It is at this time of the year that people usually think about buying a tennis ball machine. Well why not!? Its just after Wimbledon and everyone is keen on tennis!
Buying a used ball machine is fine but only if you follow these steps:
- Don’t buy these!!
Not just this particular Lobster 401 but any of the old air matic machines, why? Well firstly you will be buying a 20/30 years old machine! Secondly, parts have long dried up so fixing it will be DIY only! I get a lot of calls about these machines, can you fix them? I’ve just bought one? I see them on ebay every day at £400-600 plus!!!?? WHAT! Look if you can see it working and its like £50-100 take a gamble if your not sure on a ball machine, but its not worth any more than that!
2) If you are buying from ebay or one of the other similar buying sites ideally you need to see any machine working and not just turned on, firing balls out at all the various settings/speeds etc. Most people sell as it has not been used and needs work, battery if you are lucky, a service (yes ball machines need regular servicing!) Other parts are not generally cheap, control panels even for the cheap machines will be over £150 a pop!
3) Generally speaking Tennis Tutor are pretty reliable and simple machines, Lobster more complicated and expensive but nice machine. Other machines like the Spinfire Pro 2 nice machine, needs servicing every year. Spinshot (green) machines are ok the newer machines seem to be well made and good value for money.
4) Think about the practicalities of buying a machine as they all have different ways of being moved, pull up or pull out handles, wheels, large and very small, weight from 10kg to 35 plus! Are you going to lift it out of the car? Walk it to the club?
5) Storage is also very important and will determine the life of your machine. Leave it in the shed and over winter the battery will die and things start living in it, mice eat the wires, damp kills the motors and it then needs a lot of money to get going again! Store in the garage or better still in the house somewhere.
6) Charging it up! This depends on which charger you have got, is it a standard one? a smart one? We tend to only sell the smart ones now as they are plug in and forget, after the machine has reached a full charge it trickle charges and does not burn out the battery cells over time. If you have a standard charger you must take the charger off once its charged or it will overcharge the battery shortening its life.
Which machines to buy?
From my experience the proper ball machines start with the Tutor Prolite, this is a light machine weighing 12kilos so easily put into the car and carried to the court. The Prolite has the basic functions, start stop delay, ball speeds up to 60mph, optional oscillation for left to right movement, one battery for 2 hours use. Simple to use, light to carry and good value at around £800 new or £599 for a good used one.
Next up is the Tutor model 2 the first of the real ball machines. It has many features except spin, but it holds two batteries giving you up to 3 hours use and its still light to use being 17kilos. Its a better built machine, more robust and having wheels and a pulling bar makes it easy to transport. New price £1200 my used price around £700 depending on condition.
Next up is the more versatile range of ball machines, these include Tutor Plus, Lobster Elite and Wilson ball machine, all these machines have spin, larger batteries for around 4 hours use, still portable, optional remote control, obviously heavier at around 25kilos so lifting it in and out of the car could be an issue. The Wilson machine being the lightest in this range at 22kilos. Prices range from £1200-£1450 new and a good used one I would sell for £950-£1150 depending on condition with our three month warrantee.High end gives you Lobster Venom, Tennis tower, these being club machines not very portable and mains only. Great with all day use and lots of features/drill programs and remote control to increase the fun in using these machines.
I have personally used Tennis Tutor for over 20 years as a tennis coach and they are very reliable and have great features, they are also reasonably priced for the features you get.
Here is a comparison chart to help you see the different models: