A Step-By-Step Guide to Buying Pre-Owned Luxury Handbags
“Luxury bags make your life more pleasant, make you dream, give you confidence and show your neighbors you are doing well.”
- Karl Lagerfeld
The only thing better than owning a designer handbag is getting one at a discount, however most high-end designers like Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel will never reduce prices. The only other option is to buy pre-owned - and there are many reasons you should!
Firstly, you can save a lot of money - hundreds or even thousands of dollars off of retail. Buying pre-owned is also the sustainable fashion choice. Finally, the pre-owned market is much more diverse than retail: you have access to many designers in one place, offering different bags from various years and collections.
You can pick from top designers such as Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Prada and many more. This gives you the chance to find something truly special, rare and unique - at times, you can even come across something made to special order:
Pictured: Hermes Constance handbag - this one is a special order made from alligator. You can tell the material from the square marking next to the HERMES stamp on the inner flap. Rare exotics like these you can only find on the resale market.
But buying a pre-owned luxury handbag can be a daunting task. You may be asking yourself: where should I buy one from? How can I tell if the seller is trustworthy? How do I know it’s real? What designer should I choose?
Seasoned shoppers who know how to navigate the resale market know the answers to these questions and frequently score great deals on high end designer bags and you will too.
Step 1: How Can I Find a Reputable Place to Shop Designer Bags?
Should I Try auctions?
The biggest mistake is starting with online auction sites - you never truly know what you’re getting, and there is very little buyer protection. In fact, Louis Vuitton was awarded over $60 million in damages from online auction site Ebay, arguing that up to 90% of “Louis Vuitton” bags sold on Ebay were counterfeits.
And that’s just one designer and one auction website - it is a known fact that the counterfeit industry thrives on knocking off top designer brands and selling the fakes on auction sites. And while there are authentic bags on auction sites, the hassle of sorting through the fakes and the risk of ending up with a fake is hardly worth it. Save your time and your money by avoiding this altogether when shopping pre-owned handbags.
Instead, look for a dedicated designer resale company that specializes in the procurement, merchandising and sale of second hand designer items. There are a lot of these companies and each one can offer something unique with their platforms, so be sure to do a little research on which company works best for you. Not all designer resellers are the same, so here is what you should look out for:
Check if the reseller offers lifetime authenticity guarantee.
Authenticity should be the reseller’s foundation, and many, if not most resellers will have an “authenticity guarantee”. But don’t be fooled! Most of these guarantees are time limited, so if it takes you a few weeks, months or even years to realize it’s a fake, you won’t get your money back.
You will find only a handful of designer resellers that offer a lifetime authenticity guarantee. As a buyer, you want to always have that peace of mind that your item is truly authentic and not have to wonder after the return period has expired. If, for any reason, you find the item is not authentic, you should be able to return it to the reseller at any time. Codogirl.com was founded on this belief.
Verify that the business established a good reputation.
An important question you should ask is: how long has the reseller been in business? Look for businesses with an established reputation and that have been around for many years. What are others saying about customer service? Be sure to read at least a few reviews. Reputable sellers will tend to flaunt their positive reviews.
If you can’t find any on the website, it is a red flag, go to Instagram. Checkout the page and see if it inspires trust. Open a few posts and read what you can find in the comments section. You may be able to find customers praising the reseller or sometimes complaining about customer service.
Is there an easy way to reach customer service? Try calling or emailing and see how fast the response time is. These checkpoints will give you a pretty good idea what to expect after you complete your purchase and hopefully inspire confidence when you find a reseller that is doing all the right things.
Take a minute to read the returns policy.
While most professional resellers will have detailed listings describing the handbag and several high-quality photos from each angle, you might find you don’t like what you bought. A reputable reseller will stand behind the product, photographs and the description, and will offer a hassle free way to return should you not like what you get.
You should be able to return your purchase for any reason - no questions asked - within a reasonable amount of time. Look for resellers that make it easy to return and give you enough time. A 30-day no questions asked return policy is a sign that the reseller is confident in what they are selling. 30-days, no questions asked are probably the most generous terms that you can find in the market. The return policy has to be short, clear and simple.
Step 2: How to Choose the Designer That Works Best for Me?
One of the best parts of shopping resale is the variety to pick and choose from. You have the ability to shop handbags from all top designers and many long-discontinued items - the only hard part is choosing just one!
Consider asking yourself: what do I need this handbag for? Is it for everyday carry? Formal events or date nights? Is it for work? Depending on your taste and purpose, some luxury designer handbags can work better than others.
Pictured: the LV Tadao Tote in Damier Graphite canvas. This is the "do-it-all" luxury bag: you can wear it to the office, or everyday carry on errand runs. It's sleek, classy and above all, super luxurious. This example is pre-owned, but as you can tell by the pictures it appears brand new!
Discover durable, luxurious everyday carry:
If you want a luxury handbag that you are not afraid of scratching, Louis Vuitton is without a doubt the best to look for. The monogram canvas tote bags are made from the same ultra-durable material that Louis Vuitton used in their famous luxury travel trunks, which were known to be the highest quality and nearly indestructible.
Louis Vuitton bags come in a variety of styles, colors and materials. For a more subdued look, the classic LV monogram or Damier print canvas are excellent choices, but if you want a conversation starter, you can consider the rare Multicolore canvas edition designed by Takashi Murakami - available exclusively on the resale market as they are no longer in production.
Pictured: Some people are hesitant because they think pre-owned means used condition. Not all pre-owned bags are in used condition: we actually sold several Chanel vintage bags with their original price tags attached - in French Francs - a currency that no longer exists! And check out this example of a pre-owned Louis Vuitton handbag - it looks new! That is because this Louis Vuitton was rarely carried. You can tell by the flawless condition of the red interior - completely free of pen marks - and the bag’s bottom corners. The verdict: you can get yourself a new vintage bag for less than half the retail price.
To learn more about Louis Vuitton’s history and what makes LV so special, be sure to check out our LV Authentication Guide and Why We Love Louis Vuitton in our CODOGIRL Journal.
Find a special bag for a special occasion:
Are you looking for something for special occasions? Consider the classic beauty of a Chanel 2.55 double flap bag. Their quilted leather and quintessential Chanel hardware and chain are simply gorgeous and are sure to elevate any look. And, if cared for properly, they can last you a lifetime, only going up in value and demand.
The Chanel Classic Flap also comes in several different sizes and colors, so there is one for every Chanelista out there. And while they are normally very expensive, buying one pre-owned in the resale market is guaranteed to save you a lot of money. To learn more about Chanel’s history and heritage, be sure to read our article, Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld.
Pictured: Chanel flap bags are the quintessential luxury handbags. They are an unmistakable classic - everyone knows what they are and the weight they carry. While the Chanel quilt pattern is the most common, the chevron pattern (far left) is especially unique and popular on the resale market.
You will never go wrong with these Best-of-the-Best:
If you want top of the line, best of the best, Hermes offers some of the finest handbags to ever exist: the Hermes Birkin and Kelly handbags. Both are iconic and instantly recognizable, carrying the same prestige as the fashion icons they were named after: Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly.
But even if you have all the money in the world, you cannot simply walk into an Hermes store and buy one. It will take you years of courting the sales staff and establishing yourself as a worthy buyer with a boutique to be offered an opportunity to buy one - especially if you are looking for a Hermes bag in an exotic skin, such as alligator or crocodile.
The resale market offers a good variety of these exclusive handbags, but you have to find a reseller that you can trust. When you find that reseller, even if they do not have your special bag in stock you can always drop them a note. Resellers have relationships allowing them to procure a specific bag from a customer that was considering selling one.
Established resellers have long standing relationships with both sellers and buyers. To learn more about Kelly and Birkin bags, check out our Hermes Birkin and Kelly Authentication Guide, which will tell you all about these beautiful handbags and what to look out for when buying pre-owned Hermes bags.
Pictured: Red Hermes Box Sellier Kelly. Known for its rigid posture and crisp silhouette, the Kelly is a classic that will never go out of style. A rather simple design, the Kelly lets its top quality leather and craftsmanship do the talking, making a classy statement for any occasion. The pictured Kelly was made 24 years ago, but is in near excellent condition.
Pictured: Three examples of 35 Birkins that are extremely hot on the resale market. These three colors, etaupe with gold hardware, brown with palladium hardware, and black with gold hardware are some of the most popular color/hardware combinations. They are all excellent choices because they keep their resale value incredibly well. Why? Because every woman wants a Birkin - and these are some of the best colors.
Step 3: How Much Can I Save Buying Pre-Owned?
You can save anywhere between 20 and 70% buying pre-owned. But some pre-owned bags are more expensive than new.
A lot of people ask themselves - how much money can I save buying a bag pre-owned? The short answer: a lot. However, like buying any luxury item pre-owned, the price depends on a number of factors too. For example, pre-owned can also mean unused, therefore a Birkin bag that is clearly unworn can cost just as much on the pre-owned market as it would retail, if not more, due to such high demand and little supply.
If the handbag was pre-loved, price depends on the condition first and foremost, and then also on the rarity of the handbag, the color and style (whether it is trending or not). For example, the rarer exotic skin Hermes Birkins typically cost a lot more than “regular” Birkins, even if they are worn. If the bag is in a highly desirable color - like, say, a Chanel Classic Flap in beige or black - then it is likely to cost more on the resale market than less sought after colors.
Expect to see a good condition pre-owned Chanel flap bag in popular colors like black, beige or navy blue going for around $3,000, whereas brand new they retail for upwards of $6,000.
If you are willing to make some slight compromises on condition you can truly find some incredible deals and carry an amazing bag that will still last you many years. A beautiful bag makes a statement whether it is brand new or pre-owned. And remember, once you wear that brand new bag, it is no longer brand new. So, why not save the money and buy pre-owned?
Is it Worth it?
Luxury designer handbags tend to retain their value very well on the pre-owned market. When buying one retail, the value will drop significantly from the retail price to the resale price - however if you buy the handbag pre-owned, you are very likely to be able to sell it for a similar price as you bought it for in the coming years.
This is especially the case with classic models of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes. You might even be able to get more for the bag over time, as many designer handbags appreciate in value.
Thanks for this amazing blog. I really liked the way you described everything in detail.. surely going to share this…
Thanks for sharing this article.
Thanks for this article. Last year, I bought a second-hand bag, and had a really bad experience. I wish I had read this back then.