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The Photographer’s Guide to Selling Used Camera Gear

By Sean Lewis on May 1st 2019

With each new release of the next generation of camera gear, most photographers and videographers check the specs and consider trading up. For those of us who decide to make the leap, we often sell our previously owned camera gear to help finance the new gear.

When selling used camera gear, the primary goal is usually to get as much money as you can for it; however, there are also other important considerations when deciding where and how to sell your used gear, including the following:

  • Is the purchaser reliable?
  • What are the risks involved with this transaction?
  • How simple or complex will this transaction be?
  • How much of my time will be needed to complete a transaction?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions in relation to four commonly used marketplaces to sell the following gear:

Note: To keep things consistent, we found examples listed in “excellent” or “like new” condition with around 50k shutter actuations.

Before Selling Your Gear

Regardless of where you decide to sell your gear, you should gather a few key pieces of information before you make your sale public.

  • Closely examine the condition of the gear and take note of any cosmetic or functional imperfections (scratches, dents, focus issues, etc.). Include this information in any descriptions you share regarding the gear.
  • Find the shutter actuation (or count) for your used camera. You can find a variety of options for different camera types here.

It’s also a good idea to clean and take pictures of your gear, whether it’s to present the images in a gallery (depending on where you’re selling the equipment) or to have a visual record of the exterior condition of your gear before it ships off to the buyer. Just in case.

Once you’ve worked through these quick pre-sell steps, you can determine the best place to sell your gear.

Selling Your Gear To A Specialized Major Online Retailer | Adorama

Major online retailers usually have the widest reach, and specialized retailers like Adorama represent a curated audience whose interest in your used camera gear will rival any other marketplace. Adorama specializes in photography and videography equipment, as well as other electronic equipment and musical instruments. With a simple yet extensive buying and trade-in program, there is usually room for your used camera gear in their inventory.

Note: In addition to being an online retailer, Adorama also has a large camera store in New York, which is convenient if you’re in the area.

Offer for our used gear (you can expect a slightly higher quote with store credit):

Total potential sale price: $7,825

Pros: There is little to no risk involved when dealing with this type of buyer, and it’s one of the most hassle-free ways to sell or trade in your used gear.  If your time is limited, this is likely the best choice for you.

Adorama responds quickly and they provide free shipping for sending in your gear. They also guarantee your payment once you accept their offer. In addition to their own trade-in/store credit program (which can significantly increase the price they’ll give you for your gear), one major pro involves Adorama’s participation in major brand trade-in programs (see below), which is a benefit of their Authorized Dealer status.

Cons: Unless you live near their brick-and-mortar store in New York, you’ll have to wait a little longer due the time it takes to ship the item. This is true for most online sales, so it’s not unique to Adorama. There’s also a slight possibility that the gear will be rejected, but this really only happens if the condition of the gear is dramatically worse than described or if the inventory for that particular item is already high. The plus side to this con, however, is that Adorama will cover the shipping to send the item back to you.

You can view Adorama’s “Buying and Selling Used Gear” FAQs here.

Taking Advantage of “Trade In” Programs

Occasionally, major camera brands offer aggressive sales incentives to boost sales of their latest gear, as seen in Nikon’s recent “Trade Up To Z” campaign. Participating Authorized Dealers like Adorama can take advantage of these offers and extend the savings to you, an option you won’t find with any of the other marketplaces presented in this article.

Selling Your Gear To A General Online Retailer | Amazon

For those selling a small batch of items like we’ve listed in this article, Amazon has built Amazon Seller Central. Seller Central is Amazon’s web interface, which you would use to sell your used gear directly to buyers. As a seller, you can either handle all of the sales-related tasks like shipping, communicating with customers, and processing returns, or you can enroll in Amazon’s “FBA” (Fulfillment By Amazon) program, in which case Amazon will handle your sales. Of course, these options come at a price.

Average selling price for our used gear:

Total potential sale price (before fees): $8,848.00

Pros: The sheer number of people who shop on Amazon represent a huge opportunity for sellers to get eyes on their merchandise, including used camera gear. Given the number of potential buyers, it’s helpful to know that Amazon offers fraud protection to eliminate fraudulent orders on your products. If you’re in no hurry to sell your gear, then you can likely get a higher price for your camera gear, but this also depends on your competition. Listing your gear is relatively easy and the listing does not cost anything if the item doesn’t sell.

Cons: With great visibility comes numerous selling fees, including referral fees, shipping fees, per-item costs, and variable closing fees. For high ticket items like used camera gear, these fees can add up quickly and take a substantial cut of your profit. Also, because just about anyone can sell products on Amazon, you’ll have to compete with other sellers’ low prices. Lastly, handling sales on Amazon can be complex and time-consuming. You’ll be responsible for every aspect of the sale, including taxation liabilities.

Selling Your Gear On An Online Auction/Retail Site | eBay

eBay’s reach competes with other top retailers, and they offer multiple ways to sell your used camera gear, namely through auctions or fixed-price (“Buy It Now”) listings. When searching for used camera gear, it seems both options are used frequently. With either option, sellers can set the length of time to display the listed items, with usually ranges from 7 to 30 days.

Average selling price for our used gear:

Total potential sale price (before fees): $7,250.00 to $7,550.00

Pros:  eBay offers a pretty solid seller protection policy, which lowers the risk of selling your used camera gear via this platform. Another way that eBay cuts the hassle from the selling experience is through its use of filters. You can easily locate trending prices for the items you’re selling and with specialized search filters, it’s easy for photo enthusiasts to find your listings.

Cons: Although a buyer’s credibility can be measured in their feedback score, you may still have to deal with a potentially slow response from buyers.  Also, if you’re a new seller with little to no feedback, it can be difficult to sell high priced items like camera gear. This isn’t always the case, of course, but it happens.

The real con involves seller fees, which include a final value fee as well as an insertion fee (though insertion fees are sometimes waived depending on how many items you sell and whether or not the item is a duplicate listing). If you do take this route, wait for special offers for sellers that will help minimize your fees. Also, realize that the final value fees can really add up quickly for higher priced items. Additionally, you’ll have to pay a fee to PayPal for processing the transaction, which takes an additional 2.9% of our final sale price (plus shipping), as well as a $.30 transaction fee. Also, like on Amazon, sellers are responsible for handling the entire sales process, from communication to shipping.

Selling Your Gear Through Classified Sites | Craigslist

Like newspaper classifieds of old, Craigslist relies on the local community to create a secondhand marketplace. The site’s appearance offers no frills, and its simple interface makes it easy to navigate. A quick glance through user forums on sellers’ experiences with Craigslist will yield mixed results, with both extremes (good and bad) mentioned in a single thread.

Average selling price for our used gear:

Total potential sale price: $8,025.00 to $8,425.00

Pros: Besides being able to post for free (with limitations) and potentially earning the most money for your gear, the biggest pro for selling your used camera gear on Craigslist is the speed in which you can finalize a transaction. Gear is sold locally, which means you can accept an offer from someone in your area, meet with the buyer, and collect payment as soon as a meeting can be scheduled. However, these meetings also makes the list of cons.

Cons: For the most part, you are on your own when you buy or sell your gear through Craigslist. There is not vetting process for buyers and there are really no guarantees that your buyer will follow through with the purchase. Also, the risks are higher in terms of personal safety and potentially having your gear (or more) stolen; the purchase could be a scam used to get your information or steal your money; this goes for both buyers and sellers. In order to help ensure that you do not become a victim should you choose this route, here are some tips for avoiding a scam.

Conclusion

After reviewing and testing each option, we found that working with a specialized major online retailer like Adorama seemed to be the best option for selling used camera gear for the following reasons:

  • No risks to personal safety or gear
  • Fair offer on gear (especially when traded in for store credit)
  • Free pickup of used equipment with free shipping
  • Guaranteed payment once the offer is accepted
  • Relatively quick process from quote to payment

The sale prices for the gear might be lower than selling through Amazon, but when traded for store credit, the difference is usually negligible.  Also, the seller and PayPal fees through sites like eBay and Amazon can dramatically lower your sale price.  In addition, your gear may not sell for a long period of time on these sites, even if you price your gear on the lower end. Craigslist may have offered the most money for sale prices, but we feel the risk is simply not worth the reward.  Lastly, Adorama also allows you to take advantage of brand trade-in offers, such as Nikon’s “Trade Up To ‘Z'” offer.

 

What is your experience with selling used camera gear? Do you already have a preference? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About

Sean fell into photography while teaching for a non-profit. What started as a minor task – documenting guest speakers and classroom activities – grew into a major obsession, and eventually led to a position shooting with Lin & Jirsa. Nowadays, at SLR Lounge, Sean’s work as a marketing associate merges his interest in the fields of photography and education.

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