Is Ham Gear Too Expensive? Or, Are Some Hams' Expectations Unrealistic?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by N2EY, Sep 29, 2017.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    One complaint I see here and elsewhere is that "ham gear is too expensive". And in some cases, the prices asked for beat up dirty old gear that isn't rare do seem to be out of line. But what about the price of new stuff?

    I've heard for years that "hams are cheap", and I used to dismiss it. But I think there are some disturbing trends in amateur radio when it comes to money.

    I see more and more hams who want 1957 prices on 2017 ham gear. Most seem to have no concept of what it takes to produce specialized electronics for a small market, nor any concept of the effects of inflation over time.

    I can see where this may originate. One can buy a nice DVD player for $80 at Best Buy, and as a result some think it should be possible to produce full-featured 100 watt HF transceivers for $250. Never mind the difference in quantities, technologies, etc. - some folks just KNOW "ham gear costs too much today."

    And they expect every new rig to provide every possible feature, and be backed up by the company forever - FREE. No excuses or exceptions. Never mind that their DVD player will probably be in the trash in 5 years; they expect service on a 30 year old piece of ham gear!

    What's really ironic is how this attitude has grown even as constant-dollar prices have dropped and equipment has improved.

    For example, consider the National NC-300, and its improved model, the NC-303. Famous 1950s receivers, Made In USA. It cost $449 new, 60 years ago....that's about $3750 in today's money! Think what $3750 buys in ham gear today!

    Or....more recently....consider the Ten Tec Corsair II. In 1987 - 30 years ago - it was $1345, plus $229 for the power supply. That's $1574, without any filters or a second VFO. Add some filters and the external VFO and you'll reach $2000. Last of the pure analog rigs.

    $1574 in 1987 is $3371 today. $2000 back then....$4283 today.

    Lots of other examples. Some people seem to remember what stuff used to cost, but not what they used to get paid. Or the reverse. An SB-101 kit at $360 seems cheap - but when you're making $1.50 an hours ($3000 a year) isn't.

    So - does ham gear cost too much today? Or do some hams have completely unrealistic expectations?

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
    AC1CX, W7JZE, WA8FOZ and 6 others like this.
  2. WF4W

    WF4W Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    ham gear does not cost too much when you compare it to the relative cost decades ago. In the 50s/60s gear cost 50-60% of the average family's income (based on previous ads and conversations - i have no personal experience). Today, a good rig - the IC-7300 for example - is about 3% of the average american income of $55,600

    You're right - hams are cheap and have unrealistic expectations of new and used gear - I had a ham offer me $300 LESS on the Kenwood TH-d74 HT I was selling for $500. You know why? B/c I didnt have the manual with it. He was going to buy the HT plus hand mic and Car DC Adapters for $500 - but then offered me only $200 b/c I couldnt find the manual despite it being widely available online for free download. I found the manual, went back to him a week later and he offered me $250, no more. Weirdo.

    You can buy a device that transmits and receives around the friggin earth for less than a LCD TV - so no, ham gear does not cost too much and yes, hams are weirdos and have incredible unrealistic expectations.
    N1FMV likes this.
  3. AJ2I

    AJ2I Ham Member QRZ Page

    they need a kelly's blue book for ham gear. Most hams don't understand why if they bought radio new for $1000, they won't get $950 for it.

    If you bought a radio new and tried to sell it 6 months to a year later, you should expect to sell it for 10-15% less what you paid, after shipping etc is done.

    I've seen many people try to sell things used MORE then what you could buy new with rebates!
    NE2X, KC3BZJ and N2EY like this.
  4. K3EY

    K3EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    You use the word DISTURBING like it's a crime to want to hold on to ones hard earned money, that is disturbing, IMO.

    I am going to buy a complete K2 and build it, because I want to and love the K2 receiver. But I do think it's priced
    very high and its not even built! That's just me, I KNOW I don't have to buy it.

    You can buy a cell phone for a few hundreds bucks that will do just about everything with apps
    and talk all over the planet without QRM/QRN/QSB contesters screaming at each other:)

    So NOT unrealistic, IN TODAY'S world/reality.
    KE0JJG likes this.
  5. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    To some extent yes it's about expectations and to say hams are cheap is a bit of an oversimplification it does not make one "cheap" to want to obtain the best deal possible on the purchase of ham gear is a person cheap who shops around for the best deal on a new vehicle to me that's smart not cheap.

    When you call hams cheap you discount other factors such as limited budgets for ham gear as a result of other demands on their overall budget family, school etc. .

    It's fine to compare costs of ham gear today vs the cost 'X" number of years ago but again a major factor is the individuals available funds to purchase this equipment what good is it to say ham gear based on these costs formulas is a better deal today than it was 50 years ago if you still can't afford the purchase. As a teenager it was not about what a Collins S line cost it was about gathering up sufficient funds to purchase a Heathkit AR-3 or Twoer was I cheap because that's all I could afford....hardly.

    At this time of my life with the ability to afford most available gear on the market why not check with different vendors for the best price that's not cheap it's smart.
    N5PNZ likes this.
  6. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    The disturbing trend is that some are so out of tune with reality.

    There are reasons a smart phone and the K2 cost they do.

    The Big One is....volume. Cell phones are produced in the millions, so the engineering and tooling costs are amortized over millions of units. Can't do that with ham gear that might sell 10,000-20,000 units.

    There's also time. The K2 appeared about 1999 - almost 20 years ago! Most cell phone models are made for a few years at most. So the payback/profit timeline is very different. And...a cell phone becomes a museum piece in a few years....not so with a K2.

    Apps are not all free, either.

    Count up all the parts in a K2 and see what they cost from Digi-Key or Mouser or whoever - even if you buy in quantity.
    N6HCM, W7JZE and N2SR like this.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Then let's define "cheap" in this context. Seems to me a reasonable definition would be the person who expects to get something for less than it costs to produce, or who has unrealistic expectations.

    Because it IS a better deal today.

    But....did you complain that an NC-300 cost $449 back then?

    Comparison shopping isn't being "cheap". Complaining that the price is too high when they all tell you the same price IS.
    W7JZE and N2SR like this.
  8. W2JKT

    W2JKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my experience, hams (and people in general, really) are overly optimistic about the value of their stuff, and overly pessimistic about the value of other people's stuff. I think it's a human being thing, not necessarily a ham thing.
    N6HCM, N5PAR, N1OOQ and 4 others like this.
  9. W4IOA

    W4IOA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've found ham gear no more expensive than any other "hobby" I have engaged in. Used gear is too often overpriced but diligence pays off if a person takes the time to educate themselvss.
    New gear costs, but it isn't difficult to purchase new transceivers under a $1000, $1300 gets you a IC7300 or TS 590sg, radios that really give you bells and whistles. Roof towers and a nice yagi/hex beam can be purchased around $1500 or less, verticles are even cheaper and less intrusive.
    I've found fishing or shooting sports no less expensive, and ham gear once bought meets your needs for decades with little cost after the initial purchase.
    I really hate to say it but too many today are not willing to take the time to build a station. They want dxcc in a weekend, the neatest and coolest gear, and a license class and callsign without effort. I'm one of those dreaded no coders and not ashamed to admit it. But even I understood the need to learn and practice before upgrading, even now I haven't upgraded to extra. Why, even now I can pass the test online, I've read and study both the West guide and the ARRL guide, along with other books. But I'm not fully understanding the material and there is a class in January for the extra test I plan on taking. I come here (not just for this forum) and read most of the threads about problems and fixes.
    Ham radio isn't costly, it just takes time and effort, like anything else that is worthwhile.
    W7JZE, KI4LXB, WA8FOZ and 2 others like this.
  10. WG7X

    WG7X Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, hams in general are cheap and they (as a group) do not seem to understand the economics of mass production versus a small market. Ham radio gear these days mostly exists as an offshoot of the manufacturers primary business, which is usually military or commercial. We should be glad that commercial ham gear exists at all.

    The first respondent brings up the heart of the matter; that being that the used ham gear market is filled with horse traders who would gladly sell their mother if the price was right. You all know these guys, we have all met them and some of us have even done "business" with them. I too, have wondered about this aspect of ham radio. For my own sanity, I have declined to ever participate in this weirdness. I do not buy or even desire to buy, anyone else's headache. For me, they have no attraction. It makes life easier if you just get current equipment. If that stuff is too high priced, that is a problem. Maybe saving up until it can be afforded is an option?

    Just for my self, in my short ham radio experience of almost three decades, I have had only two new radios, a Kenwood TS-940 and an Icom Pro III. For some reason, this seems to work well. saving up the cash for a ham radio every other decade or two works for me. The prices for a new top-of-the-line radio from one of the big three is now pretty high, but fortunately ham radio existence still goes on just fine with out the biggest, baddest radio on the block.

    But, I must admit that I have not ever sold or traded any of my now not used radios... Of course, that is just one, but it can sit in my basement forever. Having once dealt with the trader society in ham radio, I no longer wanted any contact or dealing with those guys. Period.

    Must admit though that the "trader wars" provides a bit of entertainment here from time to time.
    KH6KK, N2EY and W5WN like this.
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