What to consider when buying a used drum kit

Whether you are looking to buy your first drum kit or replace an existing one, you are probably going to explore what used drum kits are out there. You can find some great deals through sites like kijiji and craigslist or your local music store but you first need to know what to look for. Here are some points for you to consider when shopping around:


Rust and wear

Survey the hardware. How well can you clean it up? Dis-coloration and rust can be removed with metal or chrome cleaners. Most people are surprised how their hardware can be brought back to life. I have used NEVR-DULL to good effect. I would wear rubber gloves when using this stuff though and use it in open ventilation.

Great for cleaning drum hardware

Pitting on the other hand, in which there are little holes in the hardware, cannot be cleaned away. Re-chroming, in which the metal has to be stripped then worked to remove any flaws is an expensive and time-consuming process. Pitted hardware is usually still functional but will be much more difficult to restore.


Have extra holes been made and non-factory hardware added? What is the quality of the replacement hardware? Non-factory hardware can sometimes be difficult to replace and require new precise holes to be drilled, which could incur more labor and cost.

Wrap condition:

The colour of the drum set might not be your first choice. Re-wrapping, or stripping and refinishing the drum shell may be expensive and time consuming. If there are noticeable worn patches in the wrap it might warrant looking inside the shell for water damage. Asides from that, most wear or damage to the wrap is cosmetic and will not affect the sound. If this is your first kit I wouldn’t be too concerned about the wrap or finishing condition.

Bearing Edges:

One area of the drum that could compromise the sound is poorly cut or damaged bearing edges. Unless you are looking to buy a high-end kit, most sellers will not be too receptive to you dismantling their drums to inspect all the bearing edges. However there are still a few methods you can use:

-With the drumheads on, run your finger around the bearing edge, pushing down firmly. It should feel solid all the way around. You will feel a soft area where the drumhead dips down if the bearing edge is damaged.

-Clear drumheads can actually let you see the bearing edge, so wherever you can take a look for flat spots or chips/dents.

-If you suspect a problem and you are able to remove the drumhead, lay the drum on a flat surface to check the bearing edge makes contact all the way around. Shine a light inside of the drum, and look for light escaping where it makes contact with the table.

Things you should not to be too concerned about:

Sound of the drum set

You might think this is the most important of all but a refurbished and well-tuned kit can sound vastly different than what you are hearing in its current condition.  Drums made out of plywood can sound better than high-end kits with loose hardware and poor tuning. If you cannot tune your drums to sound good, find someone who can or invest in a Tune bot. This electronic tuner has saved me a lot of aggravation and helped improve my ear by tuning to accurate readings.

Easily replaceable hardware and accessories:

Hi hat clutch, cymbal felts, wing nuts, tension rods, snare wires, Drumheads.

These items are easily replaceable and often the value of a drum set can be overlooked when these items are in poor condition.   Drumheads are the most expensive replacement of these items, but they are vital to your sound and need to replaced eventually regardless of the condition. There are a few brands including ours of Drummer Survival Kits which include a variety of cymbal sleeves, felts, wing nuts and snare straps. Having all these components in one pack is a great deal when you need to replace some or all of these items.

Overall Assessment

You should search online to compare prices before checking out a used drum kit to help with your decision. Give yourself a ballpark of how much time and money may be needed to re-furbish the drum kit. If it is going to cost the same as an already finished set, it may not be worth it. If the final cost is several hundred dollars below a comparable kit, then go for it.

Often the dirtier the appearance of the drum kit, the better value you can find. If you are willing to spend some time cleaning and making a few hardware repairs you will save considerably. There is always something you’ll miss at the time of purchase, as there is a lot to inspect and too little time. However don’t worry, if you go in prepared and try your best to hit all your checkpoints, you will make a solid buying decision. Good luck!

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