Buying a second hand flute on ebay - or even a new little known brand - is a risk. This guide is intended for those who are unsure what to look for in the description or what questions to ask. One aspect it can't help with is whether the flute is suitable for an individual - musicians have personal preferences! Try a few different flutes, decide what you like/dislike and if you are patient then what you want will become available at a good price!
Most second hand flutes are likely to require some repairs or servicing. You can clarify this and avoid disappointment by asking:
1. How well does the flute play? Can both low and high notes be played easily, quietly and loudly? A seller of a student flute who answers "Yes" to the entire question is not being completely honest - even the best student flutes cant play bottom C and top C quietly and loudly.
2. How old is the flute? How many dents? How worn is the plating?
Cosmetic damage does not affect how the flute plays but worn plating on the lip plate may cause irritation to the skin - unless a coat of nail varnish is applied!
3. Are any of the pads missing or leaking?
Its relatively quick and easy to replace pads but if the fixing screws are missing then obtaining them for an obscure brand might not be easy.
4. Are any keys damaged, broken or missing? Any springs missing?
Some repair technicians will have difficulty obtaining replacements keys etc for obscure brands.
5. What is the return policy?
You should expect 5-7 days to return a flute at your discretion from both private and business sellers. However, most sellers will not refund the postage!
The cheapest new flutes get alot of bad press. A good local music store is likely to stock similar models at around 50% more than the ebay "buy it now" prices. That's a good reason to go and try one and see how it compares the more expensive known brands! In my experience you'll probably be pleasantly surprized. However, a more expensive known brand flute eg Yamaha 211S which plays at least a bit better is likely to retain its value much better. Today second hand Chinese flutes have a very low resale value perhaps because servicing them can cost about half or more of the price of a new Chinese flute!