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The Thrill of the Bargain Hunt: Shopping for Used Stuff

Fact: I love used stuff. I’d rather hunt down a good deal on a used toy even though it’s easier to just go to the store and get the new shiny one. First, I like to save money whenever possible/reasonable (ie; no undies or toothbrushes). Second, I find it satisfying to find a good deal on something used. I like to search for it, hunt it down, prove that I don’t have to go to a retail store and buy it new if I don’t want to. Damn the man, and so on.

That being said, photography is a big hobby of mine, and there’s a big market for used equipment. I don’t have a lot of gear right now, and there’s some stuff that I could use, so this is what I’m usually hunting for. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I might still look for used photo equipment regularly. I like doing this because…

A.) It saves me money

B.) The used equipment is tested and proven (usually).

C.) I get to meet some fellow photographers, build my network, and often learn new things.

Buying used can require some luck, knowledge, and patience. I’ve spent months waiting to find the right deal on a lens that I wanted. I sit and wait… like a nerdy sniper. The trick is to have a running list of things that you need/want, and also to be knowledgeable on those things. That way, you know a good deal when you see it, and you’ll be able to tell if there’s something wrong with the item. It’ll also stop you from buying something you don’t need. You might find something that seems like a good deal, but if it’s not on your list, or if it’s in too bad of shape, then you don’t need it. When you’re shopping for used stuff, you should also know the prices of your item in new and used condition.

Here’s what I do:

1. Research the camera, lens, or whatever it is that I’m interested in, and make sure that it’s something I’ll actually use. Something that will help me to produce great images.  I’ll also look for other options.  I find reviews, comparisons, and sample images by searching on google.com, flickr.com, and online photography forums. If it all checks out, I add it to my “wish list.”

2. Figure out what the item costs in various conditions (new, used, etc). Look for prices on amazon.com, ebay.com, craigslist.com, and any other website or store that may specialize in the item. For me, this means checking keh.com and bandhphoto.com, as well as some local camera shops that sell used gear.

3. Based on the pricing I’ve seen, decide what I’m willing to pay for the item.

4. Regularly check those same websites and stores, looking for the right deal.  I will also find items up for auction on ebay and “watch” them.  The listing is saved in my account, but I can wait to place a bid later if I choose.  I also get to see the final sale price whether I bid or not.

5. If I do find an item available, but I’m unsure of the price or quality, I ask somebody who would know. In searching the photography stores and online forums previously, I’ve made some contacts that I can reach out to for advice.

6. Make an offer. Even if the item is priced a little above my range, I can at least make an offer and see if they take it.

Just two weeks ago, a certain lens on my “wish list” popped up on the used equipment list at my local camera shop, and it was CHEAP. I love this store because they keep a used item list online and update every week or so. I called them up to confirm, went to the store to inspect it, and bought it that day. It was something that I wanted, that I will get plenty of use out of, and I got a great deal.  Win, win, win.

I want to reiterate that I try to only buy things that I will use. I’d hate to spend money on something because it’s really cool, just to have it sit around going unused. It’d be a complete waste of money, and I’d ultimately regret the purchase and probably have to go through the trouble of reselling it myself. I want everything I have to serve a purpose.

Anyone have any good strategies/resources for used shopping?

ABOUT AUTHOR / Andi

Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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