To buy or not to buy a used cartridge?

As a general recommendation, is it risky buying used cartridges? What is your experience from those who have bought cartridges used? Is it best just to bite the bullet and buy new? You can get much more cartridge for your money buying used.

Similar to tubes, it seems dicey to think that the estimates that people give of hours they have put on a cartridge are very accurate.
Personally, I find this the riskiest purchase to make. For all the reasons you give yourself and some. If you can find what your looking for and someone who completely stands behind it and knows 100% of the knowledge needed to set up and use the cartridge in the first place and it is properly inspected, maybe then you may feel more comfortable as you obviously do not now. Hours are just a guess unless one would keep a logue book of use which is unlikely and kind of extreme. The prices may be attractive if your actually getting "much more cartridge for your money buying used". Lots of sales on here that suggest some good deals were made but some that did not turn as one hoped for. Ask the right questions first not after you buy. Cheers!
Well, there's another angle to this one, if you buy a great cartridge, Koetsu, Supex, Kiseki, or whatever, with a roached cantilever, you can usually buy it very, very, inexpensively. Send it to Soundsmith and for another $400.00 you have a new cantilever and stylus. Essentially new, though no longer the cartridge that you started with.

On the other hand, if the coils are toast, Peter will just send it back to you for the circular file.
I think cartridges are perhaps the riskiest used purchase. They are quite fragile/delicate devices.

You have to be real careful to be certain of the condition.
Thats what I meant by properly inspected Viridian. I agree with you on the Soundsmith approach , I just can,t understand why seller's wouldn't do that themselves before selling it as you might end up keeping it if your price is correct for 400 dollars more to have a virtually new Koetsu cartridge or proof all is good for the sale. Not having to wait for the retip to a potential buyer versus not finding out something you thought was good to go that needs the service would get a better price as well I would think.
Having purchased 9 used cartridges here on Agon (and 1 on ebay), I can attest that it is no more risky than other used component purchases. Feedback check is essential here. I have received one cartridge that was not as described (and no, it wasn't the one from ebay believe it or not). On the other hand I have received a few components (mainly power amps) delivered with shipping damage. I am more leery of having heavy items shipped than buying used cartridges. Buying anything used is always more risky but overall I think well worth it. As far as how many hours the seller claims his cart to have, I only use this as a guide, not realistic unless he claims to have logged hours. I think most sellers here on Agon are pretty staight forward.
Buy new and know what you're getting
Based on my own experience I don't think there's any more risk buying a used cartridge than with any other type of equipment here on the Gon. I've bought stuff over the years that was often misrepresented as to condition, suffered because it was packed poorly, or damaged by the carrier. It's not unusual to have to resell a $3000 component for $500 less than the price paid because it was scratched and somewhat beat up and the box looked like hell. The risks are not greater, probably less, when buying a used cart from a trusted member. If you trust the seller, and he tells you the cart is fine, and knows approximately the hours on it (there's a lot of latitude here anyway since it takes years of normal usage to put on 1000 hours) then why not save hundreds, or even thousands? Cart shipping is safe and easy--no risk there compared to speakers or amps or fragile digital players. Over the years I've bought used carts on the Gon many times: a VDH Grasshopper 3, VDH Frog, Allaerts Mc1b, Benz Ruby2, Koetsu Rosewood Sig, Grado Reference and a few less-significant others. Every one has performed up to expectations (other than the Koetsu which had been VDH retipped--but the seller disclosed this) and I still use them all today.

Sorry for taking so long to state the obvious. But I believe it comes down to trusting the seller, just like with all other types of gear.

BTW, I plan to sell some of the above-named carts over the next few months. I mention this now because I don't want to appear disengenuous later. Everything I said is true irregardless.
I think buying used cartridges is the riskiest venture in the audio hobby. It's not just the relying on an accurate hour used count, but age also takes it's toll on a cartridge. A suspension can wear out just sitting on a shelf. One also never knows if the previous user knows how to properly set up and care for a cartridge.

I'm not saying that I would never buy a used cartridge, but IMHO the price needs to be a LOT more attractive than the standard 50% off list price for used gear for me to consider it.

If you buy a new cart from the dealer you don't know if it was really a demo unit (the last 'new' one I received came with mounting screws missing from the box). My experience buying and selling used carts has been 100% positive to date. As a general rule, analog types seem to be persnickety about taking care of things.
No big problem. Most owners from expensive cartridges are very careful and you can ask for pics. when the cantilever is straight and the suspension not down, then it is fine. Never had a problem. Probably I had luck and met always the nice guys...
I've bought 4 used cartridges here on Audiogon over the last few years. All have been as advertised or better than expected. I always TALK to the seller. I find out about their equipment, LP cleaning, listening habits,etc. Then get a feel for their honesty/openness.
I believe anything you buy used has some sort of risk. Just need to feel comfortable about item and seller before you lay out the cash.
I have mixed feelings about this also.

I agree that this is probably the one item that I would consider being a risky purchase, if buying used. There is just so much that can go wrong buying a used cartridge.

However, that being said, I have bought three used cartridges:
A Dynavector XV-1S from a friend, (okay, that was a pretty much a safe bet),
One from a guy on Audiogon, (A Shelter 90X, which was in very good shape),
And even one from a guy on Ebay, (which while it did make me nervous, the Koetsu Rosewood Signature was in near mint shape). So, all things considered, it was a great way to save money. (I bought these for about 30-35% list price.)

If you deal with a person who you feel comfortable with, (especially if you've spoken to them, or if they post a lot here or on Audio Asylum), then you can probably get a decent deal. Buying from an unknown entity is likely to make for an anxious buying experience, but not necessarily a bad one.

My two cents worth.
I have brought 3 used cartridges and have not had a problem. All have come from audiogon and have been from people that frequently post. Not sure that is a guarantee but most on this site are into the music and gear and not about screwing the uninformed or novice buyers. If you go to ebay or others, good luck. that imo would be a crapshoot as there are a lot of unreliable sellers on ebay
I have bought literally dozens of used cartridges, and while it is an extreme risk because half are no good, the price is right, and often there are treasures that compensate for money wasted on the others. All you need to know is that you will get stuck half the time. To me, that rare jewel is worth the risk, though.
I am 100% in accord with Mosin. If you purchase lots/dozens of vintage carts, you can expect some to disappoint, either with cantilever or suspension. On the other hand, you can find some great carts for not huge money, and those which are 'damaged' in some way can be repaired.

I just recently picked up a Sony XL-88 for which I have high hopes. My other example of that cart is a real treat - one of the nicest combinations of delicacy and richness around. Those haven't been made for more than 25 years. I have purchased several XL-55Pros of a similar age and have had pretty good luck, only happening on 2 'baddies' among several. Likewise with older MMs - only one 'bad' F-8 (cantilever bent). I have purchased a Koetsu Rosewood Signature which was really nice, and a Victor L1000 which has been a pleasant surprise.

If you purchase recently-made (last several/ten years) high-end carts from people who take care of them, the biggest worry is how they are packed/shipped.

I was recently wondering whether it doesn't make sense to weigh carts down slightly inside the packaging just to make sure that the padding around the cart acts better as a dampener. Carts are so light they could bounced around easily.
locally only. let me play it first, pay second and than unmount and take home.
'It takes two to tango' obviously but nobody mentioned the
seller's risk: negative feedback + tedious aftermath.Ie why
should one risk both for an cart?

Its a crap shoot at best!!
I took a chance on an "unopened and unused" Japanese cartridge here on Audiogon and learned an interesting lesson. I spoke to the seller over the phone and even contacted a reference of his. Everything checked out fine. The cartridge was in new condition, but it was originally bought overseas by the seller and never installed on his arm.

The cartridge sounds great, I saved some money and all was fine, until I contacted the importer/distributer to ask for the mounting hole to stylus tip distance specification for my Mint LP protractor. They said that because the cartridge did not come through them, they would not supply me with any specifications or even do repair work for a fee - no support, period. So in the end, it all worked out except that I had to call Japan in the middle of the night to get the spec. and I will not have a dealer to contact for repair work.

So I guess the lesson is, be aware if you are buying a piece of gear that did not enter though proper distribution/importation channels. You may have difficulty with product support.