There haven't been new VCRs available for years, and ones worth buying were last sold in 2000. If you want a good, reliable VCR that will last a long time, you need to shop second-hand on Craigs List or eBay.
There are two classes of used VCR: plain and fancy. The fancy ones go for ridiculous prices and aren't reliable. The plain ones are fine for day-to-day use and rock-reliable. To make it very easy on yourself, look for a standard Panasonic 4-head HiFi vcr made between 1996 and 2000. Gazillions of these were sold, many are still mint condition, they're durable, and replacement remote controls are plentiful and cheap. A good used Panasonic VCR typically sells for under $40. Just be sure to check the back panel label for the date of mfr, the best ones were late '90s. Here are some sample models to look for:
There’s an eBay seller from Texas that in the last couple years sold a few hundred HR-S5902U JVC SVHS VCRs. I can vouch for the HR-SxxxU models as I have a couple. I can’t vouch for the eBay seller, as I never bought off him.
But hey here is feedback from 26 march 2012 to 26 April 2012 just for the HR-S5902U JVC VCR.
For current feedback search eBay for a HR-S5902U and look for a seller from Texas. As I said he has been selling these since early 2012 and he still IS selling them today so his feedback should be positive and current just like from 2012. He used to sell ‘em for $15 and up a pop but since his feedback is so good with the decks he upped the price to $24, still a great deal for a wonderful deck. But hey don’t take my word – look at the feedback for these wonderful decks
Here is just today’s feedback page
Notice he took a best offer price.
Also look for any JVC HR-SxxxxU
I’m telling you I have a couple of these. Mine are very well used and they work perfect…
Hey don’t just take my word -with 100s of positive feedback for a 10+ year old deck – it must be a pretty good deck. Stats don’t lie…
I’m not associated with the Texan, just passing along a good deal.
Unless you're giving it as a gift to your mother, who flatly refuses to allow anything second-hand in her home, there is no advantage to buying new (and many disadvantages: #1 being new DVD/VCR combos have absolute garbage VCRs). As DigaDo, says, there are no new current VCRs for sale other than random DVD/VCR combos you occasionally see at shady discount stores.
You can get much MUCH higher-quality VCRs second-hand. These "used" VCRs originally sold for double the price of current disposable DVD/VCR combos, and were made by big name brands as opposed to private-label whatziz brands. As I posted earlier, any Panasonic with a date stamp on its back panel between 1996 and 2000 would be sturdy and reliable long term. I would also recommend the two JVC models suggested by Super Eye: but ONLY those two model series. The 39xx and 59xx have a proven track record, other models of JVC can be risky unless you have familiarity with JVC's endless variety of VCR chassis (many tend to be tape eaters, beware of JVCs sold for $5 at thrift shops).
Ask around with family, friends and co-workers: nearly everyone owned two or three VCRs back in the day. A lot of people still have a perfectly good spare bedroom VCR collecting dust, or in a closet. They might be happy to give it to you free just to get rid of it.
Any JVC HR-SxxxxU model should be fine. The higher the first number, the higher-end the JVC model. For example a HR-S3901U has a couple more features than a HR-S2913U but an HR-S5901U will have more features than an HR-S3911U. All the above decks share the same chassis. The third number just means the color of unit. O is black 1 is silver.. For example HR-S5912U is silver and HR-S5902U is black. Again same chassis, same everything, different color between a third number 0 and third number 1.
The “7” and “9” models are the very high-end models example HR-S7600U. Chances are you won’t find a lightly used “7” or “9” for a good deal as those high-end models were very thought after and many folks even today will be willing to pay a high price for one. A low priced used “7” or “9” may be used to death. Unless you are very experienced I’d stay away from the high-end sevens and nines but again, anything from HR-S2xxxU to HR-S5xxU should be fine.
In my opinion you’re taking just as big of a risk buying a $5 Panasonic out of a thrift shop as the Panasonic may indeed be a tape eater. That goes for any make VCR. It is best to look at “actual buyers” on eBay feedback. Thing is people on here or on any site including sites like Amazon, anyone can post anything without making an actual purchase, that includes me of course. But a site like “eBay Feedback – one has to actually purchase the product to give feedback. JVC VCRs have a very, very high number of positive feedback on sites that actually make you purchase before giving feedback – something to consider.
If you can get a free VCR from a friend or relative, that of course is your best bet.
eBay is a PITA for the person seeking a VCR for casual use. Unless you have a particular need for a specific model of a specific brand, or you live in the middle of nowhere, Craigs List is usually better: listings are local, you can have the seller demo the VCR before you buy, and local pickup is free (eBay shipping often costs as much or more than the VCR itself, and shipping these is never a great idea).
eBay is a useful source if you treat it as a tool and don't fall prey to misconceptions. eBay is not the hellhole of danger many paint it to be, but evaluating sellers is not as simplistic as "look for good feedback" either. Good feedback tells you a few superficial things only: that the seller ships on time, packages safely, and their items visibly match their descriptions. Beyond that, all bets are off: don't assume for one second that just because John Doe has a 100% raving positive feedback for being a seller who specializes in Widgets sold by Acme Electronics that you can't lose with John Doe. You absolutely CAN lose, because 90% of feedback is left within days of receiving the item.
Positive feedback is more informative for a static object like a collectible doll, a car side mirror, or cellphone battery. But a complex device like a VCR can take a few weeks to reveal its true condition. And you'd be surprised how many people will buy an expensive VCR or stereo component or camera on eBay, leave positive feedback because it looks clean when they open the box, then shove the unit in their basement until they get around to actually testing it three months later. If it proves dysfunctional, the buyer can't post revised feedback, and you'll never hear about it. Even if you could, that doesn't mean the seller was a crook: it means second-hand VCRs can be a roll of the dice. Many work perfectly, some don't, some get hidden damage from shipping.
Over the years, those of us who've owned assorted VCRs ourselves and followed the repair histories of others, discover which brands and models have better odds. If you play these better odds, your chances of successfully buying a used VCR improve greatly. All brands have lemon models and lemon years. It varies. That is why I suggested a specific range of Panasonics which have a better-than-average track record. Panasonics older than 1995 were excellent but had some significant design issues that tend not to age well. Panasonics made after 2000 are flimsy crap. If you know what you are looking at, any Panasonic can be a gem, but if you have no clue and just want a good cheap Panasonic buy a 1996-2000 model. (The legendary top-line Panasonic AG-1980 SVHS is for masochists only, just like its top-line JVC SVHS cousins: IOW if you don't know why you'd want one, you really shouldn't bother- the breakdown rate is incredible. Original retail price and status mean nothing: with all brands, the top models are frequently more trouble-prone than "lower" models.)
Same with JVC: they made a boatload of VCRs, certain eras and model ranges have a better track record. The JVC 39xx and 59xx have the least troublesome transports JVC ever sold, aside from the very expensive DVHS series. The 4xxx, 7xxx, and 9xxx JVCs once had a rabid following, meaning they've been beaten into the ground by former owners and you should avoid them.
Mitsubishi made superb VCRs with a stunningly bad loading design that was not corrected until 1999. So a "lowly" plain-jane bottom of the line HS-U448 from 1999 is LEAGUES more reliable than the HS-U780 top-line thousand-dollar SVHS Mitsu from 1997.
Sony VHS vcrs are a lost cause: excellent machines when new, but they aged badly, and the sheer number/variety of models can be a big problem if you don't know the "gotchas" to choose correctly. Repairs are difficult due to parts shortages.
Sharp made a lot of nice midrange VCRs, but they're hard to find now in good condition. Ditto Toshiba. Everything else is a complete crapshoot: don't mess with Hitachi, RCA, Goldstar, Samsung, Sylvania, Magnavox, Daewoo, etc unless you get them free from a friend/relative.
Anyone without a specific need for a particular brand or model should just stick to the known-good basic VCRs: a midrange Panasonic or JVC circa 1996-2000. You are far more likely to get a good unit than a lemon: these aren't known for any hidden defects or age-related dysfunction. Easily found for under $40, typically $20 or so on Craigs List. Thrift shops sometimes have nice clean VCRs, but just as often they have problems. If you don't know what tell-tale signs to look for, don't buy a VCR you can't test beforehand, or make sure you get an ironclad written return policy.
A forum community dedicated to home theater owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about home audio/video, TVs, projectors, screens, receivers, speakers, projects, DIY’s, product reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!