Before you pull the trigger on buying those concert or game tickets, ask yourself: Is this the best I can do?
The rise of online ticket brokers such as StubHub has expanded options for consumers looking to attend concerts, shows and sporting events. The drawback is that there's also more confusion.
It used to be that the resale market was primarily for those willing to pay a big markup for sold-out events. But that's changing as competition drives down prices and buyers get savvier about sniffing out deals.
In many cases, your best bet is probably still buying directly from the event producer. But there are times when striking out on your own could pay off.
Here's what you need to know.
Let's start with what's called the primary market.
Ticketing giants such as Ticketmaster work directly with artists and venues to sell seats. You'll be charged a service fee that varies depending on the event.
The resale market is where companies such as StubHub step in. Ticket resellers use these sites to find buyers. The sites charge buyers a service fee, sometimes as high as 20 percent of the sale price.
So how do tickets appear on the resale market?
They're generally from smaller ticket brokers that want to list inventories online or from consumers who have tickets to an event they can't attend. Many sites also buy and sell tickets directly, much like brokers. The sites don't violate anti-scalping laws because they're not selling tickets at the event.
To give wary buyers assurance that they're not buying counterfeit tickets, big sites generally have strong guarantee policies. StubHub, for example, promises that buyers won't be charged until a seller confirms the order and that tickets will be delivered in time for the event. Money is refunded for any canceled event.
Another site, TicketNetwork.com, guarantees buyers a 125 percent refund if a purchased ticket turns out to be a dud.
Terms will vary from site to site so be sure to check them carefully.
When to Go to Rogue
The resale market is primarily for finding hard-to-come-by tickets, often at a higher cost. Still, it can also be a place to find bargains, especially for pricier seats.
About 40 percent of tickets on the resale market sell for face value or less, according to the research company Forrester.
Your odds of scoring such a deal depend on multiple factors. Naturally, your chances will diminish for a highly anticipated game. But for a Wednesday afternoon game, you might find a deal on coveted, high-end seats you otherwise couldn't afford. This is particularly true for baseball, where season ticket holders often don't want to attend all 81 home games.
Keep in mind that there can be great variance in prices and availability. Check a couple different resale sites before making a decision and don't forget to factor in service charges when comparing prices.
StubHub is the biggest player in the market by far and charges a 10 percent service fee. Other players include RazorGator.com, TicketLiquidator.com and TicketNetwork.com.
Flexibility Can Pay
The longer you can wait to buy your tickets, the better your chances of finding a deal. That's because sellers don't want to eat their tickets.
Your selection will be a lot more limited, however, so this is good strategy if you're just looking for one or two tickets.
Keep in mind that you might not always know exactly where your seat will be when buying from a resale site. For example, a listing might give you the section and row, but not the seat number.
If you're willing to play the waiting game, leave enough time for delivery if tickets aren't downloadable. StubHub generally requires two days for delivery unless you live in a city where the company has a location.
Remember that your savings can be offset by higher delivery costs. At StubHub, it's $11.95 for two-day FedEx costs and $19.95 for priority overnight.
Discounts & Perks
Before you place any orders, click around or call the site's customer service to see if there are any promotions.
TicketNetwork, for example, gives $20 off the next purchase if you spend over $250 on any order. And now through July 3, shoppers get 15 percent off all golf tickets.
Your decision on whether to buy might also be swayed by perks. At the major events like the SuperBowl, for example, StubHub sets up hospitality tents with free drinks and food for customers.
Still More Options
There are of course other ways to get tickets, but the safeguards and selection can be spottier depending on the path you choose.
One way to trim service fees is to find the brokers who list on resale sites. Just be sure to check their rating with the Better Business Bureau if you're not familiar with the company.
You may also feel you have good enough judgment to weed out any scams on sites like Craigslist. But it should be noted that just this week, a California man was arraigned on larceny charges after police accused him of selling fake tickets to the NBA finals.
On eBay, which owns StubHub, you can at least view the seller's ratings. Whichever path you decide on, remember that paying with a credit card can give you some protections in case anything goes wrong.