Well, you finally did it. After months of thinking about it, pining over the pictures and recommendations of others on social media, and constantly inflating your budget, someone’s got a new camera. But after spending all that time thinking about your new purchase, you neglected to put any serious thought into what to do with your used camera gear. So where do you start?.
Now we have an unattainable triangle, and you can only pick two. Really. Here’s how this impossible triangle works:
A convenient, high offer, won’t come fast. A fast, high offer won’t come convenient. And a fast, convenient offer won’t be high.
Now that you know the three factors which will contribute to how you will sell your used equipment, let’s examine the ‘where” in the equation.
There Are Four Types of Used Markets
Major dealers include Adorama, B&H, KEH, and MBP.
Major Dealers offer many perks to help entice you. All of them have free (usually instant) quotes, free shipping to them, and even free returns if you don’t like the offer they give you. It’s pretty convenient in that all you have to do is send your stuff to them and then sit back and wait for payment.
But it’s their reputation and size that puts the major dealers at a disadvantage for some people who want the highest possible price for their stuff. In order to make dealing in used equipment more profitable for them, they routinely offer a lower amount than what your equipment will retail for when they resell it. So in essence, you are paying for the convenience and speed.
Auction sites include eBay, Gearup, and Gear Focus.
Auction sites cater to the more do-it-yourself personality, as there’s definitely more work involved in selling your own stuff. It’s true that you can get the “highest price” for your equipment on auction sites. And I’m putting that in quotes because the highest price just means what the market will accommodate. Your equipment is only worth what others will pay for it. And researching an auction site is the best way to determine what the true value of a used product is (if they support transaction history – like eBay).
All of these sites have different protections for buyers and sellers, as well as different commissions and transaction fee schedules. But this process is more involved in that you will have to research which site will work best for you, write a description, take photos, deal with packaging, and set up shipping, payments, etc. And it might take re-listing your item multiple times to get the highest possible price.
So, needless to say, it’s a lot more involved and requires a significant time investment to get top dollar.
Note: GearFocus is not an auction site but it has more in common with eBay and GearUp than with the other examples below.
Local marketplaces include craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace.
These sites offer potentially faster transactions and potentially higher market prices at the expense of consumer protection. The inconvenience factor is slightly different in that you have to deal with each potential buyer instead of through a proxy (like an auction site). So the back and forth between multiple potential buyers might be a drag, but photos and descriptions can be more casual, and you’ll almost never have to deal with shipping.
Most people steer clear of local marketplaces because you will have to actually meet the person who is interested, let them inspect your stuff, and (most likely) renegotiate the price. Also physically meeting someone you don’t know with your expensive camera equipment might be enough to keep most people away. It is also an unverifiable market; you have no way of establishing what has sold (and at what price) or who is buying it.
That being said, if you are willing to sell at an attractive price, it’s possible to do so in less than an hour.
Enthusiast classifieds include Fred Miranda, Cloudy Nights, etc.
Any site that has a forum for dedicated enthusiasts is most likely going to have at least a very rudimentary classified system. These places are kind of like a hybrid between an auction site and a local marketplace. Some might feel more comfortable with the people on an enthusiast site because at the very least you “know” that you share a common interest.
But these sites also share most of the drawbacks as well. Photos, descriptions, packaging, shipping, payment method, etc. Also just like the local marketplaces, there is no consumer protection and no verifiability.
Let’s Get Technical About Price
I spent a month researching prices for all the sites listed above.
All the quotes and prices were found using the following example:
Canon 5D Mark IV (Body Only) (Excellent Condition)
What’s Actually Going In Your Wallet?
So now that we’ve covered all the numbers, from the data that was available at the time. We can make some assumptions about what you’ll actually be putting in your bank account.
If you get a quote from one of the Major Dealers, (assuming your equipment is accurately rated) that is the number you’ll be depositing. Period. If you don’t like it, they will ship back to you free of charge.
If you were to list on eBay for the average sold price of $1,708.42, assuming the buyer pays for shipping, eBay will take a 10.2% commission. which amounts to $174.26. So after that, you’re left with $1,534.16.
Since all the other sites have zero data on actual sales, let’s use the average eBay sold price.
Gearup takes a 6.5% commission and a $1.99 transaction fee. That would net you $1,595.38
Gear Focus takes a 3.5% commission and a 2.9% + $0.35 transaction fee. That would net you $1,598.73
The local marketplace sites are just as unreliable for studying recent sales trends. So I’m not even going to attempt to make assumptions about net price. You’ll just have to use your imagination.
After looking at all the factors; price, speed, and convenience, which is the best option?
Well that depends entirely on what kind of person you are and what means the most to you; price, speed, or convenience (remember to pick only two):
But it’s also important to remember that the only verifiable numbers (price & speed) come from the major dealers. Regardless of what you see being sold anywhere on the internet, only the four major dealers mentioned above have concrete numbers in offer quote, and time till payment. The prices you see from eBay, Craigslist, and others, only represent potential price, not actual price. And there’s no way of knowing how long each individual listing took before the item was actually sold.
Personally, I’m going to take a hard look at Adorama and the other dealers on this list before making my decision next time I need to sell something. Knowing that in 3-5 days I can be done with the entire process and move on, is something that is very appealing to me. I don’t know if the “potential” of a couple of hundred bucks is worth the effort to babysit an auction or haggle with a stranger. But that’s just me.
The quote and price examples used in this article are only valid for the month of July 2021. Prices fluctuate so frequently based on a large number of factors. Be smart, do your own research.
About the author: Scott Donschikowski is a photographer and photography educator. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Donschikowski’s work on his website, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. This article was also published here.