I have owned not one, but two Bowflex home gyms in my training lifetime. A bunch of years back, I owned two of the exact same model within about a year of each other. It’s too long of a story to explain here, but the short version is I apparently don’t learn from experience very well.
When It came time to sell the first one, it took forever and I got next to nothing for it. When I sold the second one, I applied some simple strategies to increase its resale value.
They worked! I got significantly more for that second unwanted BowFlex than I did the first.
Simple steps to getting the most money from your used gym equipment
- Understand depreciation
- Know when to sell
- Know where to sell
- Prepare your equipment for sale
- Ask the right amount
Getting the most from our highly depreciated used fitness equipment turns out to be a simple matter of timing, research, knowing where to sell, and a pinch of patience. I learned this the hard way by taking a bath on that first BowFlex. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and do a bit better with the sale of your unwanted gym gear.
Fitness Equipment Depreciation
In the end, something that all home gym enthusiasts need to come to grips with is that most used gym equipment has almost no resale value. A really large number of people buy things that they never end up using. Because of this, the market is literally flooded with used treadmills, power racks, weight sets, and virtually every other piece of used gear you can think of.
Yes, there are exceptions. Sometimes you get lucky and happen to have the right piece of gear for sale at the right time in the right venue. All the stars align and a motivated buyer comes along. When that happens, you may actually sell something for a reasonable price. It also helps to buy nice stuff from reputable brands up front. A Rogue rack will resell for a considerably higher amount than one from a no-name manufacturer on Amazon.
These are often times big dollar items we are talking about. Treadmills start at $1000 and quickly work their way to several times that amount. A nice squat rack can run $500 and up. A set of dumbbells, decent ones anyway, can cost $800 or more. Those BowFlex machines cost right around $1000 each.
Time to sell
So what are we to do when we realize we don’t want these things anymore? For those BowFlex, I just wasn’t motivated to work out. Nothing against the product, I was just a lazy ass at that time in my life. Oh, and a sucker for late night infomercials.
Whatever your reason for wanting to unload some of your used gear, you are now faced with the process of trying to get rid of it easily and get a reasonable price at the same time.
Luckily, with a little forethought and patience, we can sometimes tilt the odds in our favor. If we go about selling our gear intelligently, we can maximize what we get for it and make the sale of those items much easier. Those two BowFlex machines I mentioned earlier are prime examples.
I sold the first BowFlex for $150 after a month of frustrated trying. I sold that second one for $630 in under a week. There were 4 basic things I did differently the second time. Every time I’ve sold something since then, I’ve applied those same 4 principles. And almost every time, I feel like I’ve sold my used gear for as much as I could have. Hopefully, these 4 strategies will help you do the same thing.
A note on buying for resale value
A lot has been said in the home and garage gym space on buying certain brands because of their resale value. I hear a lot of people justify paying way too much for their gear by saying that if they ever need to sell it, it will retain its value.
While this is true of some brands, I think this is a really dumb way to go about buying your gear. Here’s an example as to why…
Let’s say you need to buy a squat rack. You opt for a Brand X rack at $1200 after shipping because you hear they retain their value well. One day down the road you sell it and you get $800 for it. Yep, it retained a good amount of its value. But you still spent $1200 on a rack!!! And even though you got $800 for it, it still cost you $400 over time to have it.
You could have bought a Brand Y rack for $500. It’s just as good a rack. And yes, you may only be able to sell it for $200, but that still means you only spent $300 over time for the rack! And you were only out $500 up front. Even though it didn’t retain value near as well, you still came out way ahead!!!
Don’t fall for the resale value trap when buying gear. First of all, if you buy the right gear, you won’t need to sell it anyway. Second of all, you are wasting your money on nothing more than a brand name.
To see all of my product recommendations, ones that I own and love and didn’t overspend on, check out my recommended gear page here.
When is the Best Time To Sell Used Gym Equipment?
The first, and by far most critical, element of getting top dollar for your depreciated fitness equipment is timing. Prices in a free market are determined by supply and demand. It’s a very straightforward and reliable predictor.
I sold my first BowFlex in late April. That’s a big reason for the low price I got. You know what else is happening in late April? That’s when everyone is coming to grips with the fact that their overzealous New Years resolutions resulted in purchases that they no longer use or want. That’s also when people realize that it’s just a little too late to get in shape for Summer.
That means that in late spring, there are a lot of people looking to sell their used gym equipment and not a lot of people looking to buy it. A big supply combined with low demand equals low prices. Good for the buyer, not good for the seller. If you are in the market to buy used gear, this is a perfect time to look. If you are selling, then not so much.
I sold the second BowFlex in late November. This, it turns out, is one of the two best times to sell. Late November to early December is when holiday shopping is really getting hot. Lots of people are looking to spend money at this time of year.
An even better time of year to sell is the last week in December through the first two weeks in January. This is New Year’s resolution time. An obscene amount of resolutions are fitness related. Many of them include buying fitness equipment for the home.
If you can have patience, and hold off on selling your gear until this magical three week window, you will find a higher number of buyers and a much lower volume of things for sale. That combination, in my experience, should net you a higher price.
Where to sell
The next thing I learned has come from selling over 1000 items on eBay and other similar outlets. Whether it’s fitness equipment or random stuff in my garage, it seems like I always have at least a few things for sale. I’ve found that where you try to sell your used gear can have a serious impact on how much you get for it.
Don’t Sell Your Gear At These Places
Let’s start with where NOT to sell it. Garage sales and Craig’s list. While both of these places are decent spots to buy used gear, they are awful places to sell it.
Garage sale customers are looking for things at rock bottom prices. They literally want everything for a dollar or less. Not to mention, used fitness equipment needs to be put in front of a buyer who is looking for used fitness equipment. That’s simply not garage sale customers. If you are willing to take $25 for your treadmill, go right ahead. Otherwise I’d recommend selling elsewhere.
Craig’s list is a nightmare as a seller. The moment you list your item, you’ll be deluged by scammers and people who want you to pay them to help sell your item. The ratio of BS to buyers is extremely high. The few potential buyers you do get will all want to negotiate. 75% of the people who say they want to come look at what you’re selling won’t show up. For those and many more reasons, just avoid using Craig’s List to sell anything. It’s not worth the hassle.
Use These Places Instead
*Update, August 2023 – If you sell your gear on eBay, LetGo, or other third-party apps, and your total sales for the year are $600 or more, those sites are now required by law to report that income to the IRS to be included on your income taxes (yay government!). The same is true of money taken in through payment apps like PayPal and Venmo.
Because of this, I’ve gone to selling on Facebook marketplace almost exclusively. I take cash only. I still use eBay for things that need a national audience to sell for the right price, but all else is sold locally on FB for cash.
So where should you sell your stuff? Where will it be easy and safe and someplace you can get a great price? There’s a few places I’ve had great luck.
Ebay is still always my first choice (see update above). Yes, you will end up paying almost 12% of the sale price for eBay and PayPal fees. And yes, that’s a lot. But you get a lot in return.
First, you get the largest possible audience of genuinely interested buyers. Your item is listed in a database that’s searchable. You get a prescreened customer who most likely won’t waste your time or back out of a deal (although this does sometimes happen). You get a secure way to collect payment. You get an easy to use interface that allows you to list your item in its best possible light.
My number one choice for selling anything used is and probably always will be Ebay. I list large items as “local pick up only” and I’ve never had something not sell. I can set my own fixed price or I can try it as an auction. I can also thoroughly research what I should be asking for my item. When I look back on my BowFlex sales, the first one was sold on Craig’s List. The second was sold on eBay. Even after fees, I made almost $400 more on the second one. And it sold in under a week!
Outside of eBay, I’ve been trying my hand at two relatively new (to the writing of this article anyway) apps. OfferUp and LetGo. Both are easy to use. Both are free. Neither take fees (at least not at the time I’m writing this). These apps easily connect you with local buyers looking for what you are selling. There seems to a be a thriving market for used exercise equipment on both of them.
This third point may seem like a no-brainer, but based on my experience buying used gear, it apparently is not.
Clean. Your. Gear.
That’s it. It’s really simple, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve shown up to look at a used piece of equipment and it’s filthy. It’s clearly been sitting in the basement or garage for ages. It hasn’t been cared for and I don’t want it.
For me, it’s a non starter 90% of the time. I will simply turn around and walk away. The other 10%, I offer well below what the seller is asking. When they don’t like my offer (and they seldom do), I point out the condition of what they are selling.
Not preparing your gear for sale instantly reduces what you can get for it. Take some time and clean it. Make it look nice. Make sure it works. And for the love of all that is good in the world, please make sure it doesn’t smell bad!!!
If your timing is right, you are selling in the right place, and your gear is in as good a shape as possible, it’s time to put a price tag on it. The right price will move your item fast. The wrong price means it will sit there, unsold, for ages.
In my experience, the best place to check for what you should be selling your item for is eBay. But not, I repeat, NOT, by looking at current listings of your item. eBay is littered with sellers who have unrealistic expectations of what their item should sell for. Lots of them are trying to sell their used gear for almost what they paid for it new. And that’s why their listings have been posted for months with no sale.
Where you do want to look is at the “sold listings”. In other words, check to see what your item has actually sold for. eBay makes this easy.
Step one. Click on the word “advanced” immediately to the right of the big, blue search button at the top of the eBay home page. Or click here to go directly there in a new browser tab.
Step two, enter what you are looking for in the first box. Enter both the brand and model number if you have it.
Step three, click the box next to “sold listings” in the “Search Including” section.
Step four, click the blue “search” button.
Now you are looking at a list of what your item has actually sold for. In many cases you will be both shocked and amazed at the difference in price between what people ask for an item and what they can actually get.
Once you have a general feeling for the price you can actually get, you have two choices of how to price your item. I’ve used both with great success. First, you can list your item as a “buy it now”, meaning that there is no auction. You set a price and if someone wants to pay that price, your item is sold. I’m always amazed at how many people don’t know they can do this on eBay. It’s not only limited to auctions!
Second, you can run an auction. Set your starting bid (YES! You can set the starting bid/minimum price!) at just under what the average selling value was. Many times, if you set the correct time and duration for your auction, you’ll see last-minute bidders push the price well above what the item would normally sell for. Sometimes it will sell for your minimum bid. And sometimes, you’ll need to re-list it. If it doesn’t sell on the first try, check your pricing again.
Another thing to check if it doesn’t sell on the first go around is how many “watchers” you had. If no one was “watching” (semi-interested buyers can save or “watch” your auction to remind them that it is running and when it ends), your price was probably too high, or you are selling a very low demand item. If there were a lot of watchers but no bids, that’s a strong cue you need to lower your price some. Not much, but usually, re-listing at 5% lower does the trick.
Finally, and this is HUGE, pay close attention to when your auction starts and ends. eBay allows you to set both the duration and the exact start time for your listing. Without going into too much detail, you want your auctions to start on Sunday night at 9pm CST. You want them to run for 7 days. This will maximize the number of available buyers and potential customers.
I’m sympathetic that what most of us will get for our used fitness equipment is nowhere near what we paid. I’d have been much better off if I’d never bought either of those BowFlex home gyms in the first place. But I did learn some valuable lessons. I hope those lessons help you get the most money for your used gear. If you do, you can then turn around and reinvest in gear you’ll actually use!