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Stack your closet, not your bills: Online thrifting apps we love

Here are ZDNET's picks for the best online thrifting apps that can make purging your closet, protecting the planet, and paying less all the more possible. Curtsy is ZDNET's top choice thanks to its dedicated consumer-oriented storefront and collection variety. But we researched and compared features, prices, quality, and customer service resources to determine other honorable mentions.
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor on

Love thrift stores but don't have the time or live near a good one? Love shopping but your wallet doesn't? Love the planet but don't know how to reduce your carbon footprint? If your answer to any of the above is, like me, a huge yes, then you'll probably love online thrift shopping most of all. There are several apps now that make it easier than ever, too.

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Online thrift shopping has significantly grown in recent years, allowing both sellers and buyers to purge and add to their closets without making dents in their wallets, busy schedules, or in the environment -- given that the fashion industry is annually responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. If you want to hop on this trend and stack your closet without racking up bills or hurting the planet -- here are the top online thrifting apps for clothing worth trying.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Great overall communication between sellers, buyers, and the customer service team
  • Can make offers so that the price is somewhat within your control
  • Up to 70% off retail prices
  • Has the look and feel of online shopping
Cons
  • Buyers could lose an offer if someone makes a better one, so items aren't guaranteed
  • The order could get canceled if the seller does not ship within the time window
More Details

Features:

  • Available on the web, for iOS, and for Android
  • Curtsy automatically establishes your personal algorithm to find clothes 
  • You can put in your sizing for dresses, tops, pants, and shoes
  • The price is in your hands given its "offer" system rather than just a "buy" option 

With an app that looks much like an online storefront, Curtsy is easy to navigate and intentionally categorized. There is no subscription or membership fee required, but you do have to make an account to opt into the service, free of charge. 

Once you create your account, Curtsy automatically establishes your personal algorithm to find clothes that fit both your vibe and your body with a "quiz" where you can put in your sizing for dresses, tops, pants, and shoes, as well as select some of your favorite popular brands like Lululemon or Zara. You can also "love" items using the heart icon at the bottom corner of the listing as they pop up so you can go back and easily find an item if you're not quite ready to invest. 

On the app homepage, there are even "Popular try-on videos" that feature sellers trying on the items. Similar to Ti-Tok, the videos are short but real– showing (usually) unedited footage of the seller trying on the item, so you can clearly see the pieces' condition, inspiration for styling, and how the piece fits the seller. So, if the fit is a concern and you clearly do (or don't) have the same body type as the seller, you can purchase (or not) with confidence in the fit. 

Another reason we picked this as the best thrifting app was due to its excellent communication with and guidelines for sellers. The app shows buyers when the seller was last active on the app and you can directly chat with the seller at any time via an integrated free messaging service. 

Sellers are also required to ship out orders within four business days. If they don't abide by the time frame, your order is canceled and you are refunded within 2-3 business days. If cancelation occurs, you get a notification text from Curtsy as well as a link to make sure your order was refunded which will be active in the following days. 

The price is all the more in your hands via Curtsy given its "offer" system rather than just a "buy" option. Can make an offer that is even lower than the listed price, the app will even give you the suggested price to offer. The seller has 24 hours to accept or deny your offer. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Encompasses modern style and unique vintage pieces making their comeback
  • The unofficial trading of products via messaging other sellers
  • Both buyers and sellers get reviews, so transactions are transparent from the start
  • Great communication between buyers and sellers
Cons
  • Not the best app for "staple" pieces
  • Price point is usually higher due to brand name and trend arsenal
  • Trades can make it hard to have that true "marketplace" feel
More Details

Features:

  • Available on the web, for iOS, and for Android
  • Plenty of trendy brand names for both new and vintage pieces
  • Users have curated a unique "Depop" culture almost as forward as its fashion
  • Not uncommon on Depop for sellers to want to conduct an unofficial "trade"

Depop is the trendiest of the thrift store apps. With the look and feel of an online retailer (think Princess Polly or White Fox) coupled with the clean-cut categorization of the trending items, Depop still fills your online shopping and scrolling fix. 

Including plenty of trendy brand names for both new and vintage pieces, you can skip the lines and prices for both men and women.  However, if you just want to invest in a simple white tank, this may not be the place for those classic basic items as everything tends to still be on the pricier side for thrifting. Depop is perfect, though for those Levi jeans you've been eyeing but don't want to splurge that much on…you may even come across a vintage pair you want to grab instead. 

Depop also makes things just as easy for the seller, providing shipping labels upon request. Buyer-seller communication is top-notch on this platform, and users have curated a unique "Depop" culture almost as forward as its fashion. It is not uncommon on Depop for sellers to want to conduct an unofficial "trade." While not a feature integrated within the site's software, many take advantage of "swapping" clothing items instead of just getting rid of an item that didn't fit right. 

Here's how it works: when a seller lists an item for a certain amount, a buyer can message them saying "hey I have this item that is a similar quality/brand/price… would you be interested and you take my item and I take yours?" If both parties agree, they can re-list their items, usually for about $5 -- and still qualify for free shipping– and kill two birds with one stone. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Has the most "traditional" thrift store feel
  • Supply includes second-hand home appliances and electronics as well as clothing
  • Has an authentication system for items considered "luxury"
Cons
  • Filtering options are not very extensive
  • So many options can feel overwhelming
More Details

Features:

  • Available on the web, for iOS, and for Android
  • Pioneer in the second-hand e-fashion industry
  • Similar to a true thrift store
  • Find "luxury" or vintage items for which Poshmark has a verification process

Poshmark is most likely the app that comes to mind when you think of online thrifting. With around 80 million users, Poshmark continues to be a pioneer in the second-hand e-fashion industry. Objectively, Poshmark is the most similar to a true thrift store. With a plethora of items to search through and not as many filtering options as some of the other apps, Poshmark gives you that "hunting for treasure" thrill you get searching through the trenches of GoodWill. 

From second-hand electronics and home appliances like a crockpot, Goodwill truly embodies the "one man's trash is another man's treasure" mission rather than giving a "trendy" or "new" spin. Everything about this app, from the "hunting" aspect, to the sometimes a little more loved quality, has a second-hand shop feel -- in the best way. In fact, you can even find some "luxury" or vintage items for which Poshmark has a legitimate verification process. Considering any item over $500 "luxury," Poshmark HQ directly authenticates the item before its shipped, providing a full refund if they find the item to be inauthentic. 

Both buyer and seller-oriented, Poshmark also provides full refunds if your order is never shipped. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Huge discounts and constant deals
  • Easy to navigate
  • Clean out option makes it easy to clear your closet before buying more
Cons
  • Not as many brand names as other apps
  • Lots of stock images to show the products instead of the items in their current state
More Details

Features:

  • Available on the web, for iOS, and for Android
  • Provides users a clean-out-kit upon request
  • Offers you a discount and discount code to use upon signing up
  • Has a "Bingo" rewards system game for more points and credits as you shop

ThredUp is the ultimate app for clean online shopping and cleaning out your closet without clearing out your wallet. From the get-go, ThredUp offers you a discount and discount code to use upon simply signing up for the app. As you shop, there always seems to be an engaging game like "Bingo" as a rewards system for more points and credits as you shop…as if that $7 tank wasn't enough of a deal! 

While the format is not as advanced as Depop or Curtsy, ThredUp is easy to navigate. Posted items have a "virtual sticker" on the picture before you even click. "Flawed gem" signals that the advertised item has some wear and tear, but is usually majorly discounted. Other stickers like "Price drop" and "new with tags" let you know how transparent the platform is about the condition before you decide to add to your cart. 

What I find most interesting about ThredUp is their clean-out feature and "circular closet" technology. Their clean-out feature promotes sustainability by providing users a clean-out-kit upon request to clean out space in their closet, send it back to ThredUp, and then can either "cash out" or get credit from the cleanout and ThredUp will take care of the rest. This feature is perfect for people who want clean closets and extra cash or credit without the hassle and responsibility of selling the individual items yourself. This initiative contributes to ThredUp's "circular closet" as they are able to process 100K unique items per day, list 2.4 million items at any given time, and fit up to 5.5 million items in their distribution centers. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Access to second-hand luxury designer brand pieces at discounted prices
  • Can find vintage and unique designer pieces that aren't in retail circulation
  • Website is direct and particular as to what sellers can sell, guaranteeing authenticity
Cons
  • Prices still feel luxury
  • Shipping is not free for buyers
  • Pictures of the items look more like stock images, so you can't get as accurate of a representation as some of the other apps
More Details

Features:

  • Available on the web, for iOS, and for Android
  • The most luxurious thrift store
  • Accepts more than clothes (and bags, jewelry, furniture, and art)
  • 12 physical stores, so you can "hold" an item online and go check it out in person

The RealReal is undoubtedly the most luxurious thrift store. With a luxurious-looking website to match, you can shop the edits of everything from Dior to Dolce & Gabbana for both men and women. For those with more expensive taste, just not retail expensive, this online thrifting experience is your dream come true. 

With set expectations for sellers, The RealReal clearly lays out which brands they accept and in what conditions. But they also make it quite easy for sellers, allowing you to earn commission and dedicate the time to sell your items fast. The RealReal also accepts more than just clothes – they accept handbags, jewelry (including watches), furniture, and art. They also have an in-depth authentication process, so as a buyer you know that you're not paying high prices for no reason. 

Don't get me wrong, shopping on TheRealReal is still a bit of a splurge, and shipping is unfortunately not free for buyers, but it is a great second-hand way to find pieces you may not have even known exist. 

While the images on the website are a little stock-image-like, there are descriptions below the product and "quality" rankings such as excellent, good, or poor (although I don't think they accept items they deem to be in "poor" condition). Also, with 12 physical stores, and 8 more in the works, you can "hold" an item online and go check it out in person if you live in one of their locations

What is the best online thrifting app?

There's a reason Curtsy is our top pick: It is the epitome of where tech meets busy, everyday fashion lovers. 

If you'd like to quickly see how Curtsy compares to the others -- the chart below summarizes the apps detailed in this guide, making it easier for you to see all the platforms they're available on and their key features. 

Online thrifting app

Platforms

Features

Curtsy

Web / iOS / Android

  • Curtsy automatically establishes your personal algorithm to find clothes 
  • You can put in your sizing for dresses, tops, pants, and shoes
  • The price is in your hands given its "offer" system rather than just a "buy" option 

Depop

Web / iOS / Android

  • Plenty of trendy brand names for both new and vintage pieces
  • Users have curated a unique "Depop" culture almost as forward as its fashion
  • Not uncommon on Depop for sellers to want to conduct an unofficial "trade"

Poshmark

Web / iOS / Android

  • Pioneer in the second-hand e-fashion industry
  • Similar to a true thrift store
  • Find "luxury" or vintage items for which Poshmark has a verification process

ThreadUp

Web / iOS / Android

  • Provides users a clean-out-kit upon request
  • Offers you a discount and discount code to use upon signing up
  • Has a "Bingo" rewards system game for more points and credits as you shop

The RealReal

Web / iOS / Android

  • The most luxurious thrift store
  • Accepts more than clothes (and bags, jewelry, furniture, and art)
  • 12 physical stores, so you can "hold" an item online and go check it out in person

Which online thrifting app is right for you?

You can't go wrong with any of the above online thrifting apps, but each one has a unique angle and purpose. Say you want luxury pieces or an app with a rewards system. Then that might affect your decision. The chart below summarizes the online thrifting apps in this guide, making it easier to decide which is best for you.

Choose this online thrifting app…

If you want…

Curtsy

The best online thrifting app overall – an app that is easy to navigate and intentionally categorized

Depop

An online thrifting app for keeping up with trends

Poshmark

An online thrifting app for a true thrift store feel

ThreadUp

An online thrifting app for discounts and a rewards system

The RealReal

An online thrifting app for luxury pieces

How did we choose these online thrifting apps?

I'll be candid, I tend to get overwhelmed by physical thrift stores. I selected Curtsy, Depop, ThredUp, Poshmark, and TheRealReal, however, because they have that "treasure hunting" aspect without overwhelming you with content. As an avid online shopper myself, a good friend put me onto Curtsy after I mentioned how my habit -- while good for my sanity -- was not so great for my savings account. 

Once I saw how much better Curtsy was for not only my wallet but for finding unique pieces, I also started shopping on TheRealReal to find a quality winter coat and have since also gotten my mom hooked on the site. 

While I haven't personally bought anything from ThredUp, Poshmark, or Depop, I consulted my friends who have bought, swapped, and sold via those apps and asked for their opinions. I'll shamelessly say that I may have scrolled through the apps myself -- strictly for research purposes of course -- to see if the filters, finding, and communication features matched my friends' feedback. 

Bottom line, these apps are so user-friendly, closet friendly, budget-friendly, and environmentally friendly that I couldn't resist sharing how tech has altered and changed the fast-fashion industry (hopefully) for the better.

What is online thrifting?

Online thrifting is a way to second-hand shop and sell items-- usually clothing and fashion items. Like thrift shopping in person, you may not find your exact size in something you like, but often prices are majorly discounted. Since the fashion industry is responsible for a lot of waste, both physical and monetary, thrifting (especially online) is a good way to save the planet, your wallet, and your time. 

Do I have to have a membership to online thrift?

Technically, yes, but not one that you pay for. You do have to sign up using your email or sometimes your phone number, but just to keep track of your orders and sales. 

Can I make money by online thrifting?

Yes. Online thrifting not only allows you to save money but make money. Many apps give you a commission, a cash-out option, or a credit system within the app that may appeal if you are also a frequent buyer. 

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is the coined term for fashion brands that are affordable, but keep up with ever-changing trends. For example, H&M or Shein. 

Why is thrifting good for the planet?

Considered "sustainable" fashion, buying and selling second-hand increases the lifecycle of a garment. Because the fast fashion industry produces mass quantities at affordable prices and trends are constantly evolving, clothes are always in demand. To make these clothes, package them, and then deliver them to either stores or your front doorstep takes a toll. The second largest industrial polluter, the fast fashion industry produces 10% of global pollution. Because of fast trends, the lifecycle of the average garment is short-- usually ending up in a landfill-- and thus a reason for the 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions the industry is responsible for each year. Now that technology has made it so easy for us to buy and sell (quality) second-hand items, thrift shopping gives us an opportunity to change those numbers. 

Are there alternative online thrifting apps worth considering?

Yes, of course. There is Vinted, for instance. It lets you list, sell, and buy pre-owned pieces. You can check out eBay too for lightly used clothing. It's been around for a while, but is still a good resource for second-hand items.

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