More than 80% of American households have an Amazon Prime membership. But for those of you looking to give your business to another company that is not Amazon, where do you go for tech products like drones?
Look Amazon has plenty of benefits: Amazon often has the best price, and it usually offers, fas free shipping for Prime members (and typically free shipping for hitting a low spending threshold even for non-Prime members. If you’re an Amazon Prime member with an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, shopping on Amazon means another 5% back on your purchase. Returns are ultra-easy (I bring my unwanted items to my local Whole Foods). Customer service tends to be pretty solid, as it’s typically easy to get in touch with and refunds are doled out promptly.
Meanwhile — while there are some rare gems — brick-and-mortar drone or RC hobby shops are tough to come by these days. (If your city has one, definitely support it!) But even if you can’t find a hobby shop, there are plenty of other camera retailers, startups, and sometimes even individual sellers who are worthy of your business.
If you’re seeking to give your business to a company that’s not Amazon, here are some other electronics and RC retailers to consider:
Direct from the manufacturer
To best support drone companies, it’s almost best to cut out the middleman and shop direct. In fact, American drone company Skydio only lets you purchase Skydio drones directly from its website (it doesn’t even list its drones for sale on Amazon!).
Oh, and if you shop between now and the end of September 2022, you’ll save $50 using Skydio promo code DroneGirl on Skydio’s website!
Autel, which is famous for its X-Star, Evo and Nano drones, also has North American offices in Washington — not far from Amazon. But skip buying the drone through Amazon and shop directly through Autel to put more money in the drone industry’s pockets, rather than giving a cut to Amazon.
B&H Photo Video
B&H Photo offers most of the best benefits that Amazon offers — but without the uber-giantness attached to it. B&H was founded in 1973 with a single brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan. B&H owner Herman Schreiber — and many of the store’s employees — are observant Satmar Hasidic Jews, and the physical store is closed on Shabbat, most Jewish holidays, and Christmas.
These days, it’s more of a big, small business and has expanded to mostly online transactions. It has that small, family feel, but still offers big-business benefits like fast, free shipping on most orders of $49 or more. Customer service is impeccable, and its selection is huge. Deals are also abundant, and often very similar to what you’ll find on Amazon.
And while the Internet is seemingly always open, B&H does still recognize Shabbat. The B&H website is accessible on Shabbat, but checkout and processing of online orders are unavailable during Shabbat (from sundown Friday evening till Saturday evening) and some Jewish holidays.
Adorama is another camera retailer — and it started just one year after B&H Photo, also in New York City. Adorama is more than just a camera store though; it’s more of an all-around resource for photographers.
Besides just the sales floor, it offers rental services, a learning center with in-store workshops and online how-to’s, a photo-printing service and even a business arm that offers commercial services like consultations, technical support and procurement assistance.
It typically has most of the same drones you’ll find for sale on B&H, including those from major drone makers like DJI, Parrot and Autel.
Zulily is a bit of a funky one. It’s less likely to have high-quality camera drones, but rather is more likely to sell beginner and kid-focused practice or toy drones. And hey, nothing against toy drones.
The Seattle-based e-commerce company is most well-known for its flash sales, where discounts typically only last 72 hours before the items for sale are gone for good. And yes, drone sales exist.
So why do I recommend Zulily in particular? The website offers deals that are pretty unparalleled. And there, you’ll find cheap toy drones on a regular basis.
I recommend most people get started in their piloting journey on a cheap, practice drone. While they’re actually much harder to fly than high-end camera drones, it’s better to build confidence on a tough-to-fly yet cheap toy drone, rather than have anxiety about flying (and hopefully not crashing!) the expensive one.
As of August 2022, Zulily now offers free shipping on most orders of $89 or more.
There are some small, online hobby shops that focus on drones or other RC products. GetFPV is one of my favorites. Unlike most of the other stores shared here that focus on camera drones, FPV is all about the FPV and DIY life.
Here, you’ll mostly find FPV products as well as parts to build your own drones. Drone bundles make it easy to build your own drone FPV kit. Of course, GetFPV still sells standard drones like DJI drones, too.
If you do shop at GetFPV, don’t forget to join the GetFPV Crash Cash loyalty program, which earns you one point per $2 spent. A point is worth 6 cents, effectively getting you 3% in every purchase in the form of Crash Cash, redeemable toward future purchases.
If you really want to support a small business, check out Drone Dojo. The retailer is a small team, led by DIY-drone savant Caleb Berquist. Items for sale are pretty limited, but DIY enthusiasts, classrooms and anyone looking to learn more about drones will love Drone Dojo’s Raspberry Pi Drone Kit. Each individual part required to build a Raspberry Pi drone (as described in the How to build a Raspberry Pi drone course) is included with your drone kit.
And here’s a bonus offer directly from Caleb for Drone Girl readers! The first 30 readers who use promo code DRONEGIRL1 at checkout will get $50 off any Drone Dojo Drone or Rover Kits.
If you’re trying to buy a used drone…
Buying used drones is a bit of a tricky proposition, as is buying any used electronics. If it works, then it works great — you gave an unwanted tech product new life, you gave money to another individual rather than a big corporation, and you likely got a great deal.
Of course, the risk is that the product won’t work, and customer service can be a toss-up, especially if you bought it directly through the seller, such as via a Craigslist ad.
For buying used drones, I tend to recommend either Mercari or eBay. Others include Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, though I don’t think the protections or vetting they offer is as solid.
You might also look to drone-specific resellers like DroneTrader.
The bottom line: Amazon can be great, but it’s not the only website for online drone shopping
Amazon can be easy and convenient. I’ll be candid, I’m even an Amazon affiliate, so if you shop through my link, Amazon pays me a cut. I’m grateful for that, as it keeps my site alive and allows me to share drone news, product reviews and tips with you.
But the reality is, many people are seeking ways to support businesses that are not Amazon — and you can do that with your drone purchases too. Consider shopping directly from the manufacturer, or from smaller mom-and-pop electronics shops.
And if you do shop on Amazon, I wouldn’t mind if you shopped through my link. When you do, you support The Drone Girl, too.