Everyone loves a bargain, and often the best bargains you can find are on used items. Whether it’s a fabulous find from a yard sale or a flea market, designer clothing worn a couple of times and then sold on consignment, a low-mileage, gently used car going for book value, a barely-played CD for a buck or two, or another great deal, one person’s “I’m done with this” is another’s “I gotta have it!”
In fact, one of the reasons I’m able to get by on a writer’s income is that I hardly ever pay full price for anything, and when I have the option of buying used, that’s how I roll. Have I ever gotten a bad deal? Oh, sure I have. There was the Chrysler Cordoba I bought back in the day that was supposedly in perfect running order but had a drain in the electrical system that no one was ever able to diagnose. Another time, I bought a used office chair that was beyond comfortable, but in the humid weather, emitted a stench like you wouldn’t believe, and that no amount of upholstery cleaner could get rid of. Recently, though, I’ve had a pretty good track record – great deals on everything, and nothing, like the chair and the Cordoba, that had to be confined to their respective scrap heaps.
What About Dog Crates?
Can you get a good deal on a used dog crate? How would you go about finding the best crate if you’re not planning on buying new?
The good news is that it’s very easy to find the best crate for your dog amongst a selection of available used crates. There are really just five things that you have to keep in mind. Regardless of where you’re looking, you should be able to find a variety of used dog crates, in a wide range of materials and sizes.
5 Important Factors in Choosing the Best Crate for the Least Money
You’ll find that some of these guidelines relate a little more to buying on eBay, Amazon, and other big online sellers, but most are equally applicable to what you’d find on your local buy-and-sell sites as well.
1. Be Sure You Know the Best Crate Size and Dimensions for Your Dog
Dogs, and dog crates, both come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the best crate, regardless of whether it’s new or used, is the one that fits your dog properly. Sometimes, the purpose of the crate will very much affect the size that you select. For instance, if you’re planning to transport your dog by air, which is something I talked about in Flying the (Pet) Friendly Skies, your crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, sit, and lie down in comfortably. In a bigger crate, your dog could get bounced around and possibly be injured during takeoff, landing, or if the plane hits turbulence.
On the other hand, if your dog is expecting puppies, the best crate for the purpose will be considerably bigger. My Janice is halfway through her pregnancy right now, so I’ve bought her an extra-large crate; it’s 48 inches long, 36 inches high and 30 inches wide.
When you’re buying a new crate from a manufacturer, you can generally expect that you can rely on the stated dimensions. If you’re buying used, though, don’t take anything on faith. If the seller has posted the dimensions, that’s great, but you should consider the possibility for human error. So, if possible, cross-reference the dimensions by checking out the make and model of the crate you’re considering on the manufacturer’s website.
If the seller hasn’t stated the name of the manufacturer, and hasn’t provided dimensions, be sure to ask before buying. Never rely on descriptions like “super large dog crate” or “great for your English Mastiff.” If you can’t get the answers you need, look for another seller.
But what is the minimum size you can buy? Use the following measurements:
- Length: With your dog standing, measure from the tip of his nose to the root of his tail. Then add four inches. This will give you the minimum length for the crate.
- Height: Again, with your dog standing, measure from the floor to the top of his head. Add four inches, and you will have the proper height for the crate. If you plan on using thick bedding, add another inch.
- Width: You can put away your tape measure. If you’ve gotten the length and height right, the width will be fine.
It pretty much goes without saying that a crate that is too small for your dog is not a good deal, no matter how low the price.
2. Decide How Important the Condition of the Crate Is to You
What’s fine for one person in terms of crate condition could be a deal-breaker for another. The crate I bought for Janice had a fair bit of surface rust on the corners (I suspect from a male marking his territory), but the price was so good that I didn’t mind just attaching a wire wheel to my power drill, grinding away the rust, and following up with a coat of paint. If you’re not a DIY kind of person, you might consider this to be more than you can live with.
Condition can also depend a great deal on what the crate is made from. Fabric can tear, plastic can crack, metal fittings can break, and so on. Again, what works for you might depend in large part on how handy you are. If you’re not handy, the best crate for your dog is not one that’s going to need a lot of work.
Ideally, the seller will have posted photos of the actual crate. Be careful of listings carrying descriptions like, “Here is a picture of a similar crate,” or “The crate I have for sale is a lot like this one [click here].” You can also use a Google image search to determine if the seller has simply borrowed photos from a manufacturer’s website.
Now, it’s possible that the seller is technologically challenged – perhaps an elderly person who is selling a crate that belonged to a dog that’s gone to the Rainbow Bridge, and just isn’t good with taking and uploading digital pics. You don’t have to write this one off immediately, but you should still ask questions. Get in touch with the seller and ask the following:
- How old is the crate?
- Was the crate used inside or outdoors?
- Is the handle intact?
- Does the crate [assuming a wire, foldable model] still fold up properly?
- Does the door open and close properly?
- Do the latches work?
- Are there any loose parts? Sharp points?
- Is there any rust?
- Do the zippers [assuming a fabric crate] still work?
- Is there a plastic base, and if so, are there any cracks or holes that could cause liquid to leak out?
If you bid on a used crate, or commit to buy it, then you are deemed to have accepted any faults that the seller has pointed out. You can’t come back later and ask for a refund unless the seller has deliberately misrepresented the condition of the crate.
For instance, if the seller says, “There are a couple of small holes in the plastic base,” you should ask “How small?” The seller might tell you, “They’re just pinholes – no big deal.” You agree that it is, indeed no big deal, and you buy the crate. If you discover that the holes are, in fact, dime-sized, then they’re not pinholes. They most certainly will allow liquid to seep through, and you do, indeed, have the right to expect a refund. Alternatively, if the seller answered your question about the holes but deliberately neglected to tell you about a crack running the length of the base, then you can bet there will be leakage, and again, you should expect to be given a refund.
Just make sure that all your questions are answered to your full satisfaction before bidding or buying. It’s a lot easier not to buy in the first place than it is to try to resolve a dispute after the fact.
3. How Clean Is the Crate?
This is one area in which it’s very much “buyer beware,” and it can also be highly subjective.
When it comes to cleanliness in general, I often say “I have standards. Low standards, but standards nonetheless.” In other words, I’m pretty much okay with dog hair on the furniture, a few dust bunnies in the corners of the house, and the occasional buildup of dirty dishes in the sink. I draw the line, though, at anything that causes a bad smell or could lead to a rodent infestation.
When it comes to anything that could harm my dogs, though, I turn totally OCD. And I don’t want to alarm you, but a dirty crate could harm your dog. So again, this is where, whether you’re buying online or locally, you need to really look at what you’re thinking of buying, and ask questions.
You need to know a few things about the crate’s previous occupant. If the seller tells you that the crate is being sold because the dog died, then harsh as it might sound, you need to ask if the dog died in the crate. Did he occupy the crate during an illness? What type of illness? Was the dog inoculated against canine parvo virus? Parvo is deadly, and can live for months on anything a dog afflicted with the disease touched.
If the answers you get don’t satisfy you, walk away, especially if the crate is made from fabric, which can be next to impossible to clean. If you’re okay with the answers, then it’s still best to clean the crate you’ve bought before you let your dog use it.
Clean the crate outside, using a weak bleach solution and rinsing thoroughly. Also, make sure that your dog is up to date on all his shots before allowing him to use the crate.
4. Where Is the Crate?
You want to know where the crate is located because this will affect the cost of getting it to your location. Obviously, the best crate purchase is one that can be achieved locally. You just drive to wherever the crate is, pay for it and take it home, and you don’t have to worry about shipping costs.
If you’re buying a used crate on eBay, though, usually the price will depend on how far the seller has to ship the crate. And, depending on the size of the crate, you can end up paying quite a lot for shipping. You can use eBay’s search filters to narrow down your search for the best crate, though, and some sellers will even allow you to pick up the crate if they’re from your area.
They’re not obligated to do this, though. I’m not saying that this is likely to happen, but in theory, your next-door neighbor could offer a used dog crate on eBay and insist that you pay using Paypal and then have the crate shipped to you.
On the other hand, some eBay sellers offer free shipping even on large items. This is more likely to be the case with a new dog crate, where the seller has several on offer. Perhaps the seller has picked up a number of “end of product” crates for a song, and is flipping them. So, he or she is able to give you a great deal on the purchase price while even including free shipping. In such instances, a new crate might actually be a better buy than one that’s used.
5. Can You Return the Crate if You Don’t Like It?
If you’re buying a used crate from a private seller on eBay, and the seller specifies “no returns,” you’re probably out of luck, unless they’ve misrepresented the nature and quality of the crate. In that case, you can submit a request for resolution to eBay, and you might very well get your money back under eBay’s buyer protection policy.
Trade sellers are required to allow you to return any “Buy it Now” item within seven working days after receipt of the item. You don’t need a reason. You won’t usually find trade sellers offering used items, though. It’s not unheard of, but it’s not common.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that most eBay sellers are very protective of their feedback. If they think that you’re on the verge of leaving negative feedback, they’ll probably feel inclined toward working with you to resolve any issues that you might have. This could include allowing you to return the crate (although you might have to pay return shipping), offering a partial refund, or even offering a full refund in which you are also able to keep the crate.
If you buy locally, you’ll be pretty much on your own. The seller might take the crate back and give you a refund, might offer an adjustment, or might just say “Too bad, so sad.”
These five things are, in a nutshell, what you need to consider before trying to find the best crate for your dog if you’re planning to go with a used crate.
The Final Word
Caring for a dog is not an inexpensive proposition; you’re on the hook for food, toys, veterinary care and so much more. Buying used items, in general, will almost always save you money, and when you’re looking for the best crate for your dog, it can be a good option. Make sure to do your research, though. Make sure you have the right size crate, one that’s in good shape or can be fixed up, and that won’t endanger your dog’s health or safety.
When you buy used dog crates on eBay, you’ll benefit from their buyer protection program. When you buy locally, or on Craigslist and other buy/sell/trade sites, you could end up on your own. So it’s important to ask the right questions and get the right answers. Sometimes, the best crate is a used crate but not always. Remember, it’s “buyer beware.” You can get the best crate for your dog without shelling out big bucks at a pet store, but you need to be a savvy buyer.