When you're comfortable with it, used binoculars are the cheapest way to get good quality optics. They may not have the most recently developed coatings, but they can be of excellent quality none-the- less!
Naturally, one's frugality can hit a bump when a binocular seller is unaware of optical problems in an instrument or even, regretfully in some instances, actively conceals them. Some of us, though, are willing to accept this and other risks in trying to find really inexpensive binoculars.
After you've gotten a bit of experience and you've an idea of what good binoculars are supposed to be like, you're ready to start looking for those used Swarovski binoculars. You overhear a conversation about used Leica binoculars and say "Lead me to them!" with fervor born from a bargain-hunter's zeal.
Enough said - let's dig into our short list of ways to find quality used binoculars both online and offline.
If you're just starting on your first search for used binoculars, you're researching optics before buying and that's good. By going this route you'll see many low quality optics that you'll want to avoid. Perhaps it goes without saying that some brands may have models that are good and some that aren't. It's up to you to know which brands and models are worth searching for as used binoculars!
When buying binoculars without the benefit of being able to actually see them, dealing with an organization that's able to somehow hold the seller accountable is a huge benefit. This is one reason for popularity. E-bay will not allow a seller who doesn't consistently maintain good faith relations with customers to continue selling on its site. It's not a sure way of preventing a bad deal from occurring, but by sticking with sellers who have established reputations on e-bay you're improving your odds. Looking for used binoculars doesn't mean giving up all protections against unscrupulous sellers!
For those who may be unfamiliar, this works because each time you buy something on e-bay, you're asked to evaluate the seller on a variety of items including the accuracy of describing the article you purchased, speed of shipping, etc. You can review the remarks and scores other buyers have registered for the various sellers. E-bay is probably the easiest route to follow for used Swarovski binoculars, used Leica binoculars, or other good quality, used binoculars. Although e-bay may be the easiest approach to finding used binoculars and it's certainly possible to get good prices, bidding action often prevents it from being the most inexpensive for those of us who enjoy the actual hunt for a bargain as much as the result.
To make our collective hunt for used binoculars easier, here are the e-bay sites serving areas for many of our visitors:
One last thing about buying binoculars from e-bay: If you should have a disputed transaction with a seller despite following all reasonable precautions, e-bay will provide the seller's name, city, and phone number to you upon request and your providing the number of the disputed transaction. E-bay will similarly provide your information to the seller. Being able talk on the telephone to resolve an issue is sometimes easier than dealing by e-mail.
Craigslist is an online classified advertising type of venue to consider. We frankly don't find looking for quality used optics on Craigslist in our area to be very productive - but we understand that the experience varies from place to place. You may find Craigslist to be great in your area. One last thought before we leave the Craigslist idea: we wouldn't buy binoculars from a Craigslist ad if we weren't able to physically inspect them prior to paying for them. In other words, don't buy from someone in a distant city who will send the paid-for goods to you before you inspect them. There isn't any recourse if the deal turns out to be bad. This is an area where you'll want to know what to look for when you inspect them, too.
The sad truth is that to get really outstanding prices for anything, it's necessary to invest some time. For many of us, balancing the value of our time and competing demands for it means taking the easy way - either with an online retailer or e-bay. In order to achieve the major find and get really good, used binoculars inexpensively, you're likely going to have to spend a certain amount of time haunting the casual sales places. The places where it's nearly impossible to predict what you may find from one day or week to the next. If they have a historical record of having good optics from time to time, keep an observant eye on them for used binoculars! Yes, it takes time, research, and effort - we never said it wouldn't!
From time to time, you'll find that we make a binocular or monocular, which we've reviewed, available on our Optics for Sale page. We work hard to keep the instruments we test in pristine condition so that whoever buys them will have the joy of owning a "like new" instrument at a discounted price, since it's technically "used" after we've tested it and written a review article. Unfortunately, it's not predictable as to when a particular instrument might be available after the initial review is published on OpticsReviewer.com, since some are retained for later comparative testing, as reference models at various price points, and so on. The Optics for Sale page is a very good option, however, for a person looking for discounted optics in excellent condition!
This is where we start taking serious time and effort to find the really good quality, but bargain basement binoculars. We're leaving easier to locate, but also more expensive, online options behind us at this point.
For the bargain hunters who have gotten this far and are continuing, we'll provide a link to a short checklist at the bottom of this page. It will be for those occasions when you're actually holding a prospective purchase in your hands and are wondering whether or not it's a good value.
While we don't usually have a lot of free time, perhaps our favorite way in the United States for finding used Swarovski binoculars, used Leica binoculars, Zeiss, Nikon, or other high quality, gently used, but very reasonably priced, binoculars is to frequent estate sales.
Flea markets/car boot sales, pawn shops, and plain old "junk" shops can also be fertile grounds for finding quality, used binoculars, but run the risk of a history of slightly harder use as compared to most estate sales. If you're able to devote the required amount of time to the hunt, you'll want to search out these places in your area, monitor them for a bit, and make a list of those that have quality optics available periodically. While it's unlikely you'll find brand new optics in these areas, good quality binoculars are found at very reasonable prices after sifting through low quality optics and good quality, but badly handled, ones.
If you're part of a group that includes optics as one of its ranking interests (ornithology, hunting, etc), consult with other members about where they've found quality used binoculars in the past.
Since you'll be assuming all of the transaction's risk by making the purchase from individuals who may not know much about optics, you'll be relying on your own knowledge in making a decision as to whether the instrument's age and condition are worth the asking price.
Enjoy the hunt!