It’s finally time to purchase that drone you’ve been wanting, but how do you decide exactly which online drone supply stores are worthy of your trust? You’ve heard the horror stories of personal privacy hacks, infectious malware, and just plain bad business being conducted by a few disreputable companies. How do you avoid becoming an unlucky statistic in the vast world of online retail? Here are a few tips to help you navigate for safe, reputable sites in the online community.

Product Reviews

Begin by searching for product reviews of the drone model you want. The use of relevant keywords such as “drone reviews” will aid enormously in your search. Your goal is to read several reviews on multiple sites and compare them to one another. Keep an open mind while reading these reviews as the person who wrote the review is probably going to be biased in favor of his or her own opinion in addition to evaluating the product specs and performance. Personal opinions can run the gamut from one extreme to another which is why you want to compare multiple reviews of the same product. Check the credentials, if available, of the reviewer. If they are professionals or serious hobbyists their reviews are more likely to be objective and honest.

Most people are inclined to just buy the product with the most reviews, good or bad, because they want the popular choice that everyone else has. Don’t be fooled by the tactic that some use of posting fake reviews. These may be written by company employees (as directed by senior management). They can be outside gig workers, folks being paid by the company to post good reviews regardless of whether they have used the product. Some negative reviews may be inaccurate because they are someone with a grudge against a particular product or company. They flood a site with either overwhelmingly positive or negative reviews in an attempt to manipulate sales. Maintain a sense of healthy skepticism and use your common sense when reading reviews, because an obvious error written by somebody who has never flown a drone is a dead giveaway. To counteract this unscrupulous practice of using fake reviews trustworthy retailers will state if the review is from a verified purchaser and often include a month and year of purchase.

Try watching video product reviews on YouTube. Here you can actually observe somebody else’s personal experience with the drone you have your eyes on. Watch reviews from several different people and compare their experiences. You’ve done your research into specs and performance so here you can see them put to the test. Oftentimes, video reviewers will tell you where they purchased their drone. Assuming it was an actual business and not auctioned off on eBay your next step is to check out those websites.

Check Credentials

Retailers and dealers doing business over the internet should take reasonable precautions to prevent security breaches not only to protect you, the customer, but also themselves. With online security being a topic of concern more and more retailers and dealers are opting to digitally secure their sites to prevent hacking and the transfer of malware. This involves the retailer or dealer purchasing an SSL digital certificate from a credible online website security provider.

You can verify whether a site is secured with SSL by checking the URL bar. Look to the left of the address in the URL bar for the appearance of a lock icon. Secure website URLs appearing in the URL bar will also usually begin with “https” rather than “http.” If you do not see a lock icon once your browser has established a connection with the site, proceed with caution. When searching with Google, sites listed that have been verified as safe by actual users will have a little green shield with a check mark just above their listing on the results page. If the shield is gray with a question mark inside no user security reviews have been submitted. Thus, they have not been marked as “safe” by Google and it is best to proceed with caution. They might be perfectly legitimate, but they could also not be.

More Trustworthy Resources

Obviously, the drone manufacturer wants to sell their product. However, a manufacturer’s website can be an excellent resource for reputable dealers and other retail outlets. Usually, the manufacturer is not willing to risk their reputation doing business with an untrustworthy dealer or retail site. Many manufacturers’ websites include a separate menu item suggesting where to buy. You may even be able to buy directly from the manufacturer and possibly get a credible lower price. It is still very important, however, to check the digital credentials of a manufacturer’s website by looking to see if it is SSL-encrypted.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool and helps drive an enormous amount of traffic to a particular site. Do you have friends, colleagues, or know anyone else who is a fellow drone flyer? Ask them for their recommendations as to where to go to purchase a drone online. Ask if they had any problems with the transaction or if they had to contact customer service and were treated well. Not only should you be reading product reviews you should also check into reviews of online retailers by looking at their profile for any customer complaints on the Better Business Bureau Online Retailers website because reputation is everything.

In the end, the best way to determine if a site is reputable is to do your homework. Your most reliable screening tool is your own knowledge and common sense. Remember the old adage, “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”? The most trustworthy drone supply store is not necessarily going to be the one with the cheapest price. Chances are that’s the hook they are using to draw you in. After completing your research, weigh the pros and cons and go with the store you yourself have determined is the most trustworthy with the evidence you have gathered. It will be more than likely you will have made the right choice.

Here’s another article you might find helpful: DJI Drones: Mavic vs. Phantom 4