Waltzing into a boutique or pulling up your favorite retailer's website and buying a new bag at full price is great (trust us, we love it), but it's not the only way. For the huge number of consumers who want to find a good deal, search down a bag they missed in seasons past or find a way to access designs that may not otherwise be readily available to them in their hometowns or online, a new cottage industry has sprung up: designer bag resale sites.
We've kept an eye on the online resale market as it has expanded, and now there are so many options that things can get confusing for first-time resale shoppers very quickly. Below, we've put together a primer on over a dozen of the best places to buy pre-owned bags online, as well as some general tips to get you started, no matter where you shop.
[Editor's Note: Originally Published November 18, 2015]
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Check Return and Authentication Policies.
Most resale companies don't have return policies as generous as those of regular retail stores, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the rules of any particular site before you buy. Some sites only offer store credit for returns unless a bag turns out to be significantly different than it was described on the site (or an under-the-radar fake), and for multi-vendor sites, the return policies can vary by seller.
2. Know the Original Price of the Bag.
The best place start with any pre-owned purchase is with gathering information about what the bag would have been like brand new, including its price. Because of the number of resale sites that have popped up in the past couple of years, many popular bags will be available at pre-owned prices in multiple locations, and many of them will not disclose the bag's original retail value alongside their own pricing. Buying pre-owned bags can often set you up for a good deal, but if the bag you want was very hard to get at original retail, you can expect to find a significant markup.
3. Have Reasonable Expectations.
Luxury shoppers expect a lot from the things we buy, and we should--that's what the money is for, after all. When shopping second-hand merchandise, though, it's best to remember that if you find the bag you want at half its original retail price, it will probably have a scuffed corner or a hardware scratch or two. If that's unacceptable, pre-owned shopping just might not be for you.
4. Watch Out for Financing Offers.
Many of the sites we looked into offered payment plans of some sort, ranging from 0% to 30% APR, often through a third-party service called Affirm. These services can either make your purchase much more or much less affordable; make sure you read the fine print.
5. Trust Your Instincts.
If something seems off about a bag or a site, it's best to err on the side of caution. There will always (always) be another bag.
With that in mind, check out some of the most promising newcomers to the online resale scene (as well as some of our old favorites) below.
Shop eBay Now
Of course, we have to talk about eBay first--it's the Internet's biggest online auction site, as well as its largest source of pre-owned designer bags. There are tons of reputable sellers with totally authentic bags on eBay, but because of the volume, it's good to be thorough and skeptical in your high-dollar purchases. (Our eBay section at PurseForum is a great place to get pointers and advice!)
Shop Christie's Now
If you're looking for something rare, undoubtedly authentic and in the best possible pre-owned condition, one of the traditional auction houses like Christie's is a great way to go. Christie's website hosts both periodic auctions and a handbag shop with rotating stock, and both are a great source for bags that would be otherwise very hard to track down via traditional retail channels. Right now, the site is full of rare Chanel pieces.
Shop Heritage Auctions Now
Heritage Auctions was the first big auction house to step into the luxury accessory market, and the brand's phenomenal online assortment shows it. I can't think of anywhere else you'd find this kind of assortment of rare and exotic Hermès bags in particular, but the site also carries a lot of leather bags too, and often at very good prices relative to retail.
Shop Fashionphile Now
Fashionphile is one of the more high-profile examples of a new breed of retail site that crowdsources its stock from consumers. Not only is the selection of designer bags (and beyond) large, but it's a good place to get some cash back for bags you don't want anymore if you don't want to do the work of selling the bag yourself. The site also has three boutique locations in California and accepts returns for full refund both online and in person at its stores. Also, Fashionphile offers at least one unique service to shoppers: after 90 days, the website will buy back your bag for 70% off what you bought it for if you don't feel like hanging onto it forever.
Shop TheRealReal Now
The RealReal is a luxury consignment site that also allows consumers to both buy and sell, and its stock goes beyond seasonal fashion to fine jewelry and art. Also worth noting: The RealReal does not allow returns on handbags at all, even for store credit.
Shop Vestiaire Collective Now
You may have heard of Vestiaire Collective because of the high-profile companies and investors who have kicked in money to make it grow. (The list includes Vogue publisher Condé Nast, among others.) Vestiaire's model is somewhat more decentralized than some of its luxury resale contemporaries; most of its bags are listed and shipped by their original owners instead of consigned to and then sold by Vestiaire itself. The site allows shoppers to ask public questions about a bag or seller and shows ratings and feedback for a bag's owner.
Shop Yoogi's Closet Now
I don't remember exactly when I first became aware of Yoogie's closet, but it seems like it's been around forever as a well-regarded purveyor of well-authenticated designer goods, with a focus on bags. The site has one of the best return policies I found during my search, with a full 30-day, no-questions-asked opportunity to get all your money back if you don't like your new (to you) bag. The selection, especially among big brands, is also quite good--the site is selective about what it takes from consigners, and not just when it comes to authenticity.
Shop Tradesy Now
Tradesy is a fashion-focused site and smartphone app that allows users to buy and sell luxury goods, with an emphasis on bags, shoes and accessories. Like Vestiaire, it also allows shoppers to as questions of the individual sellers offering products via the site. Be sure of what you want, though; unless Tradesy finds that the seller of your purchase misrepresented the piece you bought, you can only return for store credit instead of a refund. If you're a decisive person, though, the prices might very well be worth it.
Shop Portero Now
Portero is another luxury-focused site that's been around seemingly forever. (At least since I was in college, and I'll turn 30 next month.) The site focuses on bags, accessories, jewelry and luxury watches, with the vast majority of pieces coming from big names like Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Cartier. Nothing wrong with focusing on the best of the best, eh? The site accepts consignments and also takes applications for full-fledged vendors. Portero also does a great job describing the condition of the pieces it lists, which is important in resale situations.
Shop SnobSwap Now
Instead of taking consignments from individual customers, SnobSwap works with brick-and-mortar luxury consignment stores around the country to list their inventories online for easy shopping. That means plenty of variety; for instance, the website already has a couple listings for Cruise 2016 Chanel bags that have been in boutiques less than a month, as well as the rare, mid-2000s Balenciaga bag below.
Shop Trendlee Now
Trendlee is entirely handbag-focused, and the site is strict about only accepting items in "very good" condition or better. Also, even though Trendlee's return policy has some tight deadlines, it is among the sites that do offer a full refund on the purchase price of your item for any reason.
The Luxury Closet
Shop The Luxury Closet Now
Unlike most of the pre-owned bag sites that have popped up over the past couple years, The Luxury Closet isn't based in the US; instead, it's run out of Dubai, which is a huge luxury market in its own right. That makes it a great option for a growing consumer base in an underserved region. Among other white-glove feautres, TLC offers cash-on-delivery services, which allows customers to pay once they've been able to inspect a product in person.
Shop farfetch.com Now
You know farfetch.com as an online aggregator for the inventories of the best indie boutiques around the world, and although almost all of those boutiques deal in new products, several of them sell primarily pre-owned bags. The selection isn't as enormous as some of the resale-focused sites, but it's mostly good stuff--Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
Shop Bluefly Now
Bluefly deals primarily in discount designer clothes, shoes and bags, but the retailer expanded its reach into pre-owned pieces in the recent past, and it includes some big brands and hard-to-find pieces. The shop-within-a-shop includes mainly handbags, accessories and estate jewelry.