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Tips for Buying Used Ham Radio Gear

When buying used ham radios you should consider how much of an expert (or beginner) you are. The more you know about the radio you are purchasing, the better the likelyhood that you will know the value of what you are buying.  This is especially true when you are a newer radio operator or looking at a rarer item. 

You need to know what options were originally available for the radio.  Do you need these options?  Will they be available for an older radio?

What were the original specifications for this used ham rig?  This is essential in order to know if the rig will fit your needs.  You do not want to buy a 60 pound used boatanchor if you need a rig to operate HF portable while camping.   You need to know the power supply requirements; is it 12 v, 24v, 120v, 250 v?

Browse used amateur radio equipment for sale now.

Does the seller have a reputation?  This is a good argument for buying used equipment from a local amateur radio dealer.  Amateur Radio retailers will test used rigs before putting them out on the shelf for sale.  They will often give you a 30 day to 90 day warranty on a used rig.   A reputable dealer will tell you what is included and what is missing (options, manuals, power cords etc.)   The local amateur radio dealer may also have accessories that you will need such as microphones, keys, power cords, and i.f. filters.  Check advertisements in magazines like QST and CQ to find an amateur radio dealer in your area.

Manuals for many older rigs are available on the internet.  Even more common are sites where you can look the specifications for each used ham transmitter or receiver. 

If some of the original options are not included with the used ham gear that can seriously affect the value.  With older tube-era transceivers especially, if the previous owner had options such as a VHF band transvertor and the optional unit is not included, you may find that the rig is inoperable without special cables or plugs that have been lost over the years.

You may find it very helpful to talk to other hams in a local amateur radio club.  Check the website for clubs near you.  I also recommend that you talk to several local hams; you will soon learn that each may have his own style of operating, preference for operating modes and frequencies, and may even have a prejudice about certain brands.

How long do you intend to keep this new used ham gear?  If you are just starting out, you probably do not yet know if you will prefer handheld, portable, mobile, or desktop radios.  You may not know whether you prefer HF, VHF, UHF, or microwave operating.  With this in mind, you may be better off getting a rig in the lower end of the price range because you may find that you want to sell it in only a year or two.

When you find a good used ham radio deal for sale, ask the seller questions.  Most sellers will be happy to answer your questions.  Honest hams would rather talk you out of buying a radio that is not right for you than to take your money and have you unhappy;  but you do need to know what questions to ask. 

Ask for photographs of the exact transmitter, receiver, transceiver, or amplifier you are buying.  Ask that the serial number is visible in at least one of the photos.  It is perfectly normal to see scratches and wear on a well-loved radio.  But any dents, cracks, missing knobs or meters, require a thorough explanation.   Here at we allow up to 40 photographs to be posted for each ad.

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