Should You Buy Used Binoculars – What To Be Aware Of

As long as you’re comfortable purchasing a pair of used binoculars, this is a good way to save a bit of cash while still acquiring a good-quality product. Quite often buyers don’t know what to look for – or even that certain types of products can be passed down multiple users and remain in relatively good shape.

Generally, it’s perfectly fine to purchase used binoculars as long as the product hasn’t suffered damage to the optics. Most quality binoculars will last years of use without extensive damage excerpt perhaps accumulating dust, or the coating which wears out over time, however, you should look out for common issues such as fungus, haze, misalignment, botched repairs, and so on.

There are many people selling used binoculars on Craigslist, eBay, or Flea-bay with brands like Nikon, Eagle Optics, Brunton, and Tasco showing up regularly; although it’s better to buy local so that you have a chance to inspect the binocular in person.

In either case, you need to know a few things before you make a purchase.

How Do I Buy Used Binoculars?

Keep in mind that buying any type of used optical product presents an opportunity to save up a significant portion of the full price; and so the work begins to avoid any broken or excessively worn binocular. While some people seem to have extra luck when seeking out deals online, there are proven methods that anybody can follow with success. The most convenient method to buy used binos while minimizing risk factors is to work with sellers that have an active presence in online forums that focus on optic equipment.

Here you will find lots of useful information about products, selling, and more importantly, how to identify a faulty binocular and which are the best used brands to purchase. Find out which sellers have established the best reputation while also acquiring lots of recommendations from happy buyers.

Use PayPal as a way to insure against a disputed transaction but spend more time researching a seller before transferring any cash.

Some products will also be covered by some kind of full-time transferrable insurance such as Zeiss, Vortex, or Swaro. Use this whenever possible.

Here are some tips for buying used binoculars online:

  • Only purchase from established sellers. However, if you do buy from a new user account, make sure they have acquired quite a bit of feedback for their time and that their name and/or email can be tracked through Astronomy and Google search.
  • Always ask questions about the product. This requires researching your favorite products to learn which questions are relevant before submitting an offer. Focus on things like lenses, glass, collimation, etc. The answers you get will indicate whether or not the product is good condition and/or if the seller can be trusted.
  • If the seller doesn’t have any knowledge of binoculars, avoid buying unless the product is in excellent condition and they offer multiple images to prove this. To learn more, check how detailed the description is and avoid sellers who seem to ignore important features or describe their sale as a “steal”.
  • Some binoculars may be in great condition but still require a bit of internal cleaning which can be a mechanical process for some users. Pay attention to used products that need only some cleaning to work perfectly.

Things to Check When Buying One

Here’s how to evaluate binoculars to find out which is a good product and which to avoid:

  1. Check if the focuser moves sluggishly or is stuck. If after a couple of cycles it gets stuck, move on to the next product.
  2. If after inspecting you find significant dust on the outside of the glass, confirm that you can clean it without damaging the product. Usually this requires a damp hand towel or Windex. Use a new patch of fresh towel or Windex on every swipe to avoid scratching the glass with dust.
  3. Hold the binoculars at arm’s length and look into the front lenses, and then hold it to your eyes backward on a bright background to see if it has mold inside.
  4. To find if it has double image, hold the binoculars to your eyes and look at a faraway object.
  5. Adjust the focus to your eyes and gently move the eyepieces away from your face to see it causes a double image.
  6. Look at the outer coating. Rubber coating often either dries up and starts flaking off, or it can turn sticky with time and use. If buying online, make sure you get close-up photos of the coating.
  7. Binocular cases tend to wear out quicker and they can cause mold so replace if necessary.
  8. Learn about which parts of binoculars wear out first so that you can spot a good/bad product.
  9. If possible, buy a product that you can inspect in person to avoid a rip off; but if this isn’t possible do enough research on your own beforehand.
  10. Binoculars don’t age very fast, and a quality brand will hold up to years of use and last a couple for generations without much need for repair.
  11. If not sure about the seller and are not comfortable with other payment methods, stick with PayPal to keep both you and the seller safe. Buying second-hand binoculars is a bit of a gamble but it can be done in a smart way if you are careful.

What to Look Out For

The biggest concern here is that some sellers are looking to dump a faulty item to make a quick buck. While there are always risks associated with purchasing second-hand optical products online, much of this risk can be mitigated once a buyer acquires a working knowledge of binoculars and knows the major sticking points.

If for instance, you’re going to be buying online without the advantage of inspecting in person from a local seller, the least you can do is request multiple shots of the binoculars and check that the seller has accumulated good ratings. While this isn’t a sure way to prevent fraud, it goes a long way in protecting both buyer and seller.

Check the remarks or reviews from online sellers to get an idea of the experiences reported by previous buyers — and this particularly works best on eBay where each transaction requires the buyer to leave a few remarks regarding the product, shipping, and so on. Here you will find brands like Leica and Swarovski for cheap prices.

Should I Buy Used Binoculars From Craigslist?

While the local aspect of the site makes it ideal to find cheap binoculars that you can inspect in person, I find that a lot of searches for particular products may fail to yield significant results in certain locations. Whether or not you find a decent used product really depends on where you live; however, even with disappointing results, it’s advisable to check again from time to time. If you have used these products in the past, it should be fairly easy to evaluate used binoculars to find one that is in excellent condition. You never know what luck you may have with a newly posted item!

The worst case scenario is when a seller ships a different item in the box other than what you purchased (like an empty bottle in place of binoculars) and to avoid this kind of nightmare you can always protect yourself as a buyer by using a payment method that allows for refunds.

Remember if you do come across a desirable binocular that is in perfect condition, there will be a line of buyers and collectors who will drive up price even though some already own the same product. I mean, use common sense when inspecting old binos.

Some of the products there are priced way beyond the market standard but it’s still a good place to see what options are out there.

In Conclusion

This is a bit of a gamble, as is the case with many optical products. The key is to learn more about products and how they work, plus getting a feel of a good quality binocular before attempting to inspect a used one. Also, many of the pitfalls described by buyers online can be avoided by buying from local sellers — because this way you can inspect the product and walk away if not satisfied. Educate yourself to avoid losing money on a bad deal.