That being said, some of the worst purchases I've ever made were, "Too good to pass up." If it's cheap, there may be a reason, and you should know it before you plunk down the cash.
Here are five questions I wish I'd asked before I bought every piece of used gear.
- How old is it? With a little help from Google, this can be a game changer. You may stumble across a rarity or find a certain model year or era that had serious problems. This can also help you determine where the item was originally manufactured, or if the company was bought/sold before or after the date. All good information if you're trying to get parts or compatible items.
- How has it been stored and transported? You'll probably have a few follow up questions here, but this will give you an idea as to how the current owner cares for gear, and what the likelihood for significant wear and tear might be.
- What modifications and repairs has it had? Some people just can't leave it alone (which can be a good thing), but you definitely want to know what's been altered, replaced or repaired. This question can also reveal an accident or weather incident.
- Why are you selling it? Again, keep asking this question until you get a few answers. "I just need the money," may be true, but that's usually just the default response. Turn the question around and when they tell you how great it is, you can say, "It does seem like a great deal. Why aren't you keeping it?" Get to the bottom line.
- Is that the best price you can give me? I'm not about taking advantage of people or being dishonest in any way, but that doesn't mean you can't negotiate the price. Also, as I've said before, see if you have anything the seller may want to trade for. At any rate, get the very best price you can, and don't pay it if it doesn't make sense for your needs and budget.
Again, there are more questions you could ask - feel free to suggest some in the comments - but these should give you a fair view of what you're buying.
And I know that gear is not cars (for the most part, at least!) but there are two more quick things I like to keep in mind.
"One man's trash is another man's treasure." As I've said before, you can find many a great deal buying from someone who simply doesn't have a use for the item or needs quick cash, but...
"Don't buy someone else's problems." As is often the case with cars, there may be a very good reason that the item is such a good deal, and you may find it out the first time you have to use the thing on stage or in the studio.