The Shift to Thrift: Top Cities to Thrift in 2022

A New Passion for Secondhand Fashion

Key Takeaways

  • Overall, the best city for thrift shopping is Los Angeles, CA. Lakewood, CA, is second, and Bellevue, WA, is third.
  • The top three cities with the most highly rated secondhand stores per 10K residents are Rutland, VT; Wasilla, AK; and South Burlington, VT.
  • Gen Z is the most likely to shop at secondhand stores, with 65% reporting they thrift very often or always.
  • Thrift store shoppers save an average of $1,760 per year by buying secondhand items.

Thrifting: A Popular Pastime

Thrift shopping has been on the rise in the last few years, turning what was once a financial necessity for some into a trendy way to acquire unique fashion pieces. There are plenty of reasons why secondhand shopping has become so popular. Many laud its affordability; in fact, we found thrift store shoppers save an average of $1,760 per year by buying secondhand items. Other shoppers appreciate reducing waste by reusing pre-loved items rather than letting them end up in a landfill.

We wanted to find the best cities in America for secondhand shopping, whether it be at thrift stores, consignment shops, or vintage boutiques. To create our list, we used Yelp data to find the cities with the most highly rated and budget-friendly secondhand shops. We also surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to learn more about why people thrift and the impacts – including how much you can save.

The Best Cities to Shop Second Hand

Whether you’re new to thrifting or have enjoyed the thrill of it for years, discovering the best places to shop is always exciting. The following are the top metro areas for secondhand shopping in the U.S.

To uncover the best locations for thrifting, we used Yelp data to find the number of secondhand shops ranked four stars or higher in each city and counted shoppers’ reviews. The shops were categorized as “thrift stores”, “used, vintage & consignment stores”, and “flea markets” on Yelp. We also scored cities based on the amount of secondhand stores per 10k residents, and budget-friendliness, which was determined by the amount of “$” secondhand stores they had on Yelp.

The best city to thrift in is Los Angeles, with a total thrift score of 78 – more than double the score of runner-up, Lakewood, California (36)! Lakewood, however, ranked first for having the most flea markets. Bellevue, Washington, a suburb near Seattle, was the third-best city to thrift in. Boston, Phoenix, and Denver took fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively.

On the other end, according to Yelp, Akron, Ohio, ranked as the worst city for thrifters. But the number of secondhand stores wasn’t the only factor we accounted for; we also considered the affordability of thrifting in each city.

The Most Affordable Cities for Thrifting

Not every city has the same options when it comes to affordable secondhand shopping. For example, vintage and consignment shops are often more expensive than charity or nonprofit shops. Next, we’ll see which cities offer the most inexpensive thrifting opportunities.

Yelp labels businesses based on how expensive their offerings are using a scale of one to four dollar signs ($-$$$$). We examined how many secondhand shops Yelp labeled as the least expensive ($) in each city. Los Angeles topped the list again, this time as the most affordable city to buy secondhand. Phoenix and Bellevue came in second and third for affordability, respectively.

And of course, not every city has the same population, so we also looked at results based on data per 10,000 residents. Two small towns in Vermont made the top three in our list of cities with the highest number of secondhand stores relative to their population: Rutland ranked first, and South Burlington was third. By this standard, big cities like New York, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Philadelphia ranked the worst.

Large cities might have some great thrift store finds, but they might also be hard to come by with so many shoppers to compete with! For many thrifters, the thrill is in the hunt. Next, we’ll explore why people thrift.

Reasons for Thrifting

We asked people how they view secondhand shopping and why they might choose it over buying new. Is it all about sustainability, or are shoppers more concerned about saving money?

While less than half of respondents said they thrift to help the environment, 85% acknowledged that it is good for the environment. That same number – 85% – said that instead, their main reason for thrifting was financial. That’s understandable, considering secondhand shoppers have saved an estimated $1,760 per year on average! Still, many were motivated by other factors, such as finding high-end brands at a discount (40%) or attempting to be trendy (20%). Most people were at least aware of the sustainability of secondhand shopping: 62% agreed that thrifting offers a solution to fast fashion.

On the other hand, more than one-quarter of people surveyed felt that the increased popularity of thrifting is hurting poor communities. The concern is that the more people who shop secondhand, the less affordable clothing there will be for those who actually need it. Some shops might even increase their prices to capitalize on the popularity of “thrift flippers” who buy items to resell at a higher price. Still, since 90% of clothing donations go to textile recyclers, the more may be the merrier when it comes to buying secondhand clothes.

Younger thrifters, in particular, may be snatching up all the good Y2K fashions that are so popular these days. Gen Z has been driving the thrift boom, and we found that more than one-third of Gen Zers always do their shopping at thrift stores, and 31% secondhand shop very often. But older generations were slightly less interested in secondhand shopping, which can be more time-consuming and laborious than shopping at mainstream stores: 25% of baby boomers said they “rarely” do it.

For the Love of the Find

Buying secondhand items can not only save you money – it could help preserve the environment. These sentiments seem to have worked their way into mainstream culture. With the rising popularity of thrifting and secondhand shopping among younger generations, it doesn’t seem like it will die down anytime soon. Diehard thrifters will find plenty of discarded gems in California’s Los Angeles and Lakewood shops or by visiting the many stores in Bellevue, Washington. But if you’re looking for a deal, check out a nearby thrift store first; you might end up helping your local community.

Methodology

To collect our data, we conducted a Yelp scrape of 1,526 thrift stores across the most populated cities in each state in America. “Highly rated” stores were rated four stars or higher. All cities were ranked based on their number of highly rated stores for each variable - only stores rated 4 stars or higher were considered for the final ranking. CouponFollow also surveyed 1,002 Americans about their perceptions of thrift shopping. They ranged in age from 19 to 84; 56% of those surveyed were women, and 44% were men.

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about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.