DigitalCameraReview.com
Shopping Smart: How to Buy a Used Camera
by Andy Stanton -  4/16/2012

There are several reasons you may want to consider buying a used digital camera. One is if you’re not sure that the person you’re buying it for really has an interest in it. A used camera can be an inexpensive way to introduce someone to digital photography. Another is that buying used can get you a higher specification camera for the same money, for instance a DSLR for the cost of a point and shoot. Still another reason may be that there’s a particular camera that appeals to you but it is no longer being produced.

However, buying a used digital camera also carries its share of risks. What if the camera is damaged?  What if the camera doesn’t work properly?  When buying a used camera you want to maximize your chances of getting a quality product for a great price and minimize the chances of having problems with it down the road.

Once you’ve decided to consider the purchase of a used digital camera, where do you go to find one?  There are several different options, each of which has its pluses and minuses.

Straight from the source
A good starting point is a camera manufacturer’s website. For example you can find used cameras on the Canon, Nikon and Sony websites, where they are called “refurbished.”  This means that the manufacturer has examined the camera, fixed any problems, and is offering it as in essentially new condition. If you buy a refurbished camera from the manufacturer you will probably get a warranty, though it will be shorter than the one that comes with a new camera. The manufacturers’ websites have a limited selection of used cameras and their prices tend to be higher than other providers of used cameras. However, if you are risk averse, this is a good place to purchase a used camera.

The corner camera store
You can also buy a used digital camera from neighborhood camera specialty stores. Most smaller stores buy and sell used equipment. The store will usually indicate what type of condition the product is in.  One big advantage to buying a used camera from a local store is that you get to physically examine it first. Often the store will provide you with a limited warranty.

Online retailers
Another good source for used digital cameras is online camera retailers. Many of these retailers also have physical stores. Some of the top online retailers of used cameras are Adorama Camera, B&H Photo, Cameta Camera and KEH Camera. Online retailers sometimes offer used cameras that are refurbished by the manufacturer but most of the time they sell their used cameras as is. The retailer will include a description of the condition on the website. Generally, the worse the condition of the camera, the less you can expect to pay for it. You can get some good deals on used cameras that are not refurbished but there’s always a risk in buying a used product sight unseen. The risk is somewhat lessened when the retailer has return policies, which most of them do.

Bid, baby, bid!
eBay is an extremely popular website for used products of any kind, including photographic equipment.  You can get some great bargains as long as you’re aware of the value of the product and don’t overbid.  However, the product you purchase will not have a warranty, unless you choose to buy one separately.  Further, if you buy a used camera from an eBay seller and its condition does not match the description or the camera doesn’t work properly, you may have a problem if the seller chooses not to fix the product or refund your money.  While eBay can work with customers to provide solutions in situations like these, there’s no guarantee you will get satisfaction.

And of course, many people look to craigslist for good bargains. You can get some great deals on used cameras if sellers price their items unusually low.  However, sellers have been known to price their used equipment unrealistically high, so it’s important to have a good idea what the camera is worth before deciding to pay the seller’s asking price. One advantage of shopping on craigslist is that, since the sellers are local, you have the option of examining the product before you buy and negotiating the price.

There are plenty of good reasons to shop used. Your options are plentiful, just be sure to do your homework and know what you’re getting. A little more work and investigation can pay of big when you buy secondhand equipment.