top of page

Quick Guide to Buying Used Drums

I have tons of students ask me about buying used drums, which includes beginners to advanced players. Why? Well, drums are expensive and everyone wants to get the most bang for their buck. 

To me, used drums are great because they allow drummers to get quality gear for less and usually they can buy a great drum set that can last them a lifetime (if they find something good). Of course, buying used drums can be scary, as you have to consider your own knowledge of the drums and what type of additional work/cost might need to go into the used gear.

There are only three things to look at when buying any drum: Hardware, Shell, Heads. 

This article is a quick guide to help you buy used drums like a boss. 

In addition to this quick guide, here is a video that shows may of the concepts I discuss in this article:


The first thing I look for when buying or recommending used drums is the brand. The reason for this is that there are established drum companies that have been perfecting the craftsmanship and manufacturing of drums for a long time. These established brands make quality drums. 

Of course, even the top drum brands have their low end and top end lines, but a quick Google search can show you the difference between each type. 

Here are a few brands that I look for: Ludwig, Gretsch, Pearl, Premier, Mapex, PDP, DW, Noble & Cooley, and so on. Please note, the last two are difficult to find at a bargain. 


Here are the simple things to look for with the hardware: 

  1. Is it all there? Are there rims on both sides, all the lugs, and all tension rods? Also, dont forget to check the bass drum hardware, which includes mounts and bass drum legs/spurs. 

  2. What is the condition of the rim? The rim should not be warped, which you can check by laying flat on a table to look at it. Also, the bass drum rim should be inspected the same way. 

  3. What is the hardware condition? Check for rust, broken parts, loose lugs, and tarnishes. 

  4. Are you willing to replace parts? If something is missing, are you willing to pay for the missing part? For example, perhaps it only needs one lug (this would be easy to replace). 

  5. Can I make the upgrades myself? If you can, go for it (remember drums are simple). 


Initially, I just look at the shell to make sure it looks good. Before buying used drums, here are a few details to consider so you get a solid instrument: 

  1. What does the shell look like? The wrap, finish, and shell should look good. For the most part, it should be free of damage, fading, or other issues. If not, can you make the needed repairs? In some cases, there minor bits of damage may not be a big deal for you. 

  2. What does the inside of the shell look like? This should be clean and everything should be secure. The inside will either be all wood, have a coating, or be made of some other material. In all cases, it should be free from blemishes and nothing should be loose. 

  3. Are there any holes? This seems like a no-brainer, but there should be no extra holes, with the exception of a small vent, which usually has the drum badge (company logo). 

  4. Are the bearing edges smooth? There should be no nicks on the edge of the drum. Also, I suggest checking the bearing edge by playing the drum (without the rim and head) onto a table or flat surface. If it is good, it should not wobble. 


Drum heads have to be replaced on drums, it is like tires on a car. But, it can be an added cost. So, finding used drums with new heads is a bonus, as it costs a good chunk of change to get new heads (especially the bass drum head). Here are a few things to consider when looking at drum heads: 

  1. Are they name brand heads? Remo, Evans, and Aquarian are solid drum head companies. 

  2. Are you prepared to replace the heads? Well, you should be because this is a part of playing drums. Do not let the heads be a major factor, as even new drums needs new heads to sound good. 

Drum Are Simple

For the most part, drums are a simple instrument. So, look at the hardware, shells, and heads, which are the essence of the drums. More importantly, know what your skill level is when thinking about repairing or refurbishing drums. If you keep the principles mentioned above in mind as you search for used drum gear, you will be able to find a great used drum set so you can do the most important part, which is play.


For more drum grooves, check out Tactical Drumming: Groove Survival Guide, which will show you a number of shuffle variations and other grooves. This can be found at or on Amazon at

By John Owens, Ph.D (Author, Drummer Educator). For John's bio go to


bottom of page