For example, I found a Craigslist ad offering a Nikkor 105mm f/2 D/DC for $800; on the other hand, the same lens is available from KEH for $890 — a discount of about 10% for Craigslist.

What you give up for this $90 price discount is:

  • return period
  • (short) warranty
  • ability to pay with a credit card
  • shipping anywhere (in the US, at least)
  • a known seller with a good reputation

For me, 10% seems like not enough discount. But, I'm sure what is, and I wonder what others think. What is the right price discount for buying gear on Craigslist vs. from a reputable seller like KEH?

To clarify, the assumption here is that KEH/Adorama/etc. are setting prices that are more or less correct for the market. The question is: what's the right premium for the extra benefits you get from buying from a business instead of a private seller on a reputation-less but in-person service like Craigslist?

  • 2
    Presumably you also don't end up paying sales tax to a private seller, so the actual "discount" is somewhat higher (depending on your local sales tax rates, ie. I pay 13% at retail in Ontario).
    – seanmc
    Oct 31 '10 at 19:00
  • @Reid As the son of an out-of-state tax auditor, that is risky business.
    – BBischof
    Oct 31 '10 at 21:20
  • 2
    I don't understand why you are asking this question. This question can't necessarily be answered definitively; it's tangentially related to photography (replace the item with any other random item and a link to a company that sells used items of that nature); and that this question is more of a facility for a discussion on how to price items for private sale rather than a question specific to photography. Are you looking for a logic to use to barter-down prices?
    – Alan
    Oct 31 '10 at 22:13
  • 1
    @Reid: Lol, no of course. I wasn't implying that you were. I'm just stating that I am a moron. :)
    – Alan
    Nov 1 '10 at 4:15
  • 1
    I would agree, the chat room is probably the best place for this. I think this question slid by as at the time it was asked, I don't believe the StackExchange chat was up and running yet, or if it was, it was in the early beta phase.
    – jrista
    Jun 7 '11 at 21:28

I've seen the same thing on ebay, and I've commented on a few "what should I buy" threads that the market for used photo equipment seems to be irrationally stout, all things considered. It really seems like you could buy equipment brand-new and turn around and sell it for nearly what you paid for it, which is pretty great if you want to try equipment out, but pretty lousy if you're looking for a bargain.

As another data point on "non-new" equipment, check out some of the refurbished equipment at Adorama (others may have these, too). These, when available, often sell for the same price people are getting for used gear, and should be a safer option than buying used.

The prices you see on ebay, by the way, might be more reliable than what you see on CL, because you can't account for any off-list haggling (just because you see an $800 price doesn't mean that it doesn't end up going for less).

  • re. price reliability, part of the motivation is figuring out what to counter-offer to a Craigslist seller.
    – Reid
    Oct 31 '10 at 21:49

To quote Publius Syrius: "Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it."

In general, for something that is fairly new and lightly used, I may be willing to pay something approaching 80-85% for it. It depends, if the specifications are comparable to something new that is in that ballpark, then it's got to be a lot cheaper than that. For something that is classic, hard to find, and in very good condition, I might well go over original market price. However, that's unlikely and I haven't hit it yet, it's usually substantially less.

  • 80-85% of what? the KEH-type price?
    – Reid
    Oct 31 '10 at 21:47
  • Well, specifically the price available to me, which would normally be something like Vistek or Henrys.
    – Joanne C
    Oct 31 '10 at 22:34

There is no one answer, it depends on how risk averse you are.
The greater your risk aversion the greater the premium you will pay to mitigate the risk.
And your risk aversion will vary according to
1. Your personality, to what extent are you a risk taker?.
2. Your circumstances, is this a large part of your remaining disposable income or do you live in a remote location where remedial action is difficult?
3. The item, how important is the item to you?


An advantage to Craigslist is going and checking out the gear, trying it out, etc. on your camera. And of course no shipping/taxes, but you have to drive. I've used it as an excuse to go out and take pictures before.


John's answer nailed it. The price of goods and services are optimally set when price and demand meet. I think that's the gist of econ101.

If the seller believes they can get $800 for that lens (a $280 price discount over a new version), then obviously that's the right price.

  • 2
    in this case, the item has been reposted at least once, so $800 apparently is not the right price. Also, you can only set a price optimally when both buyer and seller have perfect info and the friction of finding a different seller is low.
    – Reid
    Oct 31 '10 at 23:10
  • Alternatively, the value of the used item ought to be the value of the unused item * the percentage of its useful life that has been expended. Of course, finding out much of a second-hand item's useful life has been expended is rather difficult. Note that price is not the same as value, however, which may be mediated by supply and demand factors.
    – fmark
    May 9 '11 at 11:46

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