Technical Articles

7 Tips on Buying/Selling Used Ham Radio Gear

Amateur Radios are a lot like automobiles. You can buy stripped-down basic models at lower cost or splurge on full-featured models with all the bells and whistles. And, just like automobiles, those looking for bargains can choose to go the used route. Fortunately for sellers of Amateur Radios, depreciation on used radios is much less severe than it is for automobiles so, recouping much of your original purchase price is possible.

For potential purchasers of used Amateur Radios, this lower depreciation can mean considerably less savings when going the used route for purchase. This is impacted even more when you consider the advantage of purchasing new equipment, including manufacturer’s warranties and possible rebates. This leads us to our first tip.

TIP 1—When buying a model of a radio currently in production, consider buying new. Check out the DX Engineering Hot Deals Section for sales, special offers and rebates.

TIP 2—Consider buying a used Amateur Radio model that is no longer in production. Most used Amateur Radios continue to be good performers even after a number of years. That is often the sweet spot for potential buyers of used equipment.

A model that is one version older than current production models can often be a good buy. Not only will prices have come down over new models, but there will also be a number of user reviews available for the radio describing its pros and cons. Also, a wide variety of both manufacturer and third-party accessories may be available for purchase at used prices. On new models, these accessories can add significantly to the final cost of purchase.

TIP 3—When buying or selling a used radio, having all the original packaging and accessories greatly increases its value. Whenever you buy a new or used radio, always save all packing, instruction books, software, and accessories, even if you are not going to use them—they may be extremely important to the next owner. Plus, having additional accessories to bundle with the radio can make a very attractive package for potential buyers. Accessories might include an external speaker, desk microphone, internal filters, audio interface, etc.

TIP 4—When possible, see the used equipment before buying and, if possible, try it out on the air. Some of my best purchasing experiences have been with friends or radio club members where I have been able to visit in person and try the equipment on the air before purchasing. It was also encouraging when I saw how these sellers took care of the rest of their gear. This type of personal connection is not always possible; the next best thing is often shopping at a Hamfest (an Amateur Radio flea market). For a list of Hamfests in your area, visit ARRL Hamfest Listing.

Dealing in person with a seller can be reassuring, and good sellers should be willing to provide you with their name and contact information. Just be aware, unless stated in writing there are usually no buyer warranties, so a quick demo before buying can be invaluable if there are facilities available at the Hamfest. Conversely, if you are selling gear at a Hamfest, follow a few simple ideas to make it easier for buyers (and often more profitable for you):

  • Make sure you have all cables, microphones, accessories, etc. with you
  • Have the operating manuals handy. If you do not have originals, see if copies can be downloaded (see radio manufacturers’ websites below)
  • If the unit is battery powered, have the batteries fully charged
  • If you have electricity available at your site, have a power supply available (even if you are not selling it) so the radio can be powered on
  • A simple portable antenna can go a long way in demonstrating operations of the radio
  • Make sure all equipment is clean and well packaged to avoid damage in transport

TIP 5—Do your homework. Just like when buying a car, an informed purchaser often gets a better deal. In these days of online resources, it is easy to see what comparable radios are selling for, issues with specific models, scarcity or availability of specific models or accessories, etc. Some useful sites for pre-purchase research include eHam (both its reviews and classifieds), QST Equipment Reviews, eBay (taken with a grain of salt), web searches for specific radios (including YouTube reviews) and radio manufacturers’ websites:

TIP 6—Know what you need and don’t need. Accessories and add-ons can greatly influence the price you pay and your buying experience. When buying a new or used radio, it is important to know what you will and will not need.

One example is extra filters. If you are primarily a CW operator, additional filtering can make or break your experience with a specific transceiver. If the radio you are buying requires additional filters, the increased expense of adding them to a used radio may make a good deal much less attractive than the same model radio that comes with filters at a slightly higher asking price.

Another way you can save money when buying a new or used radio is knowing when third-party (often called aftermarket) accessories are just as good or maybe even better than those by the manufacturer of the rig. Common examples are power supplies, microphones, external speakers, extra battery packs and replacement antennas. If you set up your home station with a power supply with a sufficient amperage rating like the MFJ 4230MV MightyLite 30 Amp Switching Power Supply and a power distribution system with Anderson PowerPoles like the MFJ-1126 DC Multiple Outlet Panel, you can easily power new radios in your shack.

TIP 7—Two heads are usually better than one. Having someone knowledgeable and experienced in buying equipment (and even possibly repairing radios) can be your best tip whether you are buying or selling, especially if you are a new Ham. This is where a mentor can be invaluable. In fact, Amateur Radio mentors are so important for new Hams that we even have a special name for them—Elmers. If you don’t have an Elmer, one of the best ways to find one is visiting your local radio club.

A knowledgeable salesperson is also invaluable in buying new equipment and the correct accessories. DX Engineering, for example, employs a team of experienced, active Amateur Radio operators who can answer your questions and help you find the right gear for your shack. It’s like having Elmers on call whenever you need advice. Click here for contact information.

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