Buying Used Equipment

by Doug Steinschneider
Local purchases:
You would be amazed how much an honest seller will divulge. This type of questioning gives you a feel for what the seller is like. If they are evasive or vague or I don't like the tone of replies I just forget about that particular piece of equipment. If the seller is interesting and the conversation starts sounding like the discussions we have here on TBL it gives me the feeling that the seller is being forthright and probably has a good reason for selling.

I look for these kind of sellers:

  1. Used the equipment only in their home studio. (That's the best kind of seller; the equipment is usually like brand new)
  2. Bought the stuff and never really used it. Some reasons could be:
    Continued to use their previous equipment.
    Just didn't play as much as they thought they would.
    Bought the wrong equipment for what they wanted to do.
    Didn't sound right.
    Was too heavy (that's how I got my Eden 410T for $375!)>
  3. Only used it lightly like a recreational player would.
  4. Band is breaking up and won't be playing out for a while and needs the money.
  5. I always look for sellers who have kept the original packaging (for smaller equipment) and the manuals. Indicates (hopefully) that they are careful with their equipment.
I use the following guidelines for pricing and often explain to sellers how I have come up with my offer. I tell them that I know that piece of equipment is available from somewhere like Sam Ash for x amount *right now* I don't worry what they paid for it a year ago or even a month ago. If the $495 Roland P-55 piano module is now selling for $239 I offer the seller $165 (30 percent off the current price).

I offer 30-60 percent off of the current price as compensation for the risk of buying used with no warranty. 30 percent off would be for something relatively new that apparently is in excellent condition. 40 off percent for equipment thats seen light to medium use but looks in really good shape. 50-60 off percent for equipment that's been gigged with a lot or that cosmetically isn't in good shape. I explain that if I go to sell it in 6 months I will have trouble because it is dinged up. I'm trying to get the lowest fair price, not rip off the seller.

Buying the Equipment
If I'm not 100 percent comfortable with the location and phone personality of the seller I bring someone along. I don't bring the amount of cash the seller is asking for the unit, I only bring the most I'm willing to pay for it.

I bring whatever it takes to test the equipment to my satisfaction. If it was a 4 track I bring a blank tape, microphone and headphones. I record on every track and play with all its features to make sure it works.

For a bass amp or speaker cabinet I bring my bass, (head or speaker if I'm buying its partner) and a cable and play with it at the highest volume I will be using that amp for. I make sure that the speakers are original equipment or get an explanation why they are replacements. If it looks bad cosmetically I usually turn down the piece unless the seller is willing to deeply discount.

Buying through the Internet
All the above plus.

Get their home and work phone numbers. If its a big purchase try their work number just to make sure they really work there.

If the person doesn't answer all the above questions (won't hold a discussion via email) I drop them. I was trying to buy a SWR head once and the person just kept replying to my questions with It's still for sale - $400.

I ask them to put the equipment in its original carton and then place that inside a larger box filled with packing material and to write fragile on every side. If they don't have the original carton I ask them to place it in a box inside a box.

I haven't bought speakers or stringed instruments through the internet although I wouldn't be afraid to if I had a good feeling about the seller and shipping isn't prohibitively expensive.

I'll close on that note--I often go by intuition in deciding about a seller. If anything seems amiss I drop them immediately. That is the one really hard thing about buying used, you need the patience of a saint once you have decided to buy a particular piece of equipment. I've waited up to a year for the right seller to come along.

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