What To Look For When Buying A Used Drone?

A used drone is an ideal purchase option to save money. Before buying, you need to consider some factors including the registration of the drone, the warranty period, and the overall condition of the battery and camera. A test flight should be made to check the movement.

Due to a fast product refresh cycle and a rise in used drones for sale, the demand for the drone market has accelerated in the past couple of years. 

The rapid growth of drones led to a significant increase in its price. If you are looking for an affordable drone, consider buying a used one.

People who own an older drone often want to get rid of it and sell it on eBay or another site. Companies that use drones for commercial purposes often sell their used UAVs to keep their fleets up to date.

Just like in the used car market, buying a used drone can save you a huge amount of money. It is also a smart decision if you do not want to spend the money on a new unit.

This article shares the points to be considered before buying a used and affordable drone.

What To Consider When Buying A Used Drone?

1. Battery Cycles

If the battery is more than 150-200 you may want to consider buying some new ones. Also, make sure that the non-smart batteries are still working properly.

DJI, one of the world’s largest drone manufacturers, has a policy that tells you how many charges and discharge cycles each battery pack has been through. If you’re looking for a second-hand drone, check out the DJI Go App to see how many battery cycles it has been through.

2. Battery Condition

Even if a battery has a low number of charge cycles, it does not mean that it is in good health. A check of the packs is also helpful to see if the sides or top/bottom look flat or round.

Lithium batteries are known to puff if they are left fully charged for a long time. This is because their cells are prone to fail once they are no longer working.

3. Airframe cracks and damage.

Before buying a drone, make sure to check its airframe for cracks or obvious damage. Early models of drones such as the Phantom 4 have had motor mount cracks that can easily be repaired after minimal use.

If the seller states that the unit has been repaired, make sure that the repair is of good quality. A weak glued foam airframe can easily be replaced with carbon fiber or wood spar.

4. Remaining warranty.

Having a remaining warranty can save you a huge amount of money down the road. It also provides peace of mind knowing that the product has a limited lifespan.

It is very likely that a drone repair will not be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty unless you provide proof of purchase. Having a little warranty remaining can save you a huge sum of money down the road.

5. Number of flights.

Most UAVs have some software that will let you know the number of flights on the aircraft. This information is usually found inside the Go App. If you have a high flight count, it may be a good idea to consider getting a unit with a low flight count.

Having a high flight count is not a bad decision if you are an experienced UAV operator. However, it can be a mistake to purchase a drone if you have a low flight count.

6. Accessories

Although accessories don’t add much value to the drone, they can add a lot to its value. For instance, a hard Pelican-style case can cost up to $500 new. If you are looking for a more durable case, then a few hundred dollars is usually a good deal.

Sometimes, a good deal on HD Video Goggles can happen by throwing in some of the other accessories that the seller has already acquired. These items are valuable if they are in good condition.

If the seller doesn’t have any accessories available, it may be worth asking if they have any. If they are eager to liquidate, ask if they have any available accessories that can be used to close the deal.

7. Color Mismatch Between Body Parts.

Sometimes, drones that have been crashed and repaired may have a mismatched color scheme on their body panels. This can be a good sign that they have been used and are not a bad purchase.

If the arms are mismatched, this could indicate that the plane has suffered a previous crash. Also, it is possible that the airframe has been previously crashed. Having a properly repaired fixed-wing system can help minimize the stress on the plane during high flight conditions.

Although buying a used camera drone is not a bad purchase, it is important to check that it was properly repaired. This is also why it is important to avoid getting a damaged drone in the first place.

8. Liquid And Humidity Damage Indicators.

When a UAV is in contact with water or humidity, its liquid contact indicators will turn pink in color. This means that it’s time to set off alarm bells.

These indicators are usually placed inside the battery compartments, on the main boards, or near electronic speed controls. In high humidity environments, the stickers may gradually turn pink.

Even though the drone has never been submerged, it can still get damaged by saltwater. Also, look for any metal parts on the machine that have been around the water for a long time.

9. Lens Scratches Or UV Filter Damage.

One of the main reasons people buy drones is to take beautiful photos. To get the best results from their drones, make sure that the lens or cover is free of scratches and damage.

Many drones have a UV filter built into their camera system. Although it’s an easy repair, the actual lens element that’s attached to it is much more costly.

Many high-end UAVs have UV filters but they are not automatically set up. Be sure to check the actual surface area of the lens for any cracks.

10. Range Check.

Some controllers have a range check mode, which allows you to check the signal strength of their controllers. This is typically done by yourself.

If the drone is flying close to the controller, then start walking away from it. If it drops out after a few hundred feet, then it might be an issue with the signal strength.

If you still have a weak signal on the ground, you may want to test drive the unit before buying.

11. Test Flight.

A test flight is a great way to check the various systems of a car or a machine. Just like a used car, it will give you a good idea of how the vehicle operates.

Doing a test flight before buying is a great idea. It will help ensure that the controls work properly.

Make sure that the drone’s antenna has the same signal strength when it’s flying backward. It’s also important to make sure that the device has the same signal strength when it’s flying forwards.

Reinstallation of these antennas may reduce the range of your drone when flying in a particular direction.

12. Modifications.

Although modifications are not a bad thing, they should be noted and avoided prior to purchase. Some mods, such as parabolic antennas, can add to the drone’s overall functionality but are also easily removed once you want to return it to stock.

Other modifications such as a remote controller or an aftermarket motor are not easy to modify back to stock form. They can void any remaining warranty on the drone.

13. Extended Warranty Options Or “Refresh” Plans.

Even with a factory warranty, there is still a significant amount of peace of mind when it comes to purchasing a drone. This is typically done through a third-party vendor or through an upgraded insurance plan.

An upgraded insurance package will require a plan number or proof of purchase to be activated. It’s also linked to a serial number on the drone.

Before selling, make sure that the documents provided to you contain proof of additional insurance or a warranty. These are usually transferred to the new owner.

14. Original Packaging.

Having the original factory packaging and manuals makes it easier to sell a drone down the road. For instance, if you see a pair of identical spaced drones listed on DroneTrader, the former is more likely to be purchased than the latter.

15. Registered By FAA (or Transport Canada for our Canadian readers)?

Although the FAA may no longer require the registration of drones, it is still important to verify that the serial number of the aircraft is not linked to an active directory or a commercial use certificate.

16. Flight Logs and Controller Data.

Getting a copy of the flight logs and drone health information from apps like Airdata can give you a wealth of helpful information.

Some drone manufacturers, such as Aeryon, have their own proprietary software that tracks all of the flights that the UAV has made. These reports are also available on their website.

17. Barcodes/Serial Numbers.

One of the most important factors when it comes to buying a used machine is the serial number of the device. This is usually used by manufacturers to identify the model and its connection to the LAN or controller.

Any upgrades or repairs for your drone should be linked to its serial number. Even if you lose or stolen the proof of purchase, you should be able to still get a full refund or a replacement without any problems.

Many UAV manufacturers have embedded the serial number in their software, which makes it almost impossible to remove. However, there are some who simply have an external marker or sticker that says “serial number”.

18. Landing Gear Function.

One of the most important things to check on when flying a drone is the retractable landing gear. These components are designed to allow a camera to be easily panned without any obstruction.

If the landing gear doesn’t work, it’s likely that it was damaged during an accident. Also, the design of the UAV’s landing gear can affect its ability to lift and lower the body.

If the issue occurs, it’s possible that the landing gear is not working properly or that it’s been worn. It can also be a sign of a previous crash.

19. Maintenance History.

When buying a used car, ask the seller if they have any maintenance records. Also, ask the seller if they can provide receipts or other documents for the repairs or services that were performed by a drone shop or the manufacturer.

20. Check Current Market Pricing.

Most drone enthusiasts will buy the latest model UAV when they are available to order. However, when purchasing a new model, most of the time, the first to own it will be the one who ordered it first.

Now, the DJI is selling refurbished drones at a 50% discount, which is a great reason to own a second-hand drone instead of a brand new one. Usually, people who own used drones will spend several hundred dollars on their own units.

In Conclusion

Be sure to do your homework before buying a used or preowned camera drone. There are always some risks involved in buying a used drone.

Before buying a drone, make sure that you are fully covered. This is especially important if you plan on using the aircraft for commercial purposes.

Related: What Is A Drone Used For?

What Are The Checklists To Buy a Used Drone?

On the Ground

1 – Visual Inspection

If the drone or its components are damaged, inspect them for signs of serious wear and tear.

Slight cosmetic imperfections are expected on new devices. They should not affect the functionality of the product.

2 – Watch Gimbal Startup

When powered up, the camera’s gimbal should start by moving through a startup sequence. It should maintain a smooth and consistent motion.

3 – Manual Gimbal Movement

Before taking off, move the gimbal control wheel to make the gimbal responsive and smooth.

4 – Test Photo + Video Settings

Before the drone is taken off, change the settings to ensure a smooth operation.

5 – Check Battery Charge Cycle

Before buying a used DJI Intelligent Flight battery, make sure that it is fully charged and has a working balance. Doing so can prevent a potential crash and battery failure.

You can also check the battery status in the Flight controller menu. It shows the number of charge cycles and the cell’s voltage.

6 – Calibrate Joysticks

Using the remote controller, set the wheels and joysticks to the proper calibration settings. They should feel comfortable and responsive.

7 – Check Overall Flight Status

After entering the device, the Flight Status display will appear on the startup screen. It will typically show the status of the aircraft and issue messages.

8 – Calibrate IMU

The IMU is an onboard chipset that maintains the plane’s stability while in-flight. It collects data from the various sensors on the drone, such as its onboard accelerometer, gyro, and thermometer.

The IMU calculates a drone’s specific force, velocity, and attitude, which help keep the aircraft level and stable during flight. It also allows you to see if its flight patterns are crooked.

9 – Calibrate Compass

If you are near a metal object, such as a powerline, or a satellite, then it is likely that the compass will need to be calibrated. Doing so will help avoid getting an error.

In the Air

1 – In-Flight Gimbal Movement

Take control of the gimbal while flying to ensure that it operates as expected.

2 – In-Flight Gimbal Roll Adjustment

If you own a DJI drone, then you should probably avoid having crooked horizon lines while flying. Doing so is very normal for most drones.

If the horizon is crooked, then the gimbal roll should be adjusted to completely level out the horizon.

3 – Check Gimbal Stability In-Flight

While flying, keep an eye on the gimbal’s stability while it’s in the air. It’s a must that it is operating properly to avoid shakiness and smooth out the motion.

4 – Observe Video Channel Quality

If the connection is unstable, try to distance test the drone and monitor its vision feed.

Flying with a drone in open areas without interference is very easy. However, make sure that the signal is strong enough to avoid getting damaged or unusable.

5 – Test “Return to Home” Feature

Before buying a used drone, make sure that the return to home feature is working. This feature can be very useful if something goes wrong.

Sometimes, a drone will fly away from its intended Return to the Home point when its battery runs low. This is because the GPS connection between the drone and the satellite sends it to a random location.

Before taking off, make sure that the Return to Home feature is enabled. Just hover in place for a few minutes, and then wait for the drone to return and land near your take-off point.

7 – Test Hyperlapse Feature + Smart Controller Features

Go to the controller’s menu and test out some of the features. Set up a few waypoints to get the drone to set up a hyperlapse mode and shoot at the right interval.

8 – Toggle Between Positioning, Sport, and Tripod Mode

To test the Sport and Tripod modes, hold the switch on the right side. Both modes are designed to give you the best cinematic results.

If possible, buy from a credible vendor. If possible, buy from a photographer or videographer who can vouch for the equipment.

How To Buy Used Drone In Person?

Not all used drones are created equal. There are plenty of issues that can go wrong with a used drone.

Even though it looks good in photos, it can still fly poorly. If you’re planning on getting one, make sure to check it out before you buy it. There are a few things to consider before you buy one.

If someone is looking to sell a drone on a forum, do some research before making a deal.


Before buying a used drone, it is important to check its body for signs of stress. Some of these include cracks on its body and grass stains near its propellers.

The smallest amount of imbalance can cause issues with the drone. Make sure that the screws are tight enough to prevent the drone from toppling over.

The coils should have a clean and fresh copper color. They should also have no oil build-up.


Regular maintenance and proper use of batteries are the keys to keeping a drone flying smoothly.


You won’t want to buy a drone that has miles left if you can be sure that there are still miles left on it.

Most of the time, people don’t know how to read or extract the flight data of a drone. This is because, typically, they don’t know how to access the app that the seller used for the aircraft.

Final Thoughts

Having this information will allow you to make an informed choice when it comes to buying a used drone. There are various websites where you can find this information.

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