10 things to consider when buying a used drone

With the cost of living at an all-time high, people are increasingly mindful about getting real value for their money on any big-ticket purchases. And for those individuals looking to buy a drone, they may choose to buy an older, used drone in an attempt to save some hard-earned pennies.

Whilst purchasing a pre-owned drone could be a good alternative to buying a brand-new model as the initial outlay may be cheaper, there are some important things to consider to ensure buying second-hand doesn’t inadvertently end up costing you more in the future.

Here we offer our list of ten practical questions to ask yourself when you consider buying a used drone.

1. How has the drone been used before and how has it been maintained?

Take the time to understand the history of the drone’s use from the seller. Do they rarely fly the drone or is it used frequently? Ask to see the flight logs for the drone so you can see how many flying hours the drone has clocked up.

It’s also important to question how they’ve maintained and looked after it. Remember heavy use could be an indicator that replacement parts may be due soon or potentially that it’s reaching the end of its life if it not been well maintained over time.

2. Why are they selling the drone?

Be inquisitive. Ask why they are selling the drone. Are they simply looking to upgrade their equipment or perhaps selling because they no longer use it? Or are there other factors affecting the sale that you need to be aware of?

3. What is the overall condition of the drone?

Check for any missing components and carefully examine the drone for any signs of wear and tear or damage, paying particular attention to any cracks, dents or scratches. A physical inspection of the drone is really important as it could provide a useful indication that the drone may have crashed at some point. Question if any visible cracks, dents or scratches are purely aesthetic or if they could affect the drone’s performance.

Additionally, check the drone propellers, ensuring they turn smoothly without any resistance.

4. Are there any signs of humidity damage?

Water damage on a drone will likely affect its electronic components, so it’s vital you thoroughly inspect the drone and look for any tell-tale signs, such as rust around any screws.

Most drones also have liquid indicators which make this easy to detect. These are white stickers found on a drone which turn pink if they’ve come into contact with water or moisture.

5. What condition is the battery in?

Wherever possible, physically inspect the batteries when they are fully charged to check they are in good health. Examine each surface of the battery, ensuring it is flat and showing no signs of swelling. Also check for any signs of corrosion around the terminals.

If you spot any signs of a damaged battery, consider the costs involved in buying a replacement before proceeding with the purchase.

6. Have I seen the drone actually fly?

The chances are you wouldn’t purchase a used car without physically inspecting it first or taking it for a test drive. Adopt the same approach when considering buying a pre-owned drone by asking to see the drone take off, fly, carry out manoeuvres and land. This is the easiest way to test the signal and range, determine its overall performance and check there are no obvious issues with the drone, as well as any supporting components such as the controller, gimbal, camera and any obstacle detection sensors.

7. Has it previously crashed and been repaired?

Always ask the seller if the drone has ever crashed or required repair and don’t be afraid to probe for further details if required. Remember that it is natural for drones to become weathered over time. Do any of the parts look mismatched? Do any of the panels or propeller arms look newer than the rest? This could be a useful indication that these have been replaced.

8. Does it come with any warranty and/or is there a return policy?

Drone technology is advancing at such significant pace, bringing with it an abundance of new drone product launches. It is therefore not uncommon to see relatively new but still used drones being sold on as people choose to upgrade their drone to the latest bit of kit to hit the market.

It’s therefore always worth asking if there is any remaining warranty on the drone you are potentially looking to buy, as this can greatly offer you additional peace of mind and protection. Remember you will most likely need to have proof of purchase to get a drone repaired under warranty, so always make sure you have this. Never just take the seller’s word for it.

Additionally, many companies who specialise in re-selling electronics often provide some kind of warranty and return policy. Refurbished or pre-owned products sold by Amazon, for example, come with a one-year Amazon Renewed Guarantee so if you are not fully satisfied, you have one year to return for a replacement or refund. This level of guarantee would however be less common if you were to purchase from an individual seller on sale sites such as Facebook Marketplace, bringing an increased risk when buying.

9. Does the price seem too good to be true and are you buying from a trustworthy seller?

We’ve all seen those ‘too good to be true’ deals when scrolling online and sadly, these days the sale of tech products are particular susceptible to scammers.

Whilst we all love a good bargain, make sure you ask yourself, ‘Does the price feel too low?’ and ‘Does the seller really seem credible?’ Trust your instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, be prepared to walk away from the deal.

If buying from an individual, we recommend meeting the seller in-person, in a safe place, to view and test fly the item before you hand over any payment. Wherever possible, choose to pay through a reputable payment service that offers you some form of buyer protection, for example, selecting the ‘Goods and Services’ option when using PayPal.

10. How much would it cost you to replace?

When taking out insurance for your drone, most policies will offer a ‘like for like’ replacement in the event of a claim (sometimes referred to as ‘new for old’ cover).

It’s therefore really important to determine the true value of your drone. This won’t necessarily be what you paid for it, particularly if you managed to get a really good deal second-hand.

Consider what would happen if your drone were to be discontinued and was no longer available, particularly if you are buying a slightly older model second-hand. If a replacement drone was no longer available, you’d be offered the nearest alternative. However, with advances in drone technology, the closest replacement option could cost you more to buy. Remember you’ll only be covered up to the value (known as ‘sums insured’) you selected when you took out your policy so there could be a shortfall if your replacement drone is more expensive. It’s therefore really important to set the right sums insured against your policy and regularly check and update in line with current replacement values.

Without a doubt, buying a pre-owned drone could offer some significant benefits, particularly around cost savings, but you should always proceed cautiously. Hopefully the tips that we’ve outlined in this blog will help to mitigate the risks of buying second-hand and leave you free to enjoy your new (or should we say, nearly new) purchase. Happy flying!