Save Money by Shopping in Pawn Shops

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If you, unlike me, think about saving money when shopping, and you like thrift stores, you might find that shopping in pawn shops is another way for you to save a buck or two.

We have a street in Salt Lake City where every third or fourth building is a pawn shop. Some of them look decent from the outside, some of them – not so much. Last weekend, out of curiosity, I went out of my usual way and into a few pawn shops to see what they are all about.

I have to admit it was quite an experience. I am not a thrift store shopper. I am not big on saving money when it comes to shopping. However (and don’t fall off your chair reading this), I have to say that there would be a few things that I might consider buying in a pawn shop to save money. There are also things that I would never buy no matter how good of a deal was offered.

How Pawn Shops Make Money

If you are desperate for quick cash, you might end up bringing something of value into a pawn shop. Depending on your intentions – to pawn or to sell – an owner of a pawn shop will do one of the following:

1. If you intend to pawn an item, a shop owner will ask you how much money you want. Let’s say you want to pawn something for $200. You will have one month (or 30 days) to come back to a pawn shop and buy your item back. In Salt Lake City you will have to pay about 15% interest on your $200 pawn, so your item will cost you $230.

2. If you intend to sell something, be ready to negotiate and negotiate hard. I hope you do realize, that you will get much less than you are asking, so be ready to bargain and know how to do it. Do not settle for the first pawn shop that you find. Shop around. You will be surprised to find out that some owners offer better prices.

Things I Hated About Pawn Shops

Feeling of Hopelessness 

One of the owners told me that he had people come in and borrow $3 for gas because they had to go to work and did not have money to buy gas. Some people are in desperate situations and they would pawn watches, DVD players, TVs, tools, whatever they can for $5-$10 just to get by.

I had a feeling that behind any merchandise is a story of poverty and despair. This is one of the reasons I would never buy a piece of jewelry in a pawn shop (and I saw some impressive pieces!) In my mind, any piece of jewelry carries a sentimental value. It represents memories. I don’t want to own someone else’s life, someone else’s memories.

Shady Individuals

Every pawn shop owner is supposed to run a check through the local police department on every item that is pawned or sold to make sure that the item was not stolen. Some of the shops do that, but some of them don’t. I did see quite a few shady looking individuals talking to the pawn shop owner. However, it could be just my subjective and opinionated subconscious talking.


For some reason every pawn shop I visited smelled the same: stale odor of dirty clothes and rags. The smell lingered with me for what seemed hours.

Things To Buy in Pawn Shops to Save Money

There were a few things that I would consider checking out in pawn shops to save money. Some of the merchandise those shops carried looked high-quality.


Most of the pawn shops had a variety of bikes. Surprisingly, a few of those bikes were in a good condition, and seemed to be high-quality. I saw a few good mountain bikes offered for a fraction of their real price.

If you are into biking, I would recommend checking out your local pawn shops. Just make sure that a pawn shop owner has run the bike’s serial number through the police system. Otherwise, you might end up with a stolen bike.


I was surprised by a variety of tools that each pawn shop carried. Some of the tools were in questionable condition, but some looked good.

I saw a few lawn mowers that seemed almost brand new! Considering the price tag, I would definitely try a lawn mower from a pawn shop. Of course, there is always a possibility that even almost a brand new tool might fall apart on you because, after all, it is used.


I was impressed with the huge DVD collections that some of the pawn shops carried. However, as everything else in pawn shops, quality is not guaranteed. Therefore, make sure to inspect what you are buying.

Important Things to Remember

You can make you own offer on a merchandise you are considering to buy. You are welcome to negotiate. Some of the shops had signs that said “Make you own offer to save more money.”

There are no refunds and no returns. You buy something that falls apart on you in a few days, the joke is on you.

56 thoughts on “Save Money by Shopping in Pawn Shops”

    1. I guess we need to use the same rules ( such as know the value of an item ) no matter where we shop.

  1. Interesting about the bikes. I was thinking about getting a bike for exercise. Now I know where to browse.

  2. I thought pawn shops were a good place to find musical instruments too, but I haven’t seen anything good when I dropped by. I haven’t gone to a pawn shop for years though. I might need to check out one of the new shop again.

    1. You might be right because I have to admit that I saw some musical instruments in a few shops. But I didn’t take a close look since I am not into music that much.

    2. My parents bought my flute at a pawn shop. An Emerson from the 80s. Great buy! I think they got it for $150. Beautiful sound. I still have it. I had other flutists whose parents bought them the $1k flutes and were always having trouble with it.
      My parents did splurge on my brother’s violin ($1K) in February. But he had been playing a crappy violin for 4 years. He finally decided music was serious for him, and they upgraded him.

      1. I bet you can find good musical instruments. I saw some that were decent looking, but I have no idea if they were any good. $150 vs $1000 is HUGE difference in savings.

  3. Love the post, I found your site through a comment in the Yakesie forum (I’m a new challenger). I love your honesty in saying that you aren’t big on saving money while shopping. I would have to say that I am, and the post did a great job at pointing out how you can save money on things you would probably buy for much more elsewhere.

    Jeremiah Brown

    1. I do recognize your name from Yakezie forums as well. Did I say “Welcome to the challenge” yet? If not – welcome! And thank you for stopping by. My blog is very honest and open… otherwise what’s the purpose of blogging? 😉

  4. Squeezer @Personal Finance Success

    Pawn shops can be a good deal, but like said above, you really have to know the value of an item. If there is something you want to buy and you have a smart phone, do a google search for it first to see if it is online new and cheaper.

    1. That is true! What if you can get something new and for ALMOST as cheap. However, something to consider – you still can negotiate in pawn shops and get your price down. You cannot do this in regular stores or on-line.

  5. My wife recovered some of her own jewelry in a pawn shop in our city. Our house had been broken into some time earlier. The cops were able to connect the jewelry to a guy already in jail for break & enter, and he got time tacked onto his sentence, thanks to my wife’s sleuthing.

    1. Wow, what a story! I bet that pawn shop didn’t run a check on your jewelry or they would have known that it was stolen.

  6. Pawn shops always gave me that shady feeling. It’s as if I bought something, I was going to overpay despite how much research I did. I don’t know why I feel this way about pawn shops but I do.

  7. I’ve never shopped in pawn shops, nor have I ever sold items to pawn shops. This may seem silly, but quite frankly they scare me. I know that the owners are just running a business, but I’m always suspicious of many of them ripping off customers. I guess you have to be a good negotiator to get the best prices.

  8. I lived in Reno for 12 years. Pawn shops are everywhere. The only time I bought anything from one, though, I bought a personal CD player and some headphones. It worked perfectly and cost me a fraction of what going to Radio shack would have.

    1. Hmmm…. You see, I would have problems with headphones because I would have to put it close to my skin. I am a little picky that way. 🙂

  9. It is sad thinking there are probably memories and a sad story in everything at a pawn shop. I agree with Daisy, too. They are great IF you know the value of merchandise!

  10. When I was a poor student (in early 80s in Bulgaria) I needed to pawn my type writer several times; it was heart breaking and also without it my earning capacity was limited (I made money writing for newspapers and translating stuff, Applesoft Basic manual included). Now I don’d do pawn shops – even the smell make me sick.

    1. Interesting! I guess you were lucky enough to get your typewriter back since you pawned it several times. Some people, unfortunately, never come back and never get their things bought back.

  11. I think your comment about going in expecting to negotiate is spot on. Being able to negotiate well is also very helpful if you’re looking to get less ripped off. It’s always good to remember that the person with the cash has the leverage. If you need gas money, then you kinda have to take the offer at some point. If you’re shopping in a pawn shop, negotiate hard, because the owner just wants to move inventory.

    1. Exactly. In fact, I would recommend pawn shops as a place to sharpen your negotiation skills before you hit China or Turkey or just street vendors. 🙂

  12. Good power tools are the one thing that could be a bargain at Pawn Shops. I’ve bought a couple at this one shop I don’t get to very often. I once passed on a DeWalt cordless drill set because the owner wouldn’t come down a measly 20 bucks. I kick myself every so often about that, should’ve taken the deal.

    1. You see I don’t usually go away from good deals. And some of the tools did look like a good deal to me in pawn shops.

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  14. I have found good deals at pawn shops – especially on DVD’s. Instead of spending money to rent a movie, I can go to the pawn shop and buy a DVD for around $2.50. If we (or the kids) can watch it more than once, I feel like my dollars were well spent. In our region, other pawn shop finds are electronics/computers/TV’s, and also guns/hunting rifles. Great insights into the world of pawn shops, Aloysa!

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  21. Saving money in pawn shop is fine, i also believe that availing loans in pawn shops is one of the quickest and safest way.

  22. Connecticut Mortgage Lenders

    Your blog is very informative. I love reading this blog. as per my experience, Pawn shops are a great place to find power tools as they provide lifetime guarantees. So, i love to shop there.

  23. These pawn shops were a good place to find musical instruments too, but I haven’t seen anything good when I dropped by a pawn shop though we get many stuff that are quite worth.

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  25. I always buy things at pawnshops. the one thing that is best about them is that you will be able to get good stuff at great price.

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