my advice to any first time buyer is:
- don't buy a pin you haven't personally played and inspected.
- be patient! it may take time for a nice machine that you like to come up for sale in your area, but it will happen. don't let yourself feel pressured into a bad deal just because you're afraid of missing out.
- learn what a credit dot is, and how to check the error if there is one. sometimes, it's no big deal at all, just a warning because a switch hasn't been triggered in a long time. but sometimes it's something more serious.
- open the backbox up and look for battery damage and hacked up boards.
- of course you also want to look for playfield wear, especially in areas around the flippers, pop bumpers, and high-traffic areas, and check for broken or missing ramps and plastics, but that's obvious.
- personally, i think pins tend to be in better shape when they come from pinball hobbyists rather than commercial retailers. just my opinion. (i know there are good retailers out there, and i understand the peace of mind some get from buying from a professional establishment.)
welcome to Pinside and good luck!!