Investing in reliable, long-lasting kitchen tools can make cooking, baking, and cleanup a genuine pleasure.
Of course, good gear can cost a lot. An iconic Le Creuset Dutch oven or a KitchenAid stand mixer will set you back hundreds of dollars. But if you know where to look, you can find used versions with plenty of life left in them for a fraction of the price.
I got my first Cuisinart food processor, still in its box, for $5 at a thrift store in Providence, Rhode Island. It served me well for about eight years, until I re-donated it, still in good condition, before a move.
High-quality kitchen tools have staying power, whether you acquire them used or new. For instance, I’ve owned both a hand-me-down KitchenAid from the 1970s and a brand-new one that I bought less than five years ago, and they were remarkably similar in mixing up light cakes and lofting egg whites for meringue, despite their age difference. Our kitchen staff has plenty of similar stories.
Here’s how to score nice, heirloom-quality kitchen gear for a fraction of their street price, according to Wirecutter experts.
Where to shop for used high-end kitchen gear
No matter what you seek, secondhand shopping takes patience and luck. You can often find excellent, cheap, used kitchen tools at yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, and even city curbs. But when it comes to the pricier stuff, you’ll usually find more (and better-vetted) options online. For machines, it’s always worth checking if a manufacturer has a refurbished program, which inspects used merchandise before sale and usually offers at least a six-month warranty.
After dozens of purchases, our kitchen staff particularly stands behind buying used KitchenAid stand mixers, Vitamix blenders, enameled iron cookware (think Le Creuset or Staub), enameled steel (like Dansk), tri-ply steel (like All-Clad), cast iron (though prices can be inflated), and some other countertop appliances (though you should avoid used, newer toasters).
Here are some places to look:
Certified refurbished programs
KitchenAid certified refurbished: KitchenAid’s certified refurbished program offers a one-year warranty—the same as KitchenAid warranties for new mixers. You can sometimes find our upgrade pick, the KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer, for around $200 (a new one costs more than $550). If you see something you like, senior staff writer and stand mixer expert Lesley Stockton suggests you follow up with a call and talk to a customer service representative to make sure it’s still in stock. Sturdy KitchenAids are great candidates for buying used since they’re durable, repairable, and unlikely to become obsolete, meaning you’ll be able to swap in new attachments now and in the future. You can replace KitchenAid components through the manufacturer and many retailers, so even if one part is missing from a used stand mixer, it’s not a dealbreaker.
Vitamix certified reconditioned: Though we don’t generally consider blenders to be as long-lasting as, say, a stand mixer, Vitamix blenders are powerful enough and expensive enough that it’s worth checking for reconditioned inventory. Lesley, who also writes our guide to the best blenders, says, “I 100% stand by Vitamix refurbs—they’re like new.” Vitamix also offers an impressive three- to five-year warranty (new models come with a seven-year warranty).
Moccamaster refurbished: Moccamaster offers an impressive five-year warranty on new coffee machines, which is a testament to their staying power. The machines can last years, says supervising kitchen editor Marilyn Ong, who recently bought a 10-year-old used Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. Moccamaster’s refurbished program offers a one-year warranty, and you can find our staff-favorite KBGV Select for about $100 less than the list price.
Refurbished from retailers: You can sometimes find manufacturer-refurbished countertop appliances, including KitchenAid stand mixers, Cuisinart food processors, ice cream machines, and blenders through the likes of Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Be sure to double-check warranty and return policies before purchasing, since they may differ from that of the manufacturer.
You can find used KitchenAid stand mixers, Le Creuset and Staub cookware, and other nice kitchen tools on eBay, OfferUp, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and other direct-from-seller sites. Wirecutter staff warns that you may want to avoid cast-iron pans, which often have inflated prices. You should also proceed with extra caution if you’re buying a machine, since these sites don’t have warranties.
To reduce your risk of being scammed, check seller reviews for plenty of positive feedback, which is a good bet that the seller is trustworthy. Follow our guidance on what to look for, and check photos and descriptions carefully to be sure that you’re actually buying the model you want, since some sellers will include a popular brand name to capture search. Remember that if you’re buying from OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace, you have to pay for or arrange shipping.
Local brick-and-mortar stores
Out of the Closet, Savers, Goodwill, Housing Works, and other local donation shops: These retailers accept cookware and bakeware donations and occasionally sell nice gear, so they’re worth browsing. You can sometimes find durable cookware like cast iron and All-Clad tri-ply pans at thrift stores like this, at good prices due to staining that you can clean off at home, says senior kitchen editor Marguerite Preston. You can also find small appliances here, like my $5 Cuisinart food processor, or specialty machines: Staff writer Mace Dent Johnson, who writes our ice cream maker guide, says they’ve spotted our top pick at three separate thrift shops. As a bonus, with in-store shopping, you can better assess an item’s quality. While there, ask if you can plug machines in before purchasing.
Local used kitchen stores: I once scored copper canelé molds at a used kitchen shop in San Francisco that has now sadly closed, but that was enough for me to start seeking out used kitchen stores everywhere I go. If you’re lucky to live near one of these, they are also worth browsing, though they can be hit or miss and, for vintage items, occasionally overpriced.
What to look for
Because new higher-end kitchen tools periodically go on sale, consider the used price in context with the sales price. What’s fair varies across used items and their age and condition, as well as their color. However, at least 30% below full price is a good place to start for this caliber of kitchen gear. Used machines that have not been certified refurbished by a manufacturer should cost less than that.
Here’s what else to look for:
- Photos: Look for plenty of photos from all angles, and request more detailed shots. The seller should be willing to provide them, and may even be able to send you a video of a machine in action. The exception to this rule is certified refurbished merchandise, where listings will typically just show the product image. You can trust these sellers, but be sure to read the description thoroughly, since the image may not reflect the exact model or color that you’re buying, and follow up with a call to customer service to verify.
- Detailed description: The more detail, the better—especially for a machine with moving parts. Check if the seller has described any flaws or wear, however minor, and don’t hesitate to ask for more information. This bears repeating for cookware from brands like Le Creuset and Staub: always check dimensions and quart sizes. Some single-serving versions may look similar to bigger sizes: Don’t mistake a miniature for a steal.
- Shine or gloss on enamelware cook surfaces: If a seller has taken the time to clean the pot’s interior so you can see a sheen, there’s a good chance that the bottom of the pot will have enamel that’s in good shape. That said, stains are common for used enamelware and steel pans, and they can be cleaned with time and elbow grease. Check out our advice for cleaning enamelware and stainless steel and copper cookware.
- Return and warranty details: If you’re buying a refurbed machine through another seller such as Amazon, double-check the warranty, terms, and technician checklist. It’s virtually unheard of to find warranties for used Dutch ovens and the like, but check return policies.
What to avoid
Buying used online involves risk, especially for machines that can have electrical or mechanical issues. Here are some things to avoid.
- Uncertified used machines: unless it’s just a few bucks at stake and you can try turning on the machine in person. Otherwise, you may be spending a couple hundred dollars for something that has no guarantee of working.
- Frayed or deteriorating cords: Even if it’s a total steal and turns on, leave a machine with a disintegrating cord behind, since using it may be dangerous.
- Chipped or flaking enamelware: Look for enamelware with the interior fully intact. Leave cookware with large chips and area-wide flaking, which can expose the cooking surface to rust and affect performance. A couple small chips around the rim are okay and won’t affect performance (although you should be gentle with use and cleaning to avoid further chipping).
- Scorched enamelware: While you can clean cosmetic stains from enamelware, as we note above, avoid blackened, raised cooking surfaces, which indicate that residue has been scorched on; this can be difficult to clean off, says senior staff writer Michael Sullivan, who’s written our guides to cleaning and maintaining cast-iron and copper cookware.
- Black interior enamelware: Staub makes some really pretty all-black Dutch ovens with matching black interiors, but unless you really trust the seller, it can be tricky when buying online to tell the condition of the enamel coating if the enamel is black.
- Hairline cracks and warped bottoms: Inspect cast-iron pans for warps and hairline cracks, which can lead to breakage. Ditto for any component parts on machines.
- Cast iron that’s $100 and up: Michael, who writes our guide to cleaning and reseasoning cast iron, warns against overspending on cast iron, especially if it’s billed as vintage and collectible. If you’re unsure of a potential purchase’s provenance, refer to online resources like the The Cast Iron Collector, Boonie Hicks, and Wagner & Griswold Society.
- Fire rings: If you use induction, Lesley, who co-writes our guide to cast-iron skillets, warns that cast iron with a raised ring on the bottom won’t heat effectively, since the bottom of the pan won’t come into full contact with the cooktop.
- Almost right, but not quite: I once bought a used Dansk Købenstyle butter warmer in teal that was perfect—except that I don’t like the color teal. I eventually bought a new red Dansk Købenstyle Butter Warmer, and it makes me really happy, but it isn’t the most sustainable shopping I’ve ever done. Be honest with yourself: if you have strong opinions about the model or color that you want, buying new first can be worth the cost, since you’ll hopefully keep it for a long time.
When to just buy it new
Used kitchen gear is not for everybody. If your heart is set on a particular color or model, and you can afford it, buy it new—you’ll get what you want on the first go-around, and you’re likely to keep it for a long time. Carefully considering your purchases so you can make fewer of them also reduces the environmental footprint of your shopping.
You can get good discounts on new, high-end gear during sales (for example, our Deals team found an almost 30% discount on our top-pick KitchenAid stand mixer earlier this year).
But if you’re not yet sure if you’re ready to pay full or even sale price for a pricey item, and you want to see what all the fuss is about, buying used is one way to find out. Besides, you might be able to find a color that’s no longer in production.
This article was edited by Christine Cyr Clisset and Marguerite Preston.