If you buy a Basis turntable, they have them packaged very well. I bought a used one (Basis 1400) from a guy in New Jersey, and it arrrived safely with no problems. (Just make sure the seller has the original packaging and you should be ok, at least with Basis brand that is!) I recommend the Basis 1400 as an entry level TT by the way. It lead the way for me to get further into analog than I ever thought I would get.
I went and picked up my second turntable (Basis 2001) from a guy locally to avoid the shipping hassle. A friend bought a turntable from a guy in San Diego and he drove there from San Jose (600 miles or so) to avoid having it shipped.
Actually, I would be less worried about a TT's being shipped--as long as it is in the original packaging and is double boxed. Turntables actually have only a few pieces: plinth, platter, arm, cartridge. As long as these items are shipped in their original packaging, it should be okay.
If you are going to buy a used one, just ask the seller how he or she plans to pack it; if you get a bad vibe, you don't have to buy. You have every "right" to expect that reasonable care will be taken in the shipping (i.e., lots of bubble wrap, original packaging, and insurance).
I once bought a project tt from a dealer, and it arrived safely (even thuogh I thought it could have been better packed). I recently sold it and sent it from the California to New York, and it's doing just fine right now.
Frankly, I am always more worried about amps, CDPs, and loundspeakers.
I had a Pink Triangle shipped to me via UPS smashed to pieces. Later VTL said never to use them, go FEDEX Air. Also pack a box within a box with LARGE bubbles or single sheets of balled newspaper in between the boxes. Then take off the platter and pack outside the inner box. There may be a bolt or screw that indicates to lock down for shipping. If there is a dust cover, remove it or secure it. Tie down the arm and remove the weight. Take off the cartridge. Buy some worry beads. Or insurance.
I have had lots of problems with having turntables shipped to me. Rega P3 double boxed, looked like UPS ran a fork lift through it, total loss. Bought another P3, single boxed, dust cover completely broken. Micro Seiki DDX1000 with Grace arm, cartridge broken, probably in packing, it also ran way off speed, seller took it back. SOTA Comet, arm bent, not packed properly. That said, most of the expensive tables that I have had shipped to me have made it unscathed. I would suggest double boxing with the original packing materials as the inside box. If peanuts are used between inner and outer boxes, then they need to be stabilized with newspaper or the like. Platters and dust covers must always be removed as well as counterweights and often, but not always, cartridges. If the seller has never packed a table for shipment you will be the beta tester. All audio gear should be double boxed for shipment, not just tables.
the one thing that I would buy local is a turntable, unless i find it used
through a dealer. there is a skill in knowing how to package a turntable right,
and most avg joes i don't think have that level of expertise.
i had UPS long ago destroy a Michel Gyrodec, but fortunatly they paid the
claim, and I was able to fabricate an exaxt match at a local plastics store.
just my opinion
I will add two thoughts to the discussion. I had an EMC-1UP severly damaged by UPS. They must have dropped it from a great height on its front; it actually bent the 3/16" packing bolt!!! I also had a SOTA arrive single boxed, unscathed, even after watching with horror as the driver tumbled it end over end down the ramp to the waiting hand truck. The SOTA packing box and suspension tie down is virtually bullet-proof, but it will not work if it is not broken down correctly and secured to the original shipping materials. I guess you will have to get a feel for the skill and knowledge of the shipper, and then ask him to double box with lots of bubble-wrap. Bottom line is its a crap shoot, but if you can determine that the seller has the original packing AND knows how to use it ;~), then it will PROBABLY be OK.
Thanks to all who posted. The UPS horror stories do not surprise me --- I've heard quite a few before. There was no mention of original packaging. However, for what it's worth (which migh not be much), the seller had one feedback that described his packaging as "a work of art". Hmmmm --- I suppose that could be interpreted in many ways.
I'll describe a satisfactory packing method and see if he'll abide by it. If not, I'll look elsewhere.
I think that means that his name is "Art".
I used 1/2 plywood and built a shell around the inner box and then paper between the shell and the outer box. It'll add a few more pounds but it will be very well protected. I've had great success with this method.
John...sounds like a tank couldn't damage the package..but UPS...?
Well, giving us more info. about the model of TT you're buying, what the feedback rating of the seller is, & the distance it's being shipped would help us in giving advice. Are you buying some high end $5K TT? Or a used Rega P3 for a few hundred $$? If something along the lines of the latter, I wouldn't worry too much. But communicate your concerns to the seller in advance--make sure they have the original packaging, & that you feel comfortable with them. If you're buying something for a few hundred $$ I wouldn't sweat it too much. If you are, just go to your local dealer & pay the new $$ price & get a warranty, etc. Buying used always entails some anxiety--do you want to save money, or have total assurance? Good luck!
I'm having a VPI shipped directly from the manufacturer, i'm sure they know how to pack them, I just don't trust Fedex or UPS.
I think it is worth noting that the same companies who ship these fragile items to you also ship to the dealers. They don't handle shipments to businesses any differently than they handle shipments to homes. It's just another address.
When evaluating a used purchase online, pay special attention to whether the classified says "Original Box and Manual". This tells a lot about how the product was cared for, in my opinion.
BTW, recently I bought a fairly expensive VPI TT 2nd hand & it was shipped to me UPS ground. It arrived perfectly; even the box still looked new. As I was thinking of moving I decided to sell it, & shipped it via Fed-ex ground. The new owner says it arrived in perfect condition (whew!). The VPI factory box & layers of packaging were almost as impressive as the TT. Packaging is key--esp. by ground, it has to be able to survive being thrown several feet maybe several times, & ride in a truck hundreds or thousands of miles with potentially hundreds of lbs. of other stuff on top of it. The seller has to have "packaging chops", & probably some luck.....
Make sure the seller knows how to pack the TT in the original box! Just having it doesn't mean it will be shipped correctly. I bought a TT from a friend in the city where I live, after a while I wanted to have it upgraded. I packed it in the original box in the way I thought was right. The entire suspension was trashed when it arrived at Sota because I did not pack it right. It wasn't the fault of the packing, but the moron who packed it.
I would ask the person if they are the original buyer and if they know how to pack the TT in the box. They might lie, but at least you did as much as you could. Feedback is important too.