How to Buy a Used DVD

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How to Buy a Used DVD

The Digital Versatile (Video) Disc, or DVD, is the primary means of distributing video content like films to domestic users. DVDs began their overthrow of the domestic video market in the mid-1990s, and all but replaced the VHS format by the close of the century. DVDs are popular due to their durability and interactivity. DVDs like CDs, are also used as storage media, with DVDs outstripping compact discs with respect to storage capacities several times over. Whereas originally a full-length movie had to be broken up over several compact discs, with DVDs a movie, as well as several alternate versions and bonus features can all fit on one disc. The advent of Blu-ray technology enhanced the movie watching experience and increased storage capacities.

New DVDs do not come cheap. For movie enthusiasts, a DVD collection is a substantial investment of time and money. However, used DVDs offered for sale are oftentimes significantly cheaper than new DVDs.

Shopping for used DVDs should be approached with caution. There is the very real issue of counterfeit DVDs to consider. Buyers should familiarise themselves with the laws related to buying and owning counterfeit DVDs in their particular jurisdiction and know how to spot counterfeit DVDs. The buyer also needs to make sure that they are buying used DVDs that do in fact player on their brand and type of player. eBay has an amazing selection of used DVDs to choose from.

What Is a DVD?

A DVD is a type of disc that stores information digitally for later use. DVDs have dual-layer, or double-layer, recording capability, effectively making the disc usable on both layers. A DVD far exceeds the storage capability of a CD, which only has 700 MB of data storage available. One DVD can hold up to 8.5 GB of data.

Dual-layer discs have a second physical layer that enables data to be be read from both sides. A laser in the DVD player shines through the first semi-transparent layer to read the second layer. This technology makes it possible for twice the amount of data to be stored on one disc. Dual-layer technology also means that a user doesn’t have to flip over the disc to access the second layer of data.

The Development of the DVD

Before DVDs came on the scene in 1995, the VCD, or video CD, was the first type of storage disc for video content. This predecessor to the DVD used analogue encoding, and became available to the general public in 1993. There were two types of VCD available at that time: the CD, for multimedia use, and the super density disc, or SD. In an historical compromise the two factions who were creating prototype digital storage media collaborated and the result was the dual-layered DVD disc we know and love today.

High fidelity audio content can be delivered by DVDs, and compared to the compact disc, the DVD has a much higher capacity allowing for more music to be recorded to the disc, and the playback is far superior. DVDs have much better resolution than VHS, and far better quality of audio than CDs.

Comparing DVDs, CDs, and Blu-ray Discs

With the introduction of the HD DVD and the Blu-ray Disc in 2006, the traditional DVD had new contenders. The dual-layer HD DVD could store up to 30 GB of data, and the Blu-ray disc could hold closer to 50 GB. HD DVDs are now defunct, but the Blu-ray is still making inroads into the market and growing in popularity. The downside to these new Blu-ray discs is that they are quite expensive. A Blu-ray disc is often double price that of the same title in DVD format. The viewer also needs a high-definition television to take full advantage of Blu-ray discs.







Store and playback music recordings; subsequently adapted for data storage

700 MB

Serves as proof that the music was not pirated; can easily be stored

Limited storage capacity; cannot store large video files


Used as storage medium for digital movies and interactive multimedia presentations

Single-sided/single layer (two hours movie time), with a capacity of 4.3 GB; single-sided/double layer (four hours movie time), with a capacity of 7.9 GB; double-sided/single layer (four and a half hours movie time); with a capacity of 8.75 GB; double-sided/double layer (over eight hours movie time), with a capacity of 15.9 GB

Reasonably priced; available in standard, recordable, and rewritable formats; better quality of audio than the CD; better picture resolution than the VHS tape

Limited space when compared to a Blu-ray disc; not cost effective to use for music


Cost-effective medium for storing large amounts of data and video files

50 GB of data, which corresponds to about 10 recordable DVDs or around 70 recordable CDs

Data such as text, documents, pictures, video and music on a stored on a PC can be transferred to a Blu-ray disc; interactive; functionally

Fairly expensive when compared to DVDs or CDs

Each type of storage medium has specific advantages and limitations. For music, a CD is the better choice as it is less expensive than either the DVD or Blu-ray, and offers excellent sound quality. When looking for movies, shoppers can choose between DVDs or Blu-ray discs, depending upon the amount of money they want to pay, storage capability, and additional benefits. If price is a factor, used DVDs offer a good alternative to either new DVDs or Blu-ray discs.

Will It Play?

The Blu-ray player employs ‘backward compatible’ technology, meaning that the player is capable of playing regular DVDs as well as the Blu-ray discs. DVD players do not have the capability to play Blu-ray discs. The buyer also needs to consider what region their player is coded for.

Region Codes

All DVDs are coded for particular regions. What this means is that a DVD manufactured in one country does not necessarily play on a device manufactured for use in another country. For instance, a DVD coded for sale in Europe cannot play on a DVD player in the US. The table below lists the region codes and their respective geographical areas.

Region code

Countries and Territories


Region 0 is not an official area; discs with region 0 symbol either have no flag set or have regions 1 to 6 flags set; commonly referred to as ‘Region Free’


The United States, Canada, Bermuda, and U.S. territories


Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, and the French Overseas Departments and Territories


Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and Macau


Mexico, South America, Central America, Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and much of Oceania


Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka,Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Pakistan, Africa (except Egypt, South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho), Central and South Asia, Mongolia, and North Korea




Reserved for future use; MPAA-related DVDs and ‘media copies’ of pre-releases in Asia


Airplanes and cruise ships


Have eight flags set, which allows them to be played on any player in any locale

The purpose for region coding is to enable manufacturers to charge different prices in different regions, and since there is great variation in the amount people in various regions are willing to pay for a DVD, the system allows for great flexibility in pricing. Regional coding is useful because it prevents a movie from being in marketed in a country where it has not yet been officially released. Coding prevents movies that might be considered culturally, religiously, or politically sensitive from being sold in particular jurisdictions. Region codes also restrict movies to countries where copyright holders can collect on royalties, so reducing instances of piracy.

When shopping for used DVDs, the buyer should enquire about the used DVDs region code and whether the DVD is a traditional DVD format or a Blu-ray disc.

The Issue of Counterfeit DVDs

Buyers should be aware of the rules related to the sale and purchase of counterfeit DVDs. Ignoring these rules could land a buyer in hot water. In many jurisdictions, violating copyright laws is considered an infringement of the copyright holder’s rights. The legal consequences can be severe. To avoid buying used DVDs that are in fact counterfeit, the buyer should research the DVD title they wish to buy, examine the cover the design, and examine the disc itself.

Research the Movie

A buyer should use an online resource like the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) to research the DVD. When a movie is released on DVD, the release can vary from one country to the other. For example, in the UK the DVD may have originally been released as a two disc set, with one disc for the movie and the other disc for bonus features. In another country it the DVD may only have been released as just one disc. If the used DVD listed for sale only comes as one disc but the buyer knows that for that particular release it came as two discs, the buyer is likely to be skeptical of the used DVD’s authenticity. The buyer should also research the cover art, as the cover art can vary from one region to the other.

Examine the Cover Design

Carefully inspect the cover design. The lettering, photos, and layout should look the same as the DVDs and box sets sold in traditional DVD and CD shops. The photos on the cover should be clear and the edges defined. The colours should be vibrant, not dull. A photograph that appears dull is a sign that the photo was either scanned or photocopied. Spelling mistakes are another giveaway. If the spine of the DVD cover is very thin and the case is opaque rather than clear, chances are it is not authentic. A buyer should avoid any used DVDs that are offered without their original packaging.

The Disc Itself

Authentic DVDs are almost always solid silver in appearance. If the disc appears to be transparent, or if the disc comes in colours like blue, gold, or purple, the disc is very likely a rewritable disc. You should also look for brand names like Verbatim and Maxell on the disc. These are major manufacturers of rewritable DVDs.

If a buyer suspects that a seller is dealing in counterfeit DVDs, they should voice their suspicions to a local consumer protection bureau.

How to Buy a Used DVD on eBay

If you are in the market for used DVDs, start you search on the eBay homepage. Simply enter a description of the DVD you are looking for into the search bar at the top of any page on eBay. For example, if you enter the search query, ‘used action DVDs’, all the action DVDs currently listed for sale appears on the results page. If you have a very specific title or movie franchise in mind, simply type in a more specific search query that includes the name of the movie. For example, if you type ‘used Die Hard DVDs’ into the search bar, the search engine populates a results page with only DVDs from the ‘Die Hard’ franchise.

It is advisable that you only do business with a sellers who have earned the Top-Seller rating. The seller has earned this prized designation by adhering to all of eBay's policies and procedures in regard to selling and delivering merchandise. Read the listing for the used DVD very carefully. If the seller has forgotten to mention the region code for the DVD or whether its a Blu-ray disc, you can follow up this information with the seller by going into their profile page and clicking on the contact link.


Used DVDs are available at a variety of locations, from high street to charity shops, and Internet sites such as eBay. Although some may claim that shopping for DVDs is more satisfying at a traditional brick and mortar store, the truth is that online venues such as eBay offer much more in the way of an extensive collection. With thousands of titles from scores of genres, one could spend hours happily browsing through all the used DVD listings that eBay has to offer.

Remember that although a DVD may have some cosmetic imperfections such as scratching or smudging, for the most part these issues are superficial and do not affect how the DVD performs. When shopping for used DVDs, one should consider compatibility issues like regions codes. One also needs to be familiar with how to spot a counterfeit DVD. For huge savings, choose used DVDs from eBay and enjoy movies spanning genres, from westerns to classics, and romance to film noir.

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