Tennis can be one of the most expensive sports to play as there is a lot of equipment (shoes, balls, racket, etc..) that you need before you can even step onto a court.
One way that you can save money is by buying a used tennis racket, so in this article, I will look at the pros and cons of buying an old frame and will provide you with some tips that will help you choose a good secondhand frame.
Buyer’s Guide for Used Tennis Rackets
Below is a list of some pros and cons of buying old/used frames rather than buying a brand new one.
- If you are on a budget, you can save a lot of money by buying a used frame
- Allows you to play with older models that aren’t sold new anymore e.g. Roger Federer’s old Wilson Six One 90
- A slightly used frame can give you the same power and feel as a new one at a fraction of the cost.
- If you are buying online, it can be difficult to spot hairline cracks and other issues that may mean the frame is not playable anymore
- Unlike a new racket, you are unlikely to be able to demo an old racket before purchasing it
- Often secondhand frames have chipped paint and/or scuff marks which can make them look ugly.
What to look for when purchasing a used racket
Below is a list of things you should look out for when you are considering buying a used racket.
1. Chipped Paint
One of the easiest things to spot is chipped paint on an old frame.
Although this should not affect the playability of the racket, it may be a sign that the previous owner was not very careful when playing with it.
I have found that it may also be down to the manufacturer as I have found that my old Wilson frames were more likely to have chipped paint than some old Babolat frames I have.
Generally speaking, if you see chipped paint then it isn’t a big deal as this is to be expected from a second-hand frame (especially if it is a few years old).
2. Damaged Head Guard
I find that the level of wear and tear on the head guard is a good barometer of how rough the previous player was with the frame.
My recommendation would be to look for a frame that doesn’t have too much wear and tear on it.
You can get a replacement head guard easily enough but If I see a head guard with a lot of scuff marks on it then I usually avoid buying it.
3. Old Strings
I would not be concerned about the strings in a racket as I always restring it to suit my setup so you shouldn’t be put off by the strings.
The only warning I would give in relation to strings is that if the frame has a crack in its head, then you may find that you will not be able to restring the racket without causing more damage.
4. Cracks in the Frame
Your main focus when buying a secondhand tennis racket should be on whether there are any cracks in the frame as if it does, it is likely to be worthless and only fit for the bin.
If you can physically hold the racket before you buy it then you should feel around the head and throat to see if you can feel any cracks.
If I find any cracks (even hairline cracks) then I will not buy it as it is likely that the structural integrity of the frame has been compromised.
If I am buying it online then I will always look in the description to see if they say there are no cracks in the frame.
If it’s not mentioned, then I will email the seller to confirm that there are no cracks.
5. Warped Rackets
Warped rackets are less of an issue in recent years but it can still happen if the racket has received a poor stringing job or there was an issue when it was first produced that caused it to warp.
In the days of wooden rackets, this was a much bigger issue as the wood was much easier to warp.
Generally speaking, the older the racket is, the more likely you are to have issues with it.
My own rule of thumb is to never buy a second-hand tennis racket that is over 5 years old as it is just not worth it.
7. Damaged Butt Cap
The Butt Cap is not critical to its playability but a racket doesn’t look great if the butt cap is missing.
8. Damaged Grommets
The grommets are where you feed the strings through a tennis racket. The main thing to check is that they are in good shape.
However, grommets can be replaced fairly easily so they shouldn’t be the deciding factor when buying a used racket.
9. Wrong Grip size
This is often overlooked by players but it is important that the handle has the right grip size for your hand.
You can check out this guide on Grip Sizes for more information on picking the correct grip size for your hand.
How much should you pay?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t be paying more than half the price of the new retail version but this depends on many things including the age and condition of the frame.
For example, you will have to pay a lot more for a racket that has only been played with for a few weeks and then returned to a tennis shop in comparison to a 10-year-old racket that is being sold on eBay.
Where to buy Second Hand Tennis Rackets
I recently did a search on eBay for second hand tennis rackets and it came back with 5,874 results so eBay is definitely a good option to start with.
The main downside to buying on eBay is that you can’t physically touch the racket before buying it so have to rely on images and the description posted by the seller.
Craigslist and other classified ad sites are other options you can use.
Similar to eBay, you won’t be able to physically touch the used racket so it is definitely “Buyer Beware” when it comes to using these kinds of sites.
3. Used Goods Stores/Charity Shops
The advantage of Goods Stores/Charity Shops over online sites like eBay and Craigslist is that you can actually hold the racket in your hand so you can judge whether there are any cracks or other issues.
The main downside with Used Goods Stores/Charity Shops is that they probably won’t have too many options to choose from but if you are a beginner on a budget they may be the best option to go with.
4. Demo Rackets from Tennis Shops
Another option is Online and Offline Tennis Shops which often sell old demo rackets at a reduced price.
If I was to use this option, I would definitely want to physically inspect the frame before purchasing it as demo frames can sometimes be in a pretty bad condition.
I highly recommend that you physically hold a used racket in your hands before buying one as you won’t be able to properly judge whether it is any good or not.
I also would recommend that you buy a cheaper new racket rather than buying an old tennis frame as unless you get it for under $50 then I think you aren’t getting value for your money.