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Buying Used Binoculars

The Secrets to Buying Used Binoculars

Between the high price tags and loads of information (and misinformation) out there, buying a set of binoculars can prove to be a pretty stressful task. One way to help alleviate some of that stress is to purchase used. 

The used market is full of inexpensive binoculars as well as high quality optics. Unfortunately, depending on where you go to purchase used binoculars, you can run into some additional obstacles. Fortunately, we at Outdoorsmans are here to help!

Binoculars, and optics in general, are one of those products where you really do get what you pay for. The difference between a high quality bino and an inexpensive bino is very apparent, especially when comparing them side by side. Differences in quality control, materials, and lens coatings are all factors that go into what makes a great pair of binoculars vs a lower quality and, subsequently, an inexpensive binocular. 

In general, higher end optics brands, such as Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss have a lot more stringent expectations and standards when it comes to quality control. They will not cut raw glass, let alone send it to market, if it does not meet a certain standard.

Furthermore, these manufacturers are paying more for higher quality raw materials. In some cases, they own the machines and cut the raw glass down themselves to achieve the standards they are looking for. 

In addition to the raw materials, higher end optics manufacturers also use their own proprietary lens coatings. The lens coatings are one of the more significant factors in what makes an optic great. Basically, as light travels through a lens, a certain amount of it is reflected back. 

This reflected light can cause glare, and chromatic aberration. The lens coatings significantly reduce, and in some cases, almost eliminate that reflection. Leica even goes as far as hand blacking the thin edge of all their lenses. 

Coatings are also used on the outside surfaces of your objective and ocular lenses to reduce cosmetic scratching, and help with dust and rain. 

Fortunately, we have some resources out there that will help you understand how a pair of binoculars is manufactured and why they cost as much as they do.

Buying used Binoculars

Obviously, the first thing you are going to want to consider is your available budget. High quality binoculars, such as Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss will hold their value pretty well. This is a double edged sword because on one hand, you know you’re going to get a decent pair of binoculars, but you might find the price is still a bit on the higher end. 

For instance, right now on Ebay, I found an older pair of Swarovski EL 10x42’s and they’re going for about $2,000.00. I can buy a new pair for $2,199.00. In this instance, I would spend the extra $200.00 and buy new at that point.

I do not think it’s worth it to purchase a lower quality pair of binoculars from the used market. There’s a reason that these binos are priced as low as they are new, and now you’re adding in the variable of them being used and possibly damaged. 

If your budget dictates that you need to spend less than $500.00 or so, I think it’s best to buy a new optic at that price. In many cases, you can find some deals and manufacturer rebates on those inexpensive binoculars.

In my opinion, if you’re looking to find a great used binocular, at a great price, you should be looking for higher quality binos such as some of the older Swarovski, Leica, and/or Zeiss binos. With these options, you’ll find a great marriage of price and quality.

One of my favorite binoculars to suggest is the Zeiss Conquest 10x42. This is a great pair of 10 power binos with a great field of view. The best part is they come in a compact binocular size and weight.

As an example, a pair of Swarovski SLC 10x42’s might go for about $1,300.00 used. These binoculars are going to blow anything new at the price point out of the water. 

Another good example would be the Zeiss Classic 10x40B’s, you might be able to find these binos for under $1,000.00 and, again, they’ll outwork everything else in that price range. 

Now that you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to figure out where to actually look. Personally, I’ve had good luck on hunting forums such as coueswhitetail.com and rokslide.com. It’s a bit more rare, but you can also find some good deals on Craigslist as well as OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace. 

As with any forum or online classified, you will need to have some patience and understand that buyers and sellers are trying to get the best deal possible. Negotiating prices can be a bit infuriating at times so it’s best to do your own research, know what those binos are worth, and protect yourself from being on the wrong side of a bad deal. 

I like to use Ebay for this. Simply type in the make and model of the optic you’re looking to purchase and check the “used” and “completed” boxes on the left side menu. This will bring up all used optics that sold over the last 90 days or so. 

You can also purchase on Ebay as well, but you might end up paying a bit more, however, you can also find you’ll have a little more peace of mind with certified sellers. 

As a side note, when using OfferUp, be ready to buy right away, if you find a smoking deal, chances are that seller has a few offers on the table.

buying used binoculars online

Another great option for finding used binoculars is the Outdoorsmans Optics Auction site. We’ve tried our best to take all of the guesswork out of the equation. Each pair of binos that comes into our shop gets inspected and cleaned by our optics experts, and, if necessary, sent back to the manufacturer for repair and cleaning. 

We then put the binoculars on our auction site and let it sell to the highest bidder. We don’t inflate the pricing, we just let the market decide how much it goes for. This is a great option because we do sell both new and used so you can compare binos right there in one place.

Our optics experts have been extensively trained by all our major vendors such as Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski, and Leupold. Outside of that we are all gear heads and revel in the opportunity to play with new products. The guys at Outdoorsmans are a great resource for anyone looking to understand more about optics and what they are worth.

Finally, when you go to purchase a used pair of binoculars, you’ll want to know what to look for to make sure you’re not getting a lemon. A very good indicator of how well an optic was treated is its overall cleanliness

A red flag for me is if it’s caked in dust. Dirt and sand are abrasive and if left uncleaned will work themselves into and compromise the seals on those binoculars. This can lead to internal fogging as well as all sorts of other problems. 

Check the main focus and diopter, make sure that you can easily focus the binos for your vision as well as check that they are not out of collimation (double vision). Then look for scratches and chips in the glass itself. These should be pretty easy to spot if they’re on the outside surface. However, be sure to look through the optic and check for any internal defects. 

Finally, you’ll want to look through the objective and ocular lenses at a bit of an angle so you can see inside the binocular itself. This helps identify if there are any signs of condensation on the inner surfaces of the lenses (blown seals) as well as see if there are any loose pieces in there too. You can give them a light shake to see if you hear anything rattling as well. If everything checks out, you should feel confident in making that purchase. 

In the end, you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible so do your best to research and have some confidence going in. Again, you can always peruse our The Outdoorsmans Auction Site, save yourself the hassle and still find some great deals on quality optics.
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