Safety Tips for Buying and Selling Used Scanners Online

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Buying or Selling a Scanner Online

eBay is one of the largest places private parties can buy and sell. At any given time, you can find thousands of scanners for sale on their platform. It is important to remember that eBay tends to look out for the buyer’s interest over the seller’s, so it is very important to abide by the CYA rule and proceed with this caution in mind.

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Part 1 – Selling

Creating a good listing

This goes beyond eBay and will work for any platform, such as Facebook Marketplace or swap groups, Craigslist, radio reference classifieds, or any other listing agent.

Write a compelling title

When writing a title, be precise and descriptive. Don’t only post something like, “Digital Scanner” or “Vintage Scanner” or “Radio Scanner.” Instead write a title like:

  • Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Trunking Scanner 
  • Uniden HomePatrol 2
  • Whistler TRX-1 with box and accessories

Go overboard in your Description

More is more when it comes to listing details. While it is acceptable to copy and paste the manufacturer’s specifications, don’t just leave it at that. You should be as descriptive as possible and don’t be afraid to call out any defect in the unit. If you leave out a problem and the buyer is unhappy about it, they could decide to ask you for a refund because it didn’t match the condition or description.

An example of a good description is:

“Number key warn from normal use. Missing yellow battery holder. Includes aftermarket antenna instead of stock antenna. Includes factory battery pack but no longer holds a charge.”

A picture is worth 1,000 words

Documenting everything with pictures can set your listing apart from the croud.

Take pictures of the front, back, sides, top, and bottom of the unit, buttons, battery compartment, etc. Go overboard. Even take a picture of the serial number and model number.

What’s better than pictures?  Video!

For your records, archive a video of the radio receiving on VHF and UHF. If it receives 800, show that too. This proves the radio is in working order and you can verify that it is currently on frequency. If you cannot power up the radio or test it, be sure to include that in the description too.

Getting ready to ship

When shipping the scanner, be sure to pack it up well. Use packing material such as newspaper, packing peanuts, bags of air, or anything else you can find that will keep the scanner safe. If you are selling on ebay, you will be responsible if the radio is damaged during transit, so make sure the scanner is really secure. If you feel better taking a picture of the packing, do so as well.

Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes

Think about it this way. If you were buying someone’s scanner or item online, who would you feel better buying from? The person who skimps on the details or the person who provides a lot of details?

Do you have to do all of this? 

Absolutely not. Do what makes you comfortable. Many sell online for years before they have that one sale that ends up a nightmare, and not to scare you from selling online, but there are horror stories about when sales go wrong. If you follow the advice I’ve given you here, you should be okay.


Part 2 – Buying

Who is the seller?

Look at the seller’s ratings and reviews. Ask yourself: 

  • Are they new to the platform?  
  • Have they sold before?   
  • What is their feedback?
  • Do they normally sell scanners or radio equipment, or does it look like they are selling an estate or a storage unit?

eBay Auction Types

You’ll notice a few auction types on eBay:

  • Normal bidding auction, where the highest bid wins
  • Buy it now, where you can pay what the seller wants
  • Make an offer – where the buyer will typically entertain what they think is a fair value for the unit they are selling

A warning about bids

Many buyers bid up items because they get into a bidding war and just want to win. As a seller, you might find out that an item you sold is not actually sold after the auction is over because the buyer decided to back out. The good news is, you can block those buyers from bidding on your auctions. You can also put other variables in place such as feedback score and time on ebay to limit those who can or cannot bid on your auctions.

Part 3 – Payment

My advice about exchanging money

When sending or accepting payment, always use a service like PayPal. It is strongly recommended to only use PayPal and more specifically NOT their F/F. F/F has no buyer protection because it’s made for F/F. If you send money and the other party doesn’t mail the item you paid for, guess who loses on this deal? This also holds true for using services like Facebook’s payment system, Venmo, and Zelle.

Also, be weary about sending or receiving a physical check. If that check bounces, you are out $25. Under no circumstances should you ever accept a check for more than the agreed on price for the item and send back change. That is a scam.

If you are sending a money order, again, that is another risky transaction–unless you can tell from the seller’s post history that he is credible and trustworthy.

You have to think about questions like: What if the seller gets ill or is unable to ship? What if the payment is lost in the mail? Then what?


For trading items, this one is a tough one. When you do a trade online you are really putting a lot of faith in the other party. Consider offering to buy and sell the items via PayPal, this way you both break even and there is at least a service that can get your money back if things go south.

Calculating Shipping Costs

Regarding shipping and costs, always get a tracking number. Think about getting insurance, but keep in mind that many carriers have built-in insurance for many of their services.

How do you calculate shipping costs? That is a hidden cost to watch out for when looking at what you are buying or selling. Too many times, sellers list their items for a shipping rate that is sky high. You might be able to get Regional Rate A or B boxes from the post office .It is an online shipping rate and requires special boxes you must order from USPS. This can be significantly cheaper than Priority Mail. Hint: you can get free boxes from USPS and UPS.

Normally, your best rate will be “brown box” and Priority Mail or UPS Ground. You’ll get a better rate if you go to a UPS depot and not a UPS store. Before listing your item for sale, get it ready for shipping. Find a box, pack it, don’t tape it shut, and weigh it. From there you should be able to get a rate from UPS or USPS. If you are shipping through eBay, they have a rate calculator where the buyer pays actual shipping costs, but you need to make sure you have the correct length, width, depth, and weight.

To summarize:

  1. eBay is a great place to buy and sell used scanners.
  2. Platforms like Radio Reference classifieds, Facebook Market make great alternatives.
  3. Only Use PP xF/F. Do not use F/F, Venmo, FB Payments, or any other payment platform that is an F/F platform. (No cash, check, money order).
  4. Figure your shipping costs prior to listing.
  5. If you don’t have a good feeling about the sale, walk away.

Are you looking for your first scanner radio?

Download our new e-guide, “5 Thinks You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Scanner”.   This free PDF is about 30 pages long and has 5 things you should look for, plus a few extra bonus items to make sure you make an educated purchase.

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