This section is a companion section to the main Buying Guide for Inline Skates, written for readers who are looking at buying used skates.
Check the Frame and Shell
The main thing to look at on used skates is the frame and the boot shell. Make sure there are no cracks or major signs of stress anywhere. Look closely at the axle holes. If the previous owner liked to do aggressive tricks like jumping and stair-riding a lot, there may be some hairline fractures.
You'll likely find scuff marks all over the shell from falls, but they won't do any harm in most cases. Just make sure there are no weak spots in the shell. Press into the shell at many points (especially around the toe area) to make sure.
Even if you do find a weak spot or even holes worn through, it's not like you can't skate on them still. I've had friends who shredded off the entire toe part of their shell from doing stairs and what not. However, if you can help it, get a skate that's not crumbling. Or if you like the skate anyway, make sure you get a discounted price for the poorer condition of the shell.
Check the Liners
The other main concern is the liners. If the skates were used a long time, chances are the liners have compressed a bit. You will notice this by the reduced the snugness and support of the fit when you try on the skate. Depending on how long they were used, there's not much you can do about this. If they fit okay anyway, that's good. If not, fortunately you can buy replacement liners from mail-order companies or from the skate companies directly. I've seen ads from mail-order companies for liners in the back of Inline Magazine.
Most everything else on the skates are fairly easy to replace if you have to: laces, wheels, bearings, brakes, axles, spacers, and even buckles. Buckles aren't real easy to replace without special tools, but many ski or skate shops will probably be able to help you out.
NOTE: prices mentioned are approximate U.S. prices
It's not very easy to give a good rule of thumb for what a good price is for used skates. A lot depends on the condition of the skate, how recent a model it is, and what other extras the shop will throw in, like new wheels and bearings.
If the store does put extras on, break it down by elements. Wheels are roughly $3-5 per wheel (depending on the size and brand). So that gives you $24 to $40 (assuming 4 wheel skates) for the wheels. Then bearings may be $1-2 each, so that's another $16 to 32. New axle kits are usually $20. If you think you might need a new liner, factor in roughly $30-40.
Subtract those rough numbers from the total price and see what's being charged for everything but the extras (boot, liner, chassis, maybe a brake). If it still seems like a good deal to you, then go for it.
In general, expect to pay more for more recent models, especially if they're only a year old or even still being sold.
Above all else, make sure you know what the return policy is for the store. Many will sell their skates "as is", which means you can't return them. Others have very generous policies and will let you return or swap for other skates. So remember to ask BEFORE you buy.