Buying a used saddle is an excellent way to get great value. Like most things saddles depreciate over time, but there is a sweet spot where the saddle has come down in price but is still in great condition. In my opinion this is around the 3-5 year mark depending on how hard a life it’s had. You’re paying a great price and possibly when you’re ready to move on you can still sell it at a reasonable price. This represents great value.
So the potential downside (worst case scenario alert) of buying used is the lack of warranty and the unknown soundness of the tree etc. Saddles often end up on the market when after several failed attempts to fit the saddle to a horse the rider gives up and sells it. The saddle could have been subjected to all sorts of wonderful things like asymmetric tree adjustments and unconventional reflocks or shims without the rider necessarily knowing. Typically as a last ditch effort the fitter will attempt anything to save a sale or their reputation!
Another scenario played out on a regular basis is a rider faced with an expensive repair, decides to sell the saddle instead of repairing it. Unfortunately they don’t disclose this to the new buyer, and the unsuspecting new owner is stuck with a buyer beware situation!
Buying online for sure can be higher risk than through a reputable saddle dealer but not all dealers are as knowledgeable as some.
My advice, never close a sale without getting the saddle thoroughly inspected first. I’m not talking about an opinion on fit but an internal exam of the saddle. Checking that the tree has no damage or premature where, that the panels are symmetrical and that all the stitching is safe.
If the seller doesn’t agree than move on. If you compare it to buying a used car you are either buying it “as is” or certified. This means a licensed mechanic has inspected the vehicle for common safety issues and has been repaired. If you are buying it as is, the price is lower and you have your own mechanic inspect it before you hand over your hard earned cash.
Either your well trained experienced saddle fitter can provide this service or find a saddler up to the job that is willing to provide some peace of mind.