Buying Second hand equipment: The Pro's and Con's
Ebay - Private sales or Online Stores
APUG Classifieds (or similar on other Forums)
Over the past 20+ years I've bough quite a wide variety of second hand photographic equipment and it's worth sharing - highlighting the good and bad experiences and how to avoid the worst sellers.
In the past I always used to buy from reputable dealers, excuse the UK bias but these included Robert White & Teamwork, and 2 or 3 Leitz official dealers, but there are many others, both in the UK as well as the US etc. A major advantage is you can trust their judgement on quality and you usually get a limited warranty, up to 6 months. In general these dealers sell items at fair second hand prices, and turn-over items quickly because of this.
But with the advent of the internet things have changed. Some reputable dealers sell items faster than they can find them . . . . . .
I should add that APUG has a few highly reputable advertisers selling second hand equipment at fair prices.
APUG (and also the LFPI forum):
A very good source for buying 9OR SELLING) second hand, one I particularly recommend very highly. Over the past 3 or 4 years I've bought camera's and quite a few lenses etc - all have been as good as and some far better than the advertisers descriptions. Postage has nearly always been punctual and at a fair price, the only postage problem was USP not the seller :D. I have had one bad experience but when brought to moderator's attention it was sorted out I was one of a few (including a moderator) with problems with the seller(& on another forum too) and I had my money back eventually.
Highlights have been a "Mint" late production 150mm Xenar, and an equally good 135mm Caltar-S II (Symmar) both at bargain prices, and a 3 cameras 35mm - 5"x4".
I'd particularly recommend posting "Wanted Adverts" that's how I was offered the Caltar.
1. Private sales.
Can be excellent but also qite hit & miss. In general I've come out on top despite 3 or 4 bad deals.
The poor deals where: 2 Speed Graphic's in poor condition sold as a pair to build one good one from the parts. A slight problem, when they arrived one was pre-Anniversary the other a Pacemaker & no parts where interchangeable, but both are now completely rebuilt & functional so after some work and some extra costs all was well.
Worst still was a bunch of 4 Graphic lens boards, only one was a Graflex board ! Turned out the seller was an APUG Subscriber, but he's since been banned anyway :D
Best was my main Agfa Ansco 10x8 Commercial View, it was a non Paypal, US only sale. Good contact with the seller, 2 trans-Atlantic telephone calls, paying the "Buy It Now" price, then patience while funds took days to clear through the US Banking system, and the 6 weeks shipping, it was all worth it. The seller threw in a brand new Beattie screen !!!!
Try and buy from people with near 100% feedback. On more expensive items try and make contact & maintain good dialog, pay promptly.
A few other Ebay purchases have been less than perfect but the low prices have meant I haven't lost out.
Some of my best Ebay purchases are often for multiple items, fewer people bid, I've picked up a Chinon CE-4S camera f1.4 50mm & power drive that way, with a Spotmatic & 2 screw fit lenses £22 ($34) :)
I should add I'm often buying for other people and have had some superb bargains buying outfits.
2 Ebay Stores.
Choose carefully, many US stores are excellent, I've used quite a few for parts and smaller items.
In the UK you need to be much more careful, a few are dominating second hand sales with rather heavily inflated prices, it's particularly noticeable with LF equipment. For example some are selling 90mm f6.8 Angulon's for between £230 & £260 when reputable dealers sell them for closer to half the price, as are US dealers. My personal view is these sellers try it on, I've seen the same lenses listed & re-listed for well over a year in some cases just waiting for Mr Gullible to buy :)
The best Ebay Stores are often affiliated to traditional dealers (US, UK etc). In the UK two I'd recommend are MW Classics and The Real Camera Company, but there are others. I've also bought a few times from a German Ebay store.
A few other tips, any mention of slow or sticky shutter speeds means the shutter may need a CLA, allow for the cost !!! That cheap TLR might need an expensive service.
To sum up: Ask the seller if the adverts is vague, not detailed etc, many times a simple question tells you not to buy, or that it's a good bargain.
My personal view based on experience is that the classifieds here on APUG or on the LFPI are the best places to buy & sell equipment, other than to go through a reputable dealer.
I've not forgotten local sales through newspapers, Craig's List etc but that's another issue :D