The second-hand market is more popular than ever thanks to this generation’s newfound love of thrift shopping and all things eco-friendly.
This market isn’t limited to thrifting, and the second-hand culture has finally reached Panama. Today, you can find anything from furniture and TVs to antiques and fully furnished apartments.
This affordable and environmentally friendly market is the easiest way to pick up great finds for a lot less than you’d get at a retail store. Nothing beats the thrill of snapping up a bargain before someone else does.
You need to know the dos and don’ts to avoid getting scammed. As it’s a new market in Panama, there aren’t many rules and regulations to ensure you don’t get hoodwinked. It’s also easy to get gringo-priced if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Your best bet is to know which websites and shops are trustworthy for the item you’re selling or buying.
Panama‘s most popular second-hand website is Encuentra24. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find someone selling it here. This site is an excellent place for second-hand commerce, and it’s easy to navigate if you can read and write basic Spanish.
Though you can view the website in English, the listings will appear mostly in Spanish. Look up the Spanish words for the item you’re searching for or get a Spanish-speaking person to help.
A word of caution: always follow your instincts—Encuentra24 is perfect for finding a variety of items but you should never meet a seller or buyer in a sketchy place or by yourself.
I wouldn’t recommend buying electronics (cellphones specifically) on this website. In the last couple years, scammers have gotten creative. Not even Banco General’s popular Yappy app is safe. The safest thing is to receive payment in cash.
Never accept a check deposit—my sister tried to sell her phone a while back and ended up paying a fee to the bank for a check that bounced and she lost her phone to a network of scammers.
Facebook Expat Groups
If your Spanish is no bueno, Facebook expat groups are useful. “ExPats in Panama–For Sale or Rent” is the perfect page for selling or buying second-hand throughout the country. You’ll be among like-minded people, expats trying to get the best bang for their buck. You’ll also find products and services of all kinds, and putting your items on the market is as easy as posting the details on the group’s Facebook wall.
If you’re proficient in Spanish, Facebook Marketplace unlocks a whole other world…
You can find almost anything in this corner of the Facebook website. Go with your gut instinct, compare prices, and if anything seems too good to be true, investigate further before pulling the trigger on that item.
Don’t avoid items listed as “FREE.” While they’re not actually free, the seller might list the price in the description or a WhatsApp phone number you can contact to ask questions.
Facebook Marketplace can be hit or miss. My neighbor recently bought a PlayStation from a lady on Marketplace who assured him it worked. The gaming device did not in fact work, and the lady disappeared. He had to find someone to repair it and paid extra money to get it fixed.
When buying an electronic device on Marketplace, request video proof that the item actually works. A live video call is best so you can see the product functioning in real time.
Facebook Marketplace has several success stories, including my own. I was recently on the hunt for a place to rent closer to work and found a spacious room with its own private bathroom, all amenities included—for a bargain.
You can find fully furnished apartments, too, but I was interested in renting a room. It took a lot of WhatsApp messaging to get pricing and details, but within a week I found the right place for me at under-market pricing. Free parking, 24-hour security, and a pool! These are the wonders of Facebook Marketplace.
Let’s say you moved into an unfurnished apartment and want seemingly brand-new furniture to spruce the place up. Muebles DejaVu is the only store in Panama City where you can sell used furniture (in good condition) and also buy new or refurbished furniture. The store is like a playground for those looking for decent-priced items for their home. They also deliver your furniture if you’re not able to pick it up yourself.
I recently purchased an L-shaped couch for my mother that met all her needs. I hadn’t considered a second-hand place and found myself hopping from one furniture store to another until I stumbled upon Muebles DejaVu near Via España. I found the ideal couch at the best price. Had I known of this place before, I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and gas money.
Craigslist needs no introduction. It’s a website that most North Americans are familiar with. However, very few people use it in Panama. There are some who do, but you’re more likely to sell or buy faster on the websites I mentioned previously.
Don’t write it off completely though, with luck you might find what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that although you’d be directed to Craigslist Panama, a lot of the items posted come from sellers in Costa Rica. Also, the site is not very user-friendly.
Finding Antiques in Panama
Antique lovers beware… finding antiques can be difficult in Panama because there are few antique stores. Luckily Portal de Épocas, located on Avenida Federico Boyd, is one of the best places to shop. You can browse their website or go to the store and see the items in person. The store is closed on Mondays and Sundays, so keep that in mind when planning a shopping trip. Prices can be expensive depending on the item and its historic value.
If you’re searching for a platform for selling or buying real estate (new or previously lived-in), the website CompreOAlquile is worth your attention. You’ll have to pay a fee ranging from US$30 to US$135, depending on the type of advertisement plan you choose, to list a property.
While less popular than Encuentra24, this website is more trustworthy and easier to navigate. The listings will appear in Spanish, so keep a dictionary on hand.
From one second-hand shopping enthusiast to another, happy hunting!
Geraldine González Panama Insider