The simple (yes, really) arithmetic of buying used audiophile equipment via e-bay and others

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I’ve just go off the phone to a very pleasant person and our discussion took us to the perils, pleasures and pitfalls of buying used audio equipment off the internet, including of course e-bay.

Anyway, this conversation was a catalyst for the 'rule-of-thumb' I used to use when I was a ‘civilian’ i.e. during the wilderness years (only kidding) between the death of Subjective Audio and the beginning of Stereonow.

My interest in equipment (owning it rather than selling it) did not diminish – and so this was the simple arithmetic I applied to an auction:

If the equipment on e-bay was discontinued:

I would never bid more than 33.3 percent of the retail price of that item when it was new.

If it sold for more than that, then of course I was a bit disappointed, but I knew with certainty that another one would come along at some point. I just wasn’t sure when.

While I was doing this, I bargained on loosing between 10% and 20% of the final price if I had to sell it on. Let’s take a Meridian 601 digital preamp as a real life example.

When new it retailed for around £1,500, which meant that my maximum bid was 0.333 x £1500 = £500. In fact I got it for a bit less. In my mind though, I was prepared to lose between 10% and 20% of that £500 when I came to sell it.

The arithmetic then was quite simply ‘Am I prepared to loose 20% of that £500 (£100) if I win and then want to sell on?’ If yes, I placed the bid. If not, then I didn’t.

If the equipment on e-bay was current:

I would never bid more than 50 percent to 60 percent of the retail price of that item when it was new.

If it sold for more than that, then of course I was a bit disappointed, but I knew with certainty that another one would come along at some point. I just wasn’t sure when.

While I was doing this, I bargained on loosing between 10 percent and 20 percent of the final price if I had to sell it on. So for example, let’s take a Musical Fidelity X-DACv8 as a real life example.

When new it retailed for around £950 (street price, not RRP), which meant that my maximum bid was 0.5 x £950 = £475. In fact this is precisely what I paid. In my mind though, I was prepared to only lose between 15% of that £475 when I came to sell it.

The arithmetic then was quite simply ‘Am I prepared to loose 15 percent of that £475 (£71.25) if I win and then want to sell on?’ If yes, I placed the bid. If not, then I didn’t. I was prepared, and I got my money back – and a little bit on top too

Cautionary note:

The above guidelines refer ONLY to buying from PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS.

I’ve no experience of buying from dealers. My guess is though, if you tried to apply this arithmetic to their offerings, they just laugh.

 

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