Should you buy a satellite receiver from a thrift store?

This question has three possible, and equally valid answers:

No, no, and no.

I’ll tell you something, I find a certain comfort in thrift stores, especially in their electronics sections. It’s something akin to visiting old friends or a school you once attended. There’s something about old typewriters, cassette players, and VCRs that just takes me back to a place where the world made sense. I’ve even been known to buy some old piece of junk just to salvage out a display or power supply.

A thrift store should be one of your first stops if you’re looking to build your supply of hand tools. When older relatives pass away, it’s common for their garages to go straight to charities, and you’ll find fantastic values. It’s also a great place to pick up the kind of cords you can’t find anymore. But it’s not, and let me say again it’s not a good place to find DIRECTV and DISH equipment.


There are basically three kinds of things you’ll find at thrift stores:

Broken stuff

A lot of people rely on thrift stores to do their electronic recycling. That’s not super fair since these store employees don’t have the skills to figure out if something works. So, they usually just put it on the shelf at a low price and people get what they get. So it’s fairly likely that whatever you get won’t work. I mean, why wouldn’t someone keep it as long as it works?

Obsolete stuff

While all high-definition DIRECTV equipment made since 2006 and all practically all DISH equipment is still compatible at some level, there have been a lot of changes over the years. Early HDTV-compatible equipment won’t work with today’s more advanced systems, and old equipment might not be compatible at all with the wiring technologies you’re using now.

Stuff that’s technically “stolen.”

Both DIRECTV and DISH have operated on a lease model for close to a decade. While there are loopholes and it’s possible that you could be looking at a receiver that’s been used for testing or employee use, it’s much, much more likely that the receivers at the thrift store should have been returned to the manufacturer instead of being donated. When you get that receiver home, you’ll find that you’ve wasted your money as DIRECTV or DISH won’t activate it. That’s not a problem if you’re looking at non-receiver stuff like remotes or dish parts, but that’s the stuff that’s likely to be broken.

Get what you need in the right place instead

Seems like the bottom line here is, just don’t go shopping for satellite parts at a thrift store. It’s a bad idea. Instead, take a look at the great selection of satellite receivers and accessories at It’s true, you won’t find a receiver for $10 like you will at a thrift store, but on the other hand you’ll be guaranteed to be able to activate it. All it takes is one call to our experts at 888-233-7563 and you’ll be set up quickly!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.