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If you want to get the most bang for your buck when buying a pool table, follow these simple rules and you'll always end up with a great table!
Check the name brand. Not all tables are equal. Brand names command a premium. Beware though! Not all models of a specific brand are good!
Research the specific model. Some manufacturers have entry-level tables. These tables are often made of particle board and veneered in a hardwood skin. The difference can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
If you're buying a table with leather pockets, check the leather. Often times, the previous owner didn't maintain the leather; causing dry-rot. This shouldn't prevent you from buying the table. But, it should be a negotiation point when it comes to how much you should pay.
Check the rubber on the rails. Tables that get a lot of sunlight will often have dry-rotted rubber. The signs to look for are: 1) Little to no rebound of the ball. 2) A "thud" sound when a ball is bouncing off the rail. 3) Hard and soft spots when pressing into the rubber with your fingers. Tables needing new rubber will also need to be recovered.
Find out when the cloth was last changed. Pool tables require maintenance. It's par for the course. Even with no play, it is recommended cloth be changed every 5 to 7 years (even more frequently for heavily used tables). No installer will offer a warranty on used cloth. So, if reusing the existing cloth, make sure it's good. Otherwise, use this information to your advantage when purchasing.
Look for rusty hardware. If you're buying an antique table, this may not be a big deal. However, on modern tables (since the invention of climate control), this is a sign of neglect.
Always look for tables with "framed slate". A quality table will have a wood frame attached to the slate. This serves as both an anchor point for the cloth and it adds structural stability.
Look for broken / missing parts. Rail aprons (the piece of wood that hangs off the rail and covers the side of the slate) are often broken or loose due to abuse. Heavily dented and dinged top-rails are also a sign. This doesn't make the table bad. But, damage does effect the sale price.
Avoid "honeycomb" playfields!!!! If the table is extremely lightweight, it probably has this type of playfield. "Honeycomb" playfields consist of a cardboard inner structure with a press-board top. These tables are basically children's toys at best. They should NEVER be considered anything more.
Typical price to move a pool table is going to be around $400. Stairs and distance will also be a factor. Recovering is roughly the same (unless both services are performed at the same time). Knowing this, and having the above mentioned tips, your buying experience should go smoothly.
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Here's where I fill you in on the dirty little secret of pool tables (and furniture, for that matter). A new pool table loses half of its value the instant it's installed in your house! So, that table you just spent $4000 dollars on last week will now only sell (used) for $2000. New pool tables have a higher depreciation than cars.
Here's where you, as a buyer, can make some EXCELLENT deals.
Typically, the sale price of a pool table is just the beginning of what you ACTUALLY pay. A play package (i.e. cues, balls, triangle rack, lighting, etc.) will run anywhere between $250 to over $1000. In addition to that, you'll also pay a delivery and installation charge of between $250 and $500. Finally, add in state and local sales taxes. So, a table that retails for $3000 with a (moderately priced) play package of $500 will end up costing just at $4200!
When purchasing a used pool table, the play package is generally included in the price of the table. Thus, adding to the overall value. Sales tax doesn't usually apply on private party sales. If we use the "half value" mentioned above, a "like new" $3000 table should sell for $1500 (including the play package); even less if the table needs recovering and/or new rubber. Add in moving costs of about $400, and your total investment should be around $2000.
As a side note... The table you purchased used (assuming it isn't abused) will not depreciate!
There are some advantages to buying a brand new table. However, most buyers will never take advantage of those benefits.
There are lots of great, used tables out there. And the prudent shopper, armed with this information, will be rewarded with years of hassle-free entertainment.
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