-hand shopping “is much more affordable than buying items brand new… this isn't always the case”. 

“Some stores that label themselves as ‘thrift shops’ often mark up the items, even if they are second-hand,” said Di Pasquale. 

The Fitzroy Markets, Photo: Charlie Kondos

“Many second-hand stores sell clothes for the bare minimum… equally there are stores in which you can get fast fashion for dirt cheap - Aliexpress, Ali Baba and Temu”. 

Popular brands boasting such appealing prices have the potential to turn students away from shopping second-hand, providing unused clothing for a fraction of pre-loved prices.  

Ebay’s 2021 Recommerce Report found that 80% of Gen Z participants bought second-hand, the highest proportion of any age group to have purchased pre-loved goods. With the market value for second-hand apparel reaching an estimated $351 billion USD by 2027, this may suggest that the pre-loved market can be a thrilling yet addictive hole to tumble down. 

University students are witnessing the industry peak in the palm of our hands, being one of the most willing generations to buy second-hand. 

Whether you are buying clothes pre-loved or brand new, it is important to understand where you are sourcing your items from, and what you are willing to compromise to build your dream closet. 


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