Whether you are buying a bathroom sink or toilet, most of these tips will apply - but especially so for toilets. Normally, a decent looking toilet costs at least $150, usually much more. The one above was purchased at the Habitat ReStore for $11. That's real saving! Here's what I look for when shopping second hand.
1. Do I like the style enough to buy it new? I know that if I settle for "less than" toilet, even if it is a killer price, I'm not going to be happy with it very long. After the "$10 toilet" euphoria wears off, I will quickly decide that I'm not happy. I learned this lesson the hard way. Only buy what makes your heart sing - whether it's shoes or a used toilet. You'll thank me later!
2. Is it cracked or chipped? If question #1 is a yes, then I look it over from top to bottom, back to front to see if there is any damage on the toilet. You don't want to get it installed then find that the tank leaks. Look it over really well, and if someone is with you have them look at it, too. Two sets of eyes are always better than one. If you see something that looks like trouble, just walk away.
3. Are there stains? I've never found a second hand fixture that was impeccably clean. It just doesn't happen (well, not where I shop anyways!) But is the dirt/grime removable? Bleach, CLR and Magic Erasers all go a long way to cleaning anything porcelain. I've rarely met one that I couldn't clean - but you do need to look at it carefully to see if you think you can. This one had bright orange paint ALL over the lid & back, but a razor blade and some glass cleaner cleaned it right up.
4. Check the plumbing. There's nothing worse than buying a cheap toilet than to get it home and realized that everything inside of it needs replaced. It's not always easy to tell, because without water you can't be 100% sure, but you can skim it over and see if it looks in order. Even if you do have to replace it, factor in if that piece was $20 more... would you still buy it? If the answer is yes, then you may have a winner.
5. Get a handle on it. Both of the toilets in our house were purchased 2nd hand - and both of them got new handles. It's a tiny little change, but it makes a huge difference in the style of the toilet. It can go from "plain Jane" to "hubba-hubba" in about 3 minutes. I paid $17 for the handle to go on an $11 toilet. That's how much it means to me. Still, to get a toilet for less than $30? That's a huge savings!
6. Buy a new seat - period. I don't care if the fixture came out of Ernest Hemmingway's home - I would buy a new seat! Thinking of someone else using it... eeewwww. I found that one for about $7 - and some new toilets don't even come with them, so I wouldn't worry about adding it into your price factor. Just get a new seat, m'kay?
So that's it - my steps of buying a used bathroom fixture. I'm sure there's more out there - so if you've got tips to share I'd love to see them in the comments!