How to Buy More Car Audio than You Can Afford
Everyone wants to get a deal. So how can you get that $800 head unit for $300? How about that super-duper 15" woofer that you can't afford? There's several different options for those willing to do a little legwork. Remember that these methods aren't going to be as easy as walking into your local shop. If it were that easy everyone would be doing it.
Smuggler's Blues - Buying at Government Auctions
Have you seen those ads in the back of car magazines that promise to show you how to buy Corvettes and Porsches for $100? They're selling information on government auctions. Typically those items have been seized in government raids on drug dealers and other criminals. But guess what. You're not likely to ever buy a Porsche for $100 unless you're the only one at the auction. However you can pick up some good deals, especially if the weather is bad. Bad weather keeps away all but the die hard auction goers and they're all looking for a deal too. This helps keep the bids low. Rather than spend the money on the "info pack" you can check out this government site to find auctions in your area.
You can also go to local police auctions where you're likely to find confiscated and stolen stereos in various conditions. The upside is you can often pick up the equipment cheap because you'll be one of the few who knows what it is worth. The downside is you don't know if it even works and the police don't offer a money back guarantee. See if you can bring a small 12 volt battery such as a motorcycle battery to test the power up of the equipment. I'd also bring a small speaker like a 3.5" or an old telephone speaker to check the output as well. You can even rig up portable CD players to give the amplifier a music signal. Use your imagination and keep it all in a shoebox for easy transportation. It's your money and you don't want to waste it on dead equipment. Ask nice and they'll probably let you. Like anything, it helps if you know somebody. Explain that you're interested in certain equipment but can't bid if you don't know if it works. They want to move merchandise so they'll probably let you. The money goes to their department after all. Don't be afraid to approach them at the end of the auction and see if you can pick up some items that didn't sell. They don't want to have to haul it back into storage so they'll probably accept a reasonable offer.
If you are interested in going the government auction route you can send a blank email through this link and you'll be emailed a 28 page PDF that gives more information.
Buying Car Audio Wholesale
Buying wholesale is buying at the dealer cost. One of the problems with buying wholesale is that it can be a real hassle dealing with all of the different distributors to get all of the different brands that you want. You'll probably need to have everything sent COD (cash on delivery) because you aren't likely to have the credit references needed to buy on account with the wholesaler. Setting up with a distributor can be difficult too because they're likely to want your business account number and business banking information as well as some industry references. It's a hassle for a reason. Consumers aren't supposed to buy at wholesale. The wholesaler needs to think that you're a legitimate business before they'll sell to you. As attractive as buying at wholesale is it usually turns into a much bigger headache than it is worth. There are better alternatives for most consumers.
Closeouts, Scratch and Dent, and Special Purchases
Closeouts are typically last year's models that are being sold at low prices in order to make room for the new models. If last year's model has all of the features you're looking for then it would make sense to pick it up for the lower price. Just make sure you know what you're getting and that you'll be happy with the purchase. Scratch and dent can be a great value if you're not concerned with the physical appearance of the unit. Typically the damage to the unit will be minor and may even be in a place that is not visible once the equipment is installed. Special purchases are the "holy grail" of retail discounts. This is where the manufacturer is trying to get rid of a certain model and offers the product to the retailers at a ridiculously low price. This is when you'll see an item for more than 80% off the retail price. Keep your eye open for those two words, special purchase.
Crutchfield has several places on their site that just offer scratch and dent, returns and special purchases. Here's the direct links to these hidden treasures. The first is the specials sections where they keep all of their current car audio sales. You can get there from here:
The other is called the Outlet. I used to love getting the special sale supplements from Crutchfield to see what they had in the outlet. Now you can check them online. It's mostly customer returns but they're still in great shape. I've always had good luck here:
The best deals are found on the Scratch & Dent items. As the name implies the items might be scratched or dented but they still work great. A lot of times I have to search to see where the damage is on items I buy. If cosmetics don't concern you then this another great place to get the biggest discounts.
B stock items are factory seconds and include refurbished items and items that are similar to scratch and dent items. They often do not come with a full factory warranty but are usually limited to a 30-90 day period. I personally like B stock/refurbished items but others do not thinking of it as broken equipment. I see it a different way. The chance of an item from a reputable manufacturer having a problem is low. The chances of it having two defects are extremely low. Since it has already had one defect fixed it is unlikely to have another defect show up. Others think that if it has one problem it will have another. You'll have to make your own decision on this. If you feel comfortable buying repaired merchandise then you can get some very good deals. If you don't feel comfortable buying B stock/refurbished items then you should limit yourself to the other methods of buying discount equipment.
If you're really technically inclined you might even consider learning to repair equipment yourself. You can pick up damaged equipment extremely cheap and it may only cost a few dollars to fix it in some cases. This can save you a lot of money but obviously it's not for everybody. If you'd like to learn how to repair car amplifiers there's a CDROM tutorial I can recommend. You can check that out here.
Car Audio Planning and Buying
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