Tips for Buying Used Vinyl: What to Look For

Tips for Buying Used Vinyl: What to Look For

Buying used vinyl is essential for most record collectors. New records are great, but there are a myriad of artists like the Beatles who have released classic tunes or soundtracks decades ago. Of course, streaming apps allow you to listen to these songs, but having these songs on vinyl records will really add to your record collection.

Where do you buy used or new vinyl? Many record stores have options that fall into any genre, such as rock, reggae, hip-hop, and more. In fact, there are even opportunities to buy used vinyl at retailers in most cities.

Consider the Vinyl Grading System

Record grading is a standardized system of determining the quality of the vinyl to know the condition when making online purchases when inspecting the records is not possible. Trusted sellers use this ranking system, but be aware that some sellers may not be 100 percent truthful regarding record quality. The typical ratings in this system include:

  • Mint condition (M): Brand new vinyl that has never been played. It will be sealed and in perfect condition.
  • Near mint condition (NM): In nearly perfect condition, though it may have been played a few times.
  • Very good plus (VG+): The jacket may contain a few flaws, but there will be no real damage to the vinyl. This is the most common grading you will find to purchase.
  • Very good (VG): It has been listened to, so pops and crackles may be heard during playback, but nothing that overly hinders the sound.
  • Good condition (G): These records are still playable, but something gives it a poorer sound quality.
  • Poor (P) or fair (F): These records will have major sound issues. They may have deep scratches or warping, creating skipping or repeating portions of the track.

Inspecting Records When Buying Used Vinyl is Key

vintage vinyl record grading

Before you make a purchase, you want to inspect the vinyl to ensure that it is up to the standard that the vinyl grading system says it is. If the records are damaged, will it affect playback? Check the entire record, including areas that don’t hold the music, like the label and the dead wax.

Sleeve Condition

Storing records is essential if you want to keep the quality of the vinyl up, so make sure you check the overall condition of the outer sleeve or the cover that keeps the vinyl from getting scratched. Check if the cover is ripped, the seams are split, and if markings are present on the outside. These are all indications of excess wear and may only mean that the record was handled roughly when placed back in the jacket.

Damaged covers don’t mean damaged records, but it often means a lower price point that could help you expand on your collection. If the record has any water damage or mold, the first indications will be seen on the outer jacket, and a wet record could mean warping and other damage.

The inner sleeve is also essential, and if it is in bad condition, the vinyl is not likely in tip-top shape either. If there is not an inner sleeve at all, the chances of having more scratches on the vinyl increase significantly. The bottom line is to check the quality of the vinyl if there is anything of note wrong with either of the sleeves.


Warped vinyl means that the records will not sit on the turntable correctly. This is one of the issues that a record could have that will stop you from making a purchase. Warped records will not have quality sound, and the uneven spinning causes the needle to bounce on the record as it tracks the grooves. As a result, your stylus wears more quickly and has a possibility of being damaged.

Scuffs and Scratches

In most cases, scuff marks will not affect the sound quality, so you can use your own judgment when you spot scuffs. However, playing scratched records have a higher chance of affecting the sound. Make sure you look at the vinyl in good lighting to see minor scratches on the surface. If a scratch is deep enough to feel with your fingertip, you are likely to hear it during playback.

Also, make sure to check on the quality level of the lead-in grooves and the dead wax. Scratches in these two areas indicate how rough the previous owner was when cueing up the album as well as specific songs. If you see excessive scratches in these areas, you may wish to pass on purchasing the vinyl.

Tips for Finding Good Deals When Buying Used Vinyl

If you are new to buying used records, there are a few things to consider before you jump in and spend a lot on used vinyl. If you don’t know what to look for, you can also find poor-quality records that could impact your stylus and reduce the overall quality of your collection. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

Don’t Expect Deals Immediately

Owners of record shops will not trust any buyer right away, especially if it’s a second-hand shop. Purchasing records at these stores is a personal experience that will require you to build relationships with the staff. When buying records, ask questions and talk about the vinyl you are looking for so that when new offerings come in, they reserve records for you and provide you with great deals. Being a regular at a record store has its perks.

Know the Value of Used Records

Of course, you want to pay a fair price when purchasing old records or reissues. If the vinyl is rare, what is a fair price? Typically, the price you pay will take scarcity, demand, and pressing into account. So, the rarer the album, the more you can expect to pay.

 When you are searching for an original record, the scarcity and the demand will impact the price. As you are researching a vinyl record that you want to add to your collection, use resources like Discogs to help you figure out the record’s value.

Check Out Cheaper Retailers

If you are looking for vinyl at physical stores, make sure that you check out thrift stores where they sell records, cassettes, and other gear from specific artists. Also, don’t be afraid to check out garage sales, outdoor flea markets, and auctions where individuals may be trying to sell their record collections.

Buying used vinyl records online is also an option to consider. Most people consider eBay and Amazon as a first step when looking for records. There are also other online record stores that offer great shopping experiences.

Use Listening Stations at Local Record Stores

Before buying new vinyl, check if the store where you are purchasing it has listening stations. These stations will provide record players to listen to the vinyl and ensure the quality of the records before committing to the purchase.

Always Clean Records before Playback When Buying Used Vinyl

Learning how to clean a record is just as important as paying the right price for buying used records. Cleaning your records properly will ensure that the best sound is heard during playback. Dust and debris cause crackles and pops within the sound, which will not be heard with clean records. In addition, dust left on the records damages the stylus as the vinyl is being played.

Whether you use a record cleaning machine or just a simple carbon fiber brush, a little bit of cleaning can go a long way in getting the most out of your vinyl.


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