Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buying Used Gear on Craiglist

In the past months I've discovered the wondrous cess-pool that is Craigslist. I've seen scammy postings, advertisements by hookers, and cheap-ass wannabe photographers promising to shoot your 8 hour wedding for just $50 and provide incredible images at the end.

However! There are some gems to be had on Craiglist if you can just avoid the herpes.

I've managed to get the following in the three months from good old CL:

Canon 5D, less than a year old in like-new condition w/ two batteries and a charger: $1500
75-300mm Series III USM Canon Lens: $75
Backdrop support system that is higher than all ceilings I have encountered thus far + 10x20ft black muslin: $100

By my estimates I have saved roughly $1k from buying used equipment. $1000! So how can you get in on this money saving action?

1) Check early, check often. I try to cruise by the listings on CL at least once a day. I got the great deal on the lens because I saw the ad for it and immediately contact the person, and set up a meeting to buy it that afternoon.

2) Do your homework and don't be afraid to haggle. If they're selling used equipment and you know you can get a better deal somewhere, see if you can haggle the price down. The worst they'll say is no, and you might just find a way better deal elsewhere (just make sure to check before buying from online stores!)

Another big issue is making sure you don't get scammed. My first purchase via Craigslist was spending $1500 on a used 5D body from a complete stranger out of state. I was nervous, but I took precautions to keep myself safe.

-Always ask why they are selling the equipment, and in some cases ask for photos of it. They should be able to give a good answer, and if they can't -beware-. If they can't give you a solid believable answer then it could be stolen equipment, which if traced to you could land you in some hot water. The 5D was being sold because the woman liked film better and just didn't use it enough. The lens was being sold because the person was simplifying their gear. The backdrop was being sold due to the owner moving cross-country and no t needing to take it with him.

-Buy locally, and sell locally. Nigerian email scams anyone? Variations of that happen on CL as well. I posted some equipment for sale and had someone contact me who apparently was in Texas, but needed the equipment shipped to Africa... but it had to be soon since the person was about to leave for London. Uhhh yeah, right! Buying locally also means that you can keep shipping costs to a minimum or just meet in person.

-Use paypal for large transactions! It will keep you safe; you won't be robbed while carrying it around, it won't get lost in the mail, and the seller won't get your personal information. And if the whole deal suddenly takes a turn for the worst you can dispute the transaction as fraud and get your money back.

-For smaller transactions in person, I pay cash. I also prefer to get paid in cash unless I know the person or can track them down easily. Paying someone in a check could result in stolen identify and fraud, and getting paid with a check could end up with you at the bank finding out that it's bounced and you've just been scammed out of your gear for free!

-If you're meeting in person, bring a friend along. It might sound distrusting or cynical, but you owe it to yourself to look out for you. I bring along my boyfriend Dylan, he's got a big scary beard to scare away creeps. Also meet in a public place; I've met at a hospital and a dunkin donuts to do transactions and both were fine. Just be sure that the place you go won't get mad if you're hanging around without buying food or doing business there.

With some careful scouting and common sense you can some great deals on used equipment. Just make sure to keep yourself safe, and if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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