The Pros and Cons of Buying Pre-Owned Designer Bags

Anytime you’re ready to purchase a luxury handbag, it’s an exciting time filled with questions. Should you be practical or go for your personal favorite? Should you choose leather or an exotic skin bag? Should you purchase a store-fresh or pre-owned designer bag? Let’s explore the pros and cons of buying pre-owned bags to help you with your questions.

The Pros of Buying Pre-Owned Designer Bags

Let’s start with the fun part — the advantages over the disadvantages of buying pre-owned bags

Affordability and Savings

Many focus on savings when considering the pros and cons of buying pre-owned bags. In many cases, the potential savings can range from 20% to 70%. How is this possible if luxury handbags are great investments? Excellent question. First, not every luxury bag will increase in value. Some models, leathers, and colors perform far better than others on the resale market. 


Second, the bag’s condition is critical to its resale value. The ideal pre-owned designer bag for investment should be in mint condition meaning that the leather is supple and not dry or cracked, the hardware is not badly scratched or tarnished, and the leather has retained much of its original shape. Of course, mint condition bags are sold at a large premium over bags that have worsened with age.

Access to Rare and Discontinued Styles

Many of the most coveted designer handbags were released as limited editions or are now discontinued styles. Often, the only way to own such rare or unique luxury bags is to purchase a pre-owned designer bag. Remember the uber-chic Chanel Minaudiere No. 5 Perfume Clutch or the vintage Chanel Basket with lambskin and rattan wicker? They can only be found among the finest previously owned Chanel bags.

In addition to limited edition and discontinued styles, buying pre-owned designer bags lets you enjoy rare or retired colors. Remember the extraordinary Hermès colors Lagoon and Blue Azur? These gorgeous shades were produced for a brief time, then retired. How marvelous to see them back in circulation again among our pre-loved and vintage Hermès bags.

Eco-Friendly Fashion Choice

As more people embrace the goal of sustainability, the taboo against buying or wearing a pre-owned designer bag has fallen away. Many recognize the value in giving these beautiful bags, designed and constructed to provide decades of use, a second life. Those concerned about fashion’s impact on the environment proudly wear their previously loved bags.

The Cons of Buying Pre-Owned Designer Bags

When considering the pros and cons of buying pre-owned bags, it’s easy to get swept away by the possibility of scoring the rare bag you have your heart set on. But it’s essential to protect yourself from potential fraud and the other cons of buying pre-owned designer bags.

Condition Concerns: Wear and Tear

No matter how carefully stored, pre-owned designer bags are bound to show some signs of wear if they were ever worn. Will your delight in your purchase be dimmed by seeing that small nick on the handle every day you wear it? Or is the damage far more severe? Some women actually find a few minor signs of wear an advantage to buying pre-loved bags. They feel more free to wear the bag without fearing the first scratch because it has already occurred. There is value in this perspective if you can adopt it.

However, some people are disturbed by the germs involved in wearing a bag that once belonged to someone else. Beyond visible signs of wear, there are the potential off-putting odors that can never be eliminated. A bag that smells of smoke, mothballs, or stale perfume always will.  

Challenges with Authenticity and Poor Restorations

We all know the challenges posed by fraud, fakes, and super fakes in the luxury handbag market. We have written detailed articles about authenticating Hermès bags, Chanel bags, Goyard totes, and Louis Vuitton bags. The counterfeiting issue is just as bad with pre-owned designer bags. However, even when the bag is genuine, you still may have problems.

We have seen some very … creative attempts to restore damage to authentic Hermès and Chanel bags. Suffice it to say that any bag that has been painted or glued to try to cover signs of wear loses its value.

Whether avoiding fakes or poor “restorations,” the best way to protect yourself is to do business only with highly reputable dealers that recognize repainted or altered bags and also provide an authenticity guarantee

Previous Ownership and Unknown History

One of the most satisfying features of inheriting a luxury handbag is learning the bag’s story. Who wore it, and in what life adventures did it participate? These exquisite bags each have their own story, but in today’s vast resale market it is rare to know how many owners it may have had or what it meant to them. Some people believe that the owner’s experience carries through to the next owner and that it can bring good or bad karma to the new owner. 

Final Sale And No Return Policy

New bags come in only condition: pristine with no signs of wear. They risk damage if they are improperly handled. Therefore, they cannot be returned. However, the condition of pre-owned bags is highly subjective.  Not only can buyer and seller disagree that a bag is “excellent” for example, but evaluators working in the same company may disagree. In other words, a bag listed as in “excellent” condition may have more or less signs of wear compared to another similar bag rated in the same condition.

To minimize the risk of being “stuck” with an undesirable bag, it is important to get as much information and photos on a pre-owned bag as possible. Prompt responsiveness to questions and videos and/or photos requests is critical in the purchase decision of a pre-owned bag.  If the seller is reluctant to respond to these requests, it might be better to not purchase the bag. Madison Avenue Couture recognizes the subjectiveness of conditions on pre-owned bags and provides a return period, even while maintaining a no return policy on new bags. 

How to Navigate the Pre-Owned Designer Bag Market

Before purchasing you must carefully weigh the pros and cons of buying pre-owned bags. If you feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, working with a reliable dealer is essential to protecting yourself from bags that are not in the condition described or are totally fake.  

These are the features to look for:

  • Customer reviews and ratings
  • Longevity and experience in business
  • Authenticity guarantee
  • In-house or third-party authentication services
  • Multiple high-quality images, including closeups
  • Comprehensive descriptions of the item’s condition
  • Willingness to provide additional photos and details upon request
  • Clear contact information
  • Responsive customer service

When purchasing pre-owned designer bags, always remember that if the deal seems too good to be true, it surely is.

Conclusion: Is Buying Pre-Owned Right for You?

After weighing the pros and cons of buying pre-owned bags in the luxury sphere, is it a wise choice? There is no one correct answer. You’ll have to decide based on your lifestyle, budget, and personal preferences. Some women embrace the sustainability of wearing a pre-loved bag and love giving these pieces of fashion history another turn in the sun. Others struggle with discomfort over the issue.

If you remain undecided, consider that some people buy both new and pre-loved bags. They often prefer buying a pre-owned designer bag for traveling so they don’t risk their most precious bags. If that idea solves a struggle you experience, it may be a great entry point for you to the world of pre-loved bags. However, if you prefer to wear your new-bought bags while on vacation, store-fresh purchases may be best for you.

Judy Taylor

CEO & Founder of Madison Avenue Couture
Judy Taylor, the CEO and founder of Madison Avenue Couture is one of the most respected authorities on luxury bags and accessories. Her unwavering commitment to quality has cemented her as an expert in luxury retail, inspiring fashion enthusiasts worldwide.
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