Is Buying a Used Quadcopter Right for You?
Flying quadcopters is a great hobby and quadcopters are a lot of fun, but for someone getting into it, they can be expensive. It is hard to justify that much money for a hobby when you are not sure that you will enjoy it. And although there are quite a few quadcopters available under $100, they might not have the features your looking for.
One of the best ways to save money is to find a used drone for sale instead of buying a brand-new one from the manufacturer. While you do need to be careful, just as with any kind of used item, if you do it carefully you can get a good quadcopter at a significantly reduced price compared to buying it new.
Know what you want
You need to make sure that you have a specific plan in mind when you are looking for a used quadcopter. Some brands are better suited to the used market than others because they are known for their durability.
Even within a brand, different models have differing ability to last. Durability is not the only thing you need to consider, however. You should also decide what else you want in terms of features.
A lot of this depends on your plans for the quadcopter. For example, are you interested in using the drone for aerial photography, indoor flying, or just to fly around in open fields?
That determines a lot of things about your ideal drone. Start with those:
- Wingspan: the length from propeller tip to tip that determines how big is the quadcopter. The size also determines how stable will be in windy conditions.
- Camera: do you want an onboard camera or the mounting kit for your GoPro or similar?
- Flying time: how long the quadcopter will fly for after a single charge – consider that used batteries last less time.
- Range: how far can you fly the thing before it goes out of range?
- Weight: this gives an idea of how reactive and stable the drone is.
These characteristics all vary across different models and we do include them in our reviews.
Some drones have smartphone apps that let you control the quadcopter from a mobile device, while others come with their own radio transmitter.
Extra features you should consider include:
- Does the model have a return-to-home system, in case of issues with the remote controller and/or signal?
- Can you mount a GoPro or other cameras?
- What are the specs and quality of the onboard camera? (if present)
- What are the sensors used by that model?
- Does it have a cool design? (yeah, sorry!)
A better option might be a mini-quadcopter – a small drone that can be used indoors. These make great introductory quadcopters because they let you learn to fly the drones without the influence of the wind. They are also significantly cheaper than full-sized quadcopters, so they are good for people who are trying to learn if the hobby is right for them.
Finding used versions of these smaller copters is a good way to save even more money.
Other Considerations when buying a used drone
When purchasing a used quadcopter, there are a few extra things you should take into account. These are specific to the buying process, and are separate from the features you would like your ideal quadcopter to have. Take a look at this list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a used quadcopter:
- Is this model still available?
- When I look the model up, what price do people ask for it?
- Is it’s still for sale, what’s the price to get it new?
- Did this model get good reviews when it was new? Does it get good reviews now?
- Is this a model with parts that are easy to replace? Has it been discontinued?
Use a Reputable Source
Used quadcopters are cheap, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest time in finding a good seller. That will give you a better chance at getting a good quadcopter. One of the best places to find potential sellers is through enthusiast forums for people who love quadcopters. These boards sometimes have places for people to buy and sell their quadcopters, and they are more likely to have trustworthy sellers than Craigslist or similar places.
Some forums that have a classified section are:
- PhantomPilots (‘classifieds’ forum)
- Quadcopterforum (‘for sale’ forum)
- RCgroups (‘classifieds, multirotor’ forum)
You can also try big online retailers like Amazon to see if there is anyone offering used drones for sale there. If you go through a place like that, be sure to check the reputation of the seller, see if they have sold any other used quadcopters, look for reviews, and so on.
Just avoid any quadcopter that looks like the one in the picture here. It was on sale on eBay some time ago, and the story is that after falling in the water, the seller put it in the oven for 4 hours, on a low temperature, to dry the components. That’s already weird.
But in the morning someone else turned the oven on at 230C to prepare breakfast, definitely cooking the quadcopter.
When searching for a used drone, a little bit of effort can help you screen out people who are likely to be selling broken or cooked quadcopters. As shown above, this can happen, so look for sellers who seem to be experienced enthusiasts trying to get rid of old models so they can upgrade their fleet.
These are the best sellers because they are the most likely people to have taken good care of their quadcopter and will be willing to answer detailed questions about each item.
See It Fly
The most important test you should do for any quadcopter before you buy it is to see it fly.
In the current age of buying things over the Internet from people far away, this might seem hard- you may or may not be buying from someone in your area. If you are, then that’s great- you should insist on seeing the copter fly before you put down any money to make sure that it still functions well.
It might not be perfect, but it should still fly adequately, and the seller should allow you to see this. If the seller is unwilling to fly the copter before you hand over any money, that is a red flag– there might be something wrong with the quadcopter that prevents it from flying, and as a new user, you aren’t in a good position to repair the craft or even figure out what’s wrong.
Moving on, if you are buying from someone who is not near you, that does not mean you cannot see the craft fly. Simply use Skype or a similar service to watch them perform a flight.
There is an element of trust involved because you can never be sure that they are demoing the same quadcopter that they will send to you, but it is better than nothing, and it should not be too hard to arrange a test flight this way. Again, even if you do not actually see that much from the test flight, you will learn a lot from the seller’s response- if they outright refuse and do not provide a good reason, you might want to look elsewhere.
Remember that flying quadcopters is a fun hobby to enjoy, and hobbies don’t have to be work. So while it is a good idea to do your due diligence and research sellers, don’t spend so much time on it that it takes the fun out of the process. In the end, you just need to commit to a model and buy it. Before you know it, you will be enjoying a quadcopter and you will start potentially lifelong journey with a new hobby.
Do you have tips to buy used drones? Share them in the comments!
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