We’ve all either bought or thought about buying used gear before now. We know how much we baby our stuff and we know there are other people out there who take just as much care of their kit and are willing to part with it for a reasonable price. There are plenty of reputable companies out there to buy used gear, like KEH and MPB, retailers like B&H with a used department. But what about private purchases?
You see a deal on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or local classifieds and what do you do? What questions should you ask? Well, this video from Photo Tom gives you a whole list of things to check when buying used to make sure you know what you’re buying.
The obvious drawbacks of used gear are that you never really know for sure how well they’ve been cared for. You have to just do your due diligence and then hope for the best, really. Look at photos of the kit, check the number of actuations if it’s a camera, has it ever been dropped? Has it ever needed to be repaired for anything? If so, was it done by the manufacturer or a 3rd party? Does it have any remaining time on the original warranty? Does the repair have a warranty? Is it transferrable? Any marks, scratches, cracks or funges on lenses? etc. etc.
Sometimes, used gear is being sold simply because it’s heavily used and needs to be replaced – these are usually the cheapest deals. Sports, wedding and event photographers with bodies getting close to their shutter life expectancy are usually keen to get rid. They can’t take the chance that it’ll die in the middle of a gig. But, as they’re heavily used, you might only be buying a few weeks or months worth of life.
That being said, I bought a Nikon D5300 in 2017 with 120K actuations on it (20K over its 100K life expectancy) as a location scouting camera (because it has a built-in GPS) and it’s still going strong today. But because of its number of actuations, I got it for about half the going rate of a used D5300 at the time and it’s performed a number of other tasks in its time with me that have meant it’s more than paid for itself. Sometimes the gamble is worth it.
Other times, though, people just get bored and are selling relatively new, decent gear. I mean look how quickly your average Sony shooter blasts through bodies as they have to upgrade every time Sony announces something new. Editor’s note: Yeah, I’m expecting some flack for that one in the comments. When everything does check out, though, it means that you can get some much better deals than buying brand new and sometimes you’ll end up with kit that’s barely been used at all.
My first SLR was a Nikon N90s back in the late 90s that had only had about a dozen rolls of film through it, according to the seller. It looked absolutely pristine and was a very good deal at the time. My Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor was bought used 7 or 8 years ago for less than half of the new price and when it arrived and I pulled it out of the box, it looked like it had never even been used.
The used market is definitely a bit of a gamble, but it also holds some absolute gems and bargains. With the information in Photo Tom’s video, you’ll be armed with a lot more information to help you make the right used buying choices!