Buying a Drone

Last week I was frantically looking for my extra DJI Mavic 2 Pro battery – the sunset wasn't going to last. Not only did I stumble upon the battery, but also on my long-forgotten Ryze Tech Tello.

I thought, “someone could put this to good use, but where's the best place to sell used drones?” I realized I was likely not the only person wondering where to sell and/or purchase a used drone, so I began my search to locate legitimate websites. 

Pros and Cons of New, Used, and Refurbished Drones 

Before we dive into the best places to purchase a used UAV, let us discuss the pros and cons of buying new, used, and refurbished drones.

New Drone:

Full manufacturer warranty Price 
Easier return process if you are not satisfied Sales tax  
Not needing to ask questions around drone history/potential accidents/repair history
Fast delivery to your home

Used Drones

PriceUnaware of faulty drones or prior accidents
Sellers often throw in additional accessories for freeLack of manufacturer warranty
Sellers may help buyers set up their drone No return policy
If there are issues, you can message the seller directly 

Refurbished Drones:

Price Not new
Typically has a similar warranty, unless otherwise stated Box may be damaged 
Quick deliveryTypically an older model that has been brought back to factory specs
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Check out our drone comparison tool

Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Used Drone

Purchasing a used UAV is one of the best ways to get yourself fantastic gear at a reasonable price. However, it can be stressful for new pilots who are not sure what questions to ask to ensure they are getting the most bang for their buck.

Let us talk about the vital topics that you will ask before you purchase a drone from a stranger. The drone may look good, but that does not mean that the quad is the right one for you.

Informational Questions 

The informational questions we will go over are basic and meant to help you learn what the seller has to say about the drone. We want to save time and energy for both you and the seller.

Does the seller have the original purchase receipt? 

Asking for the original purchase receipt is an important question for a couple of reasons. If the seller purchased the UAV from DJI or a similar company, extended warranties are often transferable. Having the original receipt also gives legitimacy to the information the buyer is providing you regarding when it was first purchased and what they paid for it.

Is the drone registered with the FAA? 

Everyone is supposed to register their drone (if above 249g) with the Federal Aviation Administration. As a buyer, if you know that the drone has been registered, you can make a reasonable assumption that they were a responsible pilot and took care of their equipment.

What type of case was the drone stored? And what's included in the sale? 

The type of case the seller stored their UAV in is also a good indicator of how well they took care of their equipment. It's a great thing if the seller can show you the case either in person or a photo.

The accessories included with the UAV sell helps to set a standard for negotiation on the price. Ask for a detailed list of the items they are planning to sell so that you have a good idea of what price point is most appropriate.

Why are you selling your drone? 

Is the seller getting rid of their quad because they are upgrading to a more complex drone or because they have something to hide? Asking this question can help you better determine the reason. The more detailed they are with their answer, the better the feeling you should get.

Be wary if the seller informs you that they've only flown it a few times – this means the initial thrill of piloting has worn off. This could mean that they tried crazier stunts with it for entertainment.

Where have you flown it? 

If the seller has flown their UAV locally, it is alright to ask where they flew. 

  • Down at the lake or shore? If so, did it take an accidental dip in the water? 
  • Did they fly it with a local drone club? 
  • In their backyard? 

This question makes for good conversation starters to further learn about the seller and the drone, which will enable you to learn even more. Plus, building a relationship with the seller helps later on during the negotiation process.

What version of firmware is the UAV on? 

If you find out that the seller is a few revs back on the firmware, this is a red flag to consider. It indicates that the seller was not deeply involved with the hobby and failed to stay on top of product updates. There might be legitimate reasons why the updates didn't occur, which would give you a reason to continue with the purchase.

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See Let Us Drone (LUD) Scores for how drones rank

Physical Questions

When you're purchasing a used drone, we recommend you buy it in person so you can see the physicality of the drone itself. However, this isn't always possible, especially when you are buying from an online platform. These next few questions are crucial to ensure that you are ultimately receiving what you are promised.

How many flights have you made with the drone? 

If you want to make sure that you can trust the seller, ask to look at the battery pack. This can inform you how many times it's been charged. For instance, if the seller says they've only flown a few times but the battery pack shows more than 100 charges, you know that they are not honest, and you should ask yourself if you can trust the product that they are trying to sell you.

Have there been any crashes or repairs made? 

Crashes and repairs happen in the drone world – it doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase a used UAV. Keep this in mind when factoring in the purchase price because crashes will affect the overall quality.

You can ask the seller how they crashed and what repairs they have done. Most honest sellers will be upfront with you, inform you of the details, and show you the areas of wear. If they do tell you about a crash or repair, take more time to visually inspecting the drone.

Buying online? Ask for detailed photos 

Not all buyers have the opportunity to purchase a used quad in person. If you are buying online, be sure to ask for clear photos of each of the following areas:

  • Motors
  • Prop arms
  • Gimbal assembly 
  • Camera

Having clear pictures will help you to determine if repairs that have been made, if the motors have rust or oxidation, and assurance that the arms aren't damaged and that the camera is functioning.

It is a great idea to ask the seller to create a video of them powering up the drone. This lets you watch the moving parts of the drone, like the gimbal, run through their regular routine.

Check Out the Batteries for Any Gouging or Swelling

Don't just visually inspect the batteries that the seller is providing with your purchase. Run your fingertips along the edges so that you can feel for swelling and possible bubbles, which means the battery has gone bad. Bad batteries do not need to be included in the purchase price.

It's also a good idea to power up the drone with each battery to ensure they function correctly. While used batteries still do an excellent job, they are still expensive, and it's well worth your time to make sure that they all work.

Inspection of the Drone Case

Close visual inspection of the drone's outer casing is important. For instance, DJI has their iconic stripes on the top of the drone cases. If you notice that the seal has been broken here, it is obvious that repairs have been performed on the drone.

Check for tight seams and signs of water intrusion. If the seller has flown their UAV in the snow or rain, you will notice places where water residue may have been left.

Take Your Time

If you meet the seller and they seem to be in a rush or irritated that you are asking too many questions or taking too long to inspect the drone, then this buyer might not be the right one for you. It's a good sign when they answer your questions with ease and give you time to look over the equipment that they are trying to sell.

Top 5 Places to Buy a Used Drone

Whether you are looking to sell your UAVs you no longer use or are in the market to invest in a drone that at a reasonable price, check out our 5 favorite places to buy a used drone.

1. Drone Trader

DroneTrader has become one of the most streamlined services for listing used drones, and they have a very focused audience. This is great for bother sellers and buyers. It is full of top-notch used drones compared to general classified websites.

DroneTrader has been around for over seven years. It's easy-to-use, free, and available to US and Canadian residents. The search feature makes it super simple to find the UAV you picture yourself flying. You can narrow down your search results based on location and price, and it even features refurbished and store demo drone.

2. DJI Refurbished 

DJI is a trusted platform to purchase new UAVs, but note that they also have a selection of refurbished drones from budget shoppers. If you're looking to invest in higher quality footage or have an increased desire to capture better photos, then a refurbished and upgraded DJI drone may be just up your alley.

DJI Refurbished

DJI not only promises to keep your wallet satisfied but ensures certified quality and a full warranty. Each drone is thoroughly tested by DJI's expert staff to ensure a safe, fully functional drone. 

3. eBay

eBay is another company that has a huge audience that purchases a wide variety of products, but I bet you haven't considered looking for used UAVs there. There are hundreds of used drone listings on eBay that start bidding from a variety of price points.  

4. Facebook

Despite its popularity for social media, Facebook is not somewhere people typically search for their next drone. However, if you're on a budget, UAV groups and Facebook Marketplace are great to start your search.

Keep in mind that many drone Facebook groups are private, which means that with a simple Google search, you may not come across the right ones. DroneTrader offers its own exclusive group where members post their used equipment for sale. 

5. BlueSkies Drone Rental

The BlueSkies Drone Rental website has been around for about five years and even offers drone rental if you don’t feel up to purchasing a used UAV for yourself quite yet. They have a wide variety of both used and new drones, as well as plenty of pre-owned but functional accessories at budget prices. 

BlueSkies Drone is also an authorized DJI dealer, and endorsed by Quantum Systems and Drone Deploy, among other high authority leaders in the drone industry. 

In Conclusion

All of the above websites (except the Facebook Marketplace) have a money-back guarantee to their used drone buyers. We recommend doing your best to schedule an in-person meeting to inspect the used UAVs before purchasing them. However, if you plan to purchase from an online marketplace, we recommend to check out one of the above websites first and take into account the questions that we listed first for you to ask the seller.

Good luck on your journey to find a drone that fits your desires, goals, and budget! Used UAVs are just as great of an investment as a brand new quad. Do you have experience buying or selling a used drone? Tell us about it in the comments.

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