Used Market Savings vs. The Dealer Experience

Hi all,
I’ve asked a couple questions on these forums and have always gotten great advice, so I’m coming back to the well. My fundamental question is: how do you reconcile (or balance) the auditioning value a dealer provides vs the absolute dollar value you get from buying on the used market?

I bought a McIntosh MA252 recently, and it’s so great it’s convinced me to commit and invest in a serious hi-fi system. I’d drop $30k for something that put my jaw on the floor. Right now I’m running Goldenear Triton 2s, a Marantz TT-15 TT for analog, Mytek Brooklyn + Bluesound Node 2i for digital, and just replaced a Marantz PM-8005 with the Mc. Silnote cables all around. The Mc gave me my first taste of actual holographic imaging and sound you could reach out and touch. Now I want more of that, as well as greater/faster/more pronounced dynamic shifts.

I have a dealer nearby that’s been a joy to work with (bought the Tritons and Mc there). They let me listen to their 200k Wilson setup with D’Agostino amps and sweet little baby Jesus -- it was like trying to box a feral animal in the complete darkness. Lashes of sound just came out of nowhere, smacked you upside the head, and were gone. I was dumbstruck. The Sonus Faber Olympica IIIs, by comparison, were a smoother, more musical sound signature but far less of that arresting clarity.

I make this point because, had I not been allowed to audition this gear, I would have had no idea about any of that. In doing my due diligence to shop for a setup, I know I want to hear Focal Sopras, Olympica IIIs again, Goldenear T-Refs AND maybe a Wilson Sasha for good measure. I want to hear Mc separates, ARC separates, Rega TTs, Linn TTs, etc. To me, my dealer provides real value in auditioning, optimizing, and being confident that what I’m buying is what I like best.

Unfortunately, with new vs. gently used prices, the $ cost of that experience is massive -- $10k+ quite literally. On the used market now I can get Olympica IIIs for $7k instead of $13.5k, a Rega RP10 w/ Aphelion for $6.5k instead of $9ish, Mc C1100 + MC275 for $13k instead of $20k, and a pair of Sasha’s at $15k is within striking distance. New? They’re $30k. I also live in a high sales tax (10.1%) area, which doesn’t help anything.

For those with more purchasing experience, or even dealing experience, how do you square the value of auditioning gear with the exorbitant relative cost of then foregoing the used market? I feel definite guilt sucking my dealer’s resources to then just go buy it all online. That’s bad business, and if everyone did it, there would be no dealers, and heck, no new gear being made.

Is there a better way to do this?

There's nothing like opening a new piece of gear and there's a lot to be saiid for a great dealer.  Most of my current system was bought new from a local dealer and I felt like I got a fair price but I will buy used if it was something I could not otherwise afford or something that is unique.  Sometimes you see something that you've always wanted at a great price...  mys amps were a year and a half old, like brand new and half of retail, so don't feel bad if you find those Relentless monos on Craigslist..... but definitely continue to support great local dealers....
Don't forget the factory warranty and support a dealer will provide when purchasing new, to me that' s part of why I do buy new.
Many dealers do take trade-in so it’s not unthinkable that you can assemble the system you want for just a bit more than used (the dealer does need a margin to stay in business)
It's a personal choice, much as deciding between a new or used car. My view with audio is that I am in it for the long haul. Some of my equipment is decades old, yet I have no plans to replace my Infinity Beta speaker system, or VPI TNT III turntable. The difference in cost between new and used is diminished by the passing of time. And there can be advantages to working with a good dealer.  

I have bought some used gear over the years, but it has been the exception.
You should talk to your dealer. As mentioned above dealers take trade-in equipment, which they usually want to turn quickly. That in turn can mean a good deal for you.

I have bought some equipment used, but a lot of it was dealer demo equipment.
IMO it is totally acceptable to ask for a discount on new equipment. I am normally able to negotiate in the realm of a 20% discount. 
In all my years Of buying high end audio, new from a store, I never got a 20% discount. Once I got 10% and when I bought my GE T Refs I got 500.00 off a pair of $8500 speakers and that was only after I pointed out I had bought a pair of GE Triton 1 and Triton 2, two years earlier at full price. I never got a discount from Goodwins, Overture, or Fidelis. Natural Sound would give 5% if you asked very nicely.  Spearit Sound gave good discounts but it was always on open box or B stock items.  Too bad Ralph Spearit retired. 
Don't forget dealer demo models. Still support the dealer, get a warranty and a good deal.
I've only bought from 3 different dealers about 5 different items and I've gotten 20% everytime. 
Bought my Triton Ones which I later sold for 4k brand new. 
I get 20% off and even more depending on how much I buy. If you pay list look elsewhere.
Spearit sound was the best ... I miss those guys.   
the answer is both
establish a relationship, great dealers remember you, your system, musical likes, maybe have heard gear in your room setting up speakers, know the wine you like because you give them a bottle at Thanksgiving....oh well, getting ahead of, or perhaps behind myself...ha

Never use them to demo gear, for example I have yet to hear a Triplaner at my local dealer, so I don’t feel bad buying one used. The Bardo, I have heard and they will get my business on that as well as the HRS base.

Great dealer can save you a lot of tail chasing also...

have fun !!!! you already have a very musical system bringing much joy !!!!!
I do both. 

I buy used gear from other enthusiasts, usually at about 50% of the new price.  Overall my experience doing that has been good, but there have been a couple of incidents where I got ripped off or something wasn't as advertised.  I usually get to audition the gear in a more realistic setting closer to my home environment than the dealer's acoustically treated showroom.  If it turns out I don't like it or I upgrade, I can usually sell it for what I paid for it or close. 

I like having the option to try new and different things in my systems.  Of course some dealers will let you try things so you can see how they sound in your system.

I buy some new gear directly from the dealer.  Sometimes in person, sometimes online.  The ones I work with have liberal return policies for the most part.  The biggest plus of doing this is being able to speak to the dealer and pick their brains about how a piece will work with my other components.  I've been talked out of purchases that I thought were a good idea more than once.  I treasure those types of relationships and will go there first at every opportunity.

I buy some used gear (trade-ins, floor models, consignments, old stock, etc.) from dealers.  I've been able to get some great deals that way and often they'll come with some sort of warranty, sometimes even a full warranty.  There are a number of dealers that sell new gear, but also do a brisk business in used equipment.

Sometimes a dealer doesn't have exactly what I'm looking for within my budget and the best option is the used market. 

I don't abuse dealers by going in for a listening session and then buying somewhere else for less.

I understand the reasons for buying new and working with a dealer and those are some of the considerations I make when I make a purchase, but I don't limit myself to one specific way of enjoying this hobby.
This thread is really about your guilt. Using the dealer's showroom as a discovery tool and then doing something like buying Sasha's used for 15k instead of 30k.

If I were in your shoes, I might buy the Sasha's used for 15k and then go back to the dealer and buy very expensive speaker cables. That way you save money and your salesperson and the dealership are treated with a much smaller sale, but one with a much higher profit margin/sales commission.   

Stereo5 you must be from metro Boston . When I lived there I went to all those stores and Spearit Sound was my favorite. Without consulting notes,Leland remembered exactly what I had in my system , what my price range was and always had excellent recommendations if I was looking to upgrade.  Service like that is priceless. Now that I have moved north I have realized just how lucky I was to have all those great retailers in close proximity. The two stores I have access to now just don’t carry gear in my price range as both say there isn’t a market here for it. So bfjones01 consider yourself lucky. I always operated on the principal that if I demoed a piece of gear at a dealer and I liked it ,that is where I purchased it. 
I bought my Vault from a local dealer.   Same price as online. No tax   No shipping.  First class guys to do business with.  

When you are buying an item that sells briskly do you really expect firesale prices?   When a dealer has leftover last years model that’s when you should expect a deal .  

If you’ve kept a loyal relationship with a dealer, you should get a solid discount. But even for a 1st purchase, since it’s such a large system investment your’re considering, he should work with you. Such a discount (say 20%) helps, but no it doesn’t close the gap to 50-70% off used pieces. But then you need to factor in warranty support; a lot of warranties don’t transfer to the 2nd owner. That can represent significant value on some of this very expensive to repair (and sometimes finicky) equipment. Furthermore a good dealer will help facilitate repairs and may also have a skilled tech that can perform diagnosis and minor repairs/upgrades. And of course some good dealers will give you good $ value for trade-ins to upgrades, or even for consignment sales.

I still do both kinds of buying. I started out buying mostly used, but transitioned into much more buying from my main authorized dealer once I got much more serious about putting together an awesome system. And yes, I do get better sound. My dealer’s expertise & knowledge is superb. And I no longer have so many doubts like: "what if this piece doesn’t sound its best because it was abused by a prior owner", and: "if this suddenly breaks what are my options".

Furthermore, I’ve found that - more often than not - newer gear from the best companies sounds decidedly better than older models. On these hot new models, the used market discount is much less. In many cases it’s a better deal, overall, to buy from a trusted dealer. Most of the typical gear from the early 2000’s (when I started) sounds absolutely awful compared to the gear of today - and the former is much of what you’ll find heavily discounted on the used markets. Of course there are exceptions, and some very fine vintage gear, but good luck finding it and putting together a whole system that works.

In short - if your dealer can put together 2ch sound rooms that blow you away, he’s an asset - work with him!!
If you are going to buy used you'd better understand acoustics and electronics very well. Just buying a good deal and jacking it into your system is a hard way to learn if a piece doesn't fit your space. It sounds like you'd be better off buying new if you can try the new piece(s) out in your system.

A dealer can save you money in the long run by getting what you want the first time. So it can also save you time. A good dealer is priceless. And I do not work for a dealer or have any friends that do, or even work for them. I have personally had this experience.
What you have now is not serious?
bfjones01 I highly recommend the Goldenear Triton Reference speakers. I have had some high end speakers but I think these are a step above. I really can't imagine needing or wanting more. I have McIntosh 452 amp and C50 preamp. Perfect match. 

I almost exclusively purchased used, open box or close out. Some dealers have good used sections or offer great deals on closeouts/demos, which I'm fine purchasing because they're usually in great shape and the tech in 2-channel audio doesn't change that fast. Echo Audio in Portland is great. I also got Triton 2's from Chelsea Audio in Portland for $1200. I've saved thousands of $$ which has allowed me to own stuff I couldn't if I purchased new. The one new purchase I made was Salk Song3's as they're hard to find used and I wanted the cabinets matched to some furniture, and I do like supporting independent businesses. My rough estimate for my 2 channel system would be about $10k new. I paid about $6-7k in my estimation. My 7.1 system would retail for about $9-10k. I've paid about half of that (Emotiva stuff doesn't have great resale value, but they are great deals used and it works great for HT ;) ).

Anyway, that's just been my approach and its worked for me.

I had the experience of buying a succession of used tube amps on Audiogon and taking them to the local dealer, Deja Vu Audio, for various repairs. They were smart enough to always loan me an amp, an amp that always sounded better than the one I brought in for repair. Finally I broke down and bought the amp they kept loaning me! A demo at a nice price and traded my amp in as partial payment.

As someone said above had I wandered in there at the start of my journey and bought that amp it would have saved a lot of time a good chunk of money and a fair amount of angst! I recently bought my new speakers from them, I got great advice and time to audition and couldn't be happier.

I do still buy stuff used, mostly cables and accessories but any big purchases in the future will be from my dealer.
Thanks all for the responses!
@fstein I do suppose "serious" is a purely subjective term -- perhaps "higher end" is more appropriate. My current setup is no slouch.

As I read these responses, my dealer actually emailed me recalling a conversation we had before the holidays. She’d researched a piece I suggested and proposed a superior alternative from the same brand for same money.
I’m going in on Saturday and we’ll see what happens.

I think what is missed in this discussion is the discovery. So you decide you like good equipment. You find some nice speakers and match amplification and sources. Are you satisfied? How about separates? Maybe a better/different DAC. Or new cables. Or upgrading your cartridge or turntable or phono preamp? Point is, it’s doubtful you’ll assemble a system from a dealer (or used) and be satisfied. You’ll want to experiment and learn through experimentation what’s synergistic.  No dealer will carry all the lines you’re interested in. In my case, in the last year I bought a new integrated amp and digital server from a dealer and received a decent discount from list. My speakers were bought used. My turntable used, cart and phono pre new. Cables new after being able to demo. I would suggest that unless you live in some retail nirvana or are easily satisfied, buy both new and used and understand that depreciation is what you pay for. 
Sharing my own experience, I bought new Maggies (3.6) about 10 years ago with some electronics from a dealer.

I love the Maggies, but my amp could not so them justice.  In my journey I finally bought a pair of McIntosh MC501 mono block amps.  In addition to being magic with my speakers, I coukd sell them for what I paid 10 years ago.

The same is true for my C220 tube pre amp.  

What I am trying to say, taking the long way around is that if you like the Mac sound (I know many who do not), the cost to acquire the components is very small if you decide to resell.

Dealers need to make a living, yet those with constrained resources often benefit by buying used one version back from the newest shiny thing.
I am a used car dealer by trade. Thus it’s no surprise I buy almost everything used. I also see value in a kind knowledgeable retailer. Recently I used Cloud MIS in Framingham,MA to explore cabinets. The owner Brian did such a good job letting me try out different pieces in my own home that I felt I owed him to buy something. I ended up buying a custom burlwood av cabinet. The attention to detail is amazing from the wood quality to the active cooling built it. The best part for me was the delivery. The company brought the cabinet to my home. Installed all my gear in it, they went above and beyond installing an optical cable in the wall from the tv to my dac and many other small touches.  The service to me was well worth foregoing the saving of buying used. It’s tough to pass up great equipment for pennies on the dollar but I mix it up with new and demo units to support my local dealer and show my support. If there’s no more retailers than this hobby really suffers.
A lot of sage wisdom this thread......

my used Triplaner is currently lost in transit..,

we shall all see how the saga plays out..,
I liken it to the car analogy.  I can't afford new stuff in the price range of the used.  A few year old Porsche is better than a new Ford.
You need to listen to a pair of SALK Song3 Encore's.  Jim Salk sells direct and as a result is able to afford to use the best drivers he can for a given price range.  I heard these at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest last October.  They sell for $6,000 and sounded better than a pair of $60,000 speakers I listened to.  They also sounded significantly better than the Spendor D7's I listened to.  I wish I had been able to listen to these before I purchased mine.  You mentioned Focal.  I have always wondered if Focal is allergic to bass extension.  
I meant to tell you to ditch the Marantz.  Need to explore ARCAM or Parsound Halo.  
This is why you go to audio shows. You listen to all sorts of gear and you go back home with ideas and start shopping used or new with no guilt. Most individual dealers IMO don’t have everything I want. For example, how many dealers will carry usher, ps audio, McIntosh, hanss, soundsmith and some other brands in 1 location? If you go into a dealer looking for a system and say you want a certain dac that they don’t carry, they will start bad mouthing the brand they don’t carry and try to sell you 1 of their brands. So if you have to go to a few dealers to create a system, what benefit does a single dealer provide? Are You going to invite multiple dealers into your house to setup your system? Many manufacturers and dealers around the country will give you a 30 day trial period and this will allow you to demo or perform a shootout between different products.
Some dealers know their stuff. But here in Atlanta there are really only two that I feel know enough to rig the speakers they’re trying to sell properly, i.e. with electronics that will show them off properly and setup in a room properly. Those two generally I feel like I’m hearing what the speakers are really capable of because they’re driven and setup properly. The rest of the so-called high end dealers here are all largely clueless. And both of the two I actually DO generally trust are so wed to their own idea of what’s best that even then I wonder if they really know what they’re doing. I’ve generally bought new gear but recently I bought a used Pass Labs amplifier and it has been a game changer for me, so much so I’m wondering what it would do to some of the speakers offered by said two dealers. But it weighs like 110 pounds and there’s no way I’m trucking that into a dealer showroom. Oh the dealers would be happy to accommodate me if I would though. Anyway I think the current Pass products are an example of something you can buy used. They are built to LAST and are difficult to abuse. So I do think there are items that you can "more" safely buy used than others. Cables are another item you can buy used for example.  With regard to discounts I wonder if it  largely depends on the market in the particular city you're in.  10% YES.  15% has been a harder sell for me in working with dealers.  20% almost never unless its something they already want to get rid of.


PM sent.  I enjoy reading about your love of the Pass Labs power amp.

Happy Listening!


were the guys from Spearit Sound able to find jobs after the closing?

A shout-out to Jack Tozzi.   Happy Listening!

I buy a mix of new/used/demo, based on the relationship I have with the dealer and the price of the gear.

Goodwin's High End treated me very well on my pair of monoblocks.

Spearit took great care of me for my previous set of speakers and my current preamp.  It is really too bad they are gone now.  

Mark at Reno HiFi is a true gentleman and a terrific business person.  I got my Pass Labs XP-15 from him.  He offered to send me the phono-stage and if I didn't like it, I could return it, paying only for shipping to and fro.  That's good business-- really good business, and it doesn't cost a lot to ship a phono stage.

I wouldn't hesitate to call a nearby dealer and ask what they have for demo, used or consignment gear, and would pay a reasonable premium for that gear over something on line, or straight-used.  Really good dealers allow you a week to 10 days to try the gear and you can return it if you don't like it-- like Goodwin's did for me.

I have purchased some really nice used gear, right here on Audiogon.  I have been very fortunate to get good deals on great products from really nice people.  When I strike up a conversation with somebody about their gear, I can usually tell if they are good people or somebody I should run away from in a pretty short period of time.  I ask straight forward questions;  "Are you the original owner?  How old is the product?  Has it ever been serviced?  Is the warranty transferrable?"  I always trust my instincts and have actually developed some friendships with sellers on Audiogon.

Bottom line-- unless something is priced really inexpensively, like 30-40% off, make sure you can return it if it doesn't work in your room.

Hope this is helpful.
Love to go to dealers and pay full list its a great experience worth the money.

IMO please do not use a dealer if you plan on buying used gear.  TO me that is not a good way to be.  I do repair work for a few dealers and I still don't bother them to show me things unless I invite a bunch of people to their showroom, buy the pizza an beer for the dealer to demonstrate new product or just to have a fun night with no anticipation of a purchase. 

I read a few responses regarding comparisons.  I do not find it helpful when someone says something was better unless you can educate me on exactly what the differences were between the components, what system you heard them in, and what you think made the differences in sound.  But that is just me.  Happy Listening.

@ebm +1

When I engage a dealer, I pay list price. I only engage dealers that are active in the in the audio community (especially here on AudioGon).
Wow. Do you do that when you buy a car? That is ridiculous to me. 
+1 ebm, so rewarding indeed!
Been here 21 years. ALWAYS bought used gear. Nothing better than getting high end gear for less than 50 percent, or less, than buying new. Over 300 transactions between here, and elsewhere. Sampled, and flipped, a lot of gear on AG. Before there was AG some longtime members recall the days of buying used gear at Lots of great used gear sold at great prices. I never understood the need to buy new for a warranty that expires. Great gear lasts forever. Never had a problem with a single transaction. Buying new at list price is great if you’ve money to burn. Modest homes in my area begin at $500k. One has to have their priorities in order.
I’ve done both ~ buy used via Canuck Audio Mart and new through 2 trusted dealers.  I tend to buy used when upgrading - eg. moving up through the Cardas cable line.  I tend to buy new when trying something new ~ eg. when making a significant speaker upgrade or when buying a new model that isn’t on the used market. I really value the advice of my dealers ~ they know my taste and system and make great recommendations.  I particularly love it when they tell me NOT to waste my money on things that are not all they are hyped up to be.

I really don’t know. Jack Tozzi was still selling off the rest of their equipment after they officially closed. He was a great guy. The best deal I ever got in all of audio was an exhibition stock (printed on the box) of an Esoteric UX-3 Universal player that I purchased from Spearit.. It went for $8500.00 and I got it for $3895.00 with a full 3 year warranty from Esoteric. It had been used as a static display at a few audio shows, sent back to Esoteric for a refresh and firmware update and then sold to me. I couldn’t get the cash out of my wallet fast enough.  It looked absolutely brand new, not a mark on it.

Jack told me when I picked it up that it was one of the 3 best SACD players he ever heard and he was right. I have had it for7 years now and I am still in love with it.
All my recent purchases were from the same dealer. I purchased 6 McIntosh pieces of equipment this year, all from Audio Classics. They treat you so well, just like family. I deal exclusively with Mike Sastra who is the VP of Audio Classics. He always answers your calls and email in an extremely timely manner and even helped me out on a Sunday of a holiday weekend. If they sell a product I am interested in, they will definitely get my business. Price is secondary. It’s a good feeling that the dealer always has your back in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Mike talked me out of a more expensive Mac amplifier, he said what I was buying was more than enough and he was right. He also saved me another 3 grand by doing that. How many salespeople will do that? The other dealer I will deal exclusively with is Adirondack Audio. They sold me my Technics SL1200G, gave me an extremely fair price for the VPI Prime I traded in and spent an hour going over the set up of the cartridge and table. When my wife and I were leaving the store, all the people working in the store, came outside and shook my and my wife’s hand and thanked us for our business. Between those 2 stores in NY, I am all set and have no need to go elsewhere.  I also found out that the owner of Adirondack Audio grew up in Fall River, Mass which is 30 miles from where I grew up in Rhode Island.  Small world.
Jack is the best indeed. I hope that he landed a position in Audio retail or Manufacturer representative elsewhere. His kind of expertise is a rare find these days. Good to read that you have established a relationship with Audio Classics, McIntosh gear.  Happy Listening!

I remember Jack when he was at Images Sight & Sound in Northampton, Ma. I bought a brand new McCormack DNA1 from him. Stupidly, I sold it for a Classe15 amp at another dealer. Hey, I was much younger and less wise in audio.
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Anything I have ever bought on the basis of review, recommendation, blog or thread is no longer in my system.  (Almost) the only components that have brought the system up in sound quality, that continue to give pleasure, are components that I have been allowed to try at home in the rest of the system in the room where they play.  In the long run (and I've been swapping out audio gear for 50 years or so) you'll save money by avoiding the bargains.

That's only possible with a dealer's help.  I've had dealers bring in gear and set it up and let me listen for weeks before deciding.  In a few cases, I have (somewhat sheepishly) declined to buy it, and they have been OK with that.  Why?  Because if you are honest with them, they can accept the loss of time and income it takes them to allow you a true audition, knowing that it's part of their cost of doing business, and it's going to cost the customer more if he/she decides to keep the gear.  Of course it may take some time before they're willing to trust you with a $50K component, so the relationship gets built slowly.
Most often the dealer is NOT local.  If you want to listen to a range of high-end gear, you'll be working with dealers all over the country.  I don't have any "local" dealer closer than 200 miles away.  In one case, he made multiple trips to my home to set up a turntable, then again to upgrade the arm.  (I did buy that).  In another case, I made an appointment to audition a CD/DAC stack, the dealer spent an entire afternoon with me alone, and yet I did not buy it.  But I kept the dealer (and the US distributor) aware of my reasoning at all stages.  It may not have been the outcome they hoped for, but they knew I was a serious buyer, not fooling with them, and they accepted that.  I expect one day I could go back to that dealer and audition something else, and they would be just as accommodating.
I've bought a pair of huge floor standing speakers from a dealer on the other side of the country, after hearing them twice at shows, and this is the one exception to my listen-at-home rule.  The advantage was paying no tax and no shipping, and I got a very good price on new up-to-date gear by saving him the trouble.  But I was pretty certain of what I was getting, because I already owned a smaller model from the same manufacturer.

Once, a dealer in another state shipped me a very heavy and expensive phono stage for home audition, and to my own surprise, I didn't like it.  It cost me less to ship it back than it would have cost to fly there, plus by hearing it at home I got a much more accurate impression of the gear.  But we're still friends.