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Updated: 5 May 2022

Should you buy a second-hand kitchen?

Dreaming of a new kitchen but on a tight budget and want to shop more sustainably? Check out our tips to find the perfect second-hand kitchen
White kitchen with wooden cabinet

A new kitchen is a big investment and can set you back thousands of pounds. Should you buy a second-hand one?

If you're planning a kitchen refurb, but can't afford an entirely new kitchen, buying a pre-loved kitchen could cut your bill in more than half. It's also an environmentally-friendly way of shopping, potentially preventing a good kitchen ending up in landfill.

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Is a second-hand kitchen or used kitchen the same as an ex-display kitchen?

An ex-display kitchen is a kitchen that has never been used due to being on display at a showroom. It may be damaged, especially if many customers have opened and closed the cupboard doors or drawers while browsing. But it won't have been used for cooking, of course, so it won't have suffered any of the wear and tear you'd expect to see in a functioning kitchen. 

One advantage of an ex-display kitchen is that it will be a more recent model than a second-hand kitchen, so you may be able to get replacement cabinets and fittings should you need to. But don't assume this is the case: do check before buying. 

A second-hand kitchen (or used kitchen), on the other hand, was a lived-in kitchen which belonged to and was used by someone else. Nevertheless, not all second-hand kitchens are old or worn-out. The existing homeowner may simply be choosing to renovate because the existing kitchen is no longer to their taste. 

Whether you buy a second-hand kitchen or an ex-display kitchen, make sure you give it a thorough clean once it's in place, for hygiene reasons. 

If you decide to buy new after all, check out the best and worst kitchen brands as rated by more than 3,800 kitchen owners we surveyed. 

Five tips for buying a second-hand kitchen

Here's what to consider when buying a second-hand kitchen.

1.Check your kitchen measurements before buying

You don't want to pay for a kitchen that's not going to fit so make sure it will work in your space, both technically and for your lifestyle.

You'll also have to use a layout that is pretty much already set, so it won't be as flexible as one you design. 

Once you lift the worktops, a kitchen can be 'rejigged' to a certain extent to fit your space. For example, an existing U-shaped kitchen can be fit into your L shaped one, or you can create a new kitchen island with unused cabinets.  However, if you are creating corners, make sure there are corner units going in the direction you need them: you can't swap left hand corners for right hand corners for example. 

Think about where your windows and doors are, and consider any height restrictions. You'll need space for appliances, crockery and cutlery. You may also want space for large bowls and a drawer for herbs and spices close to your hob.

Experts recommend getting a kitchen that is 10% or 20% larger than your own. That will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your space and it will give you additional units to play with. You can trim down worktops or create end panels and fillers to make it fit, but it's best to get a professional involved here (which of course will entail cost). 

See our kitchen planning guide for tips on how to measure your kitchen.

2. Look at the second-hand kitchen yourself before you buy

Make sure you arrange a viewing to check the kitchen yourself, inside and out. Make sure you understand whether any issues will be cheap to fix: you don't want to pay more to rectify any significant faults.

If you can only view the kitchen online, ask for as many pictures as possible, and seriously consider whether you're comfortable going ahead. 

Seeing the kitchen in person will also help you to plan out your space.

Not sure which layout works best for your kitchen? Check out our kitchen ideas guide for more inspiration.

3. Assess kitchen cabinet materials

Find out as much information you can about how the kitchen cabinets were made, what materials were used, how long ago they were bought and the circumstances under which they've been used. 

A kitchen made of less sturdy joins, or materials that were bought many years ago, is likely to be on its last legs, particularly if it's been used by a large family.

MDF, for example, is higher density and stronger than chipboard and tends to be more water resistant. Solid wood kitchen units are typically more expensive than chipboard or MDF cabinets.

Inspect the sink area and check for any water damage. You should also look for any damage near heat sources. Remember to check the back of the units (as well as the base) and not just the front.

If you need to buy new after all, our guide to the best kitchen cabinets, doors and worktops can help.

4. Consider buying some kitchen parts second-hand and some new

Certain elements of a kitchen can cost more, such as the cabinets themselves or the worktops, depending on the materials and finish you choose. It might, therefore, be cheaper to buy some parts second hand, but the rest new.

Make sure you get a list of all the items that are included. In some cases appliances and taps are included but that is not always the case. Check also for worktops, plinths, and end panels.

5. Find out what's included in the cost of your second-hand kitchen

Some retailers of second-hand kitchens offer disassembling service whereas others may not. Check in advance so you don't have any surprise costs.

It's often a false economy to think you can do this with the help of friends or a standard 'man with a van', as this could result in the worktops or units getting damaged: use a professional company instead. You can use Which? Trusted Traders to find a reliable kitchen fitter. 

Find out the details of the kitchen warranty – has it expired, for example? Your rights may depend on whether you're buying direct from a private seller or from an online retailer of second-hand kitchens. Our guide to buying second-hand goods goes into more detail.

If you're considering a second hand kitchen, but still haven't found what you're looking for, you can also register for notifications with different suppliers. Discover the best and worst places for shopping second hand online