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Does it make sense to buy NFL tickets on the secondary market?

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2008 NFL Thursday Kickoff GameMy husband grew up near Albany, New York, so he’s a big fan of the New York Giants.

He’s never been to a game, though. Right now, it’s difficult for us to attend a game because we live 2,000 miles away. But even if we were once again living in New York, we would be hard-pressed to get to a game, mostly because it would be so expensive.

According to the 2013 NFL Fan Cost Index, released by Team Marketing, the average cost of buying an NFL ticket rose by 3 percent, to $82. However, tickets to see my husband’s beloved (though currently cringe-inducing) Giants start at $112. As I write this, though, a somewhat mediocre seat bought through “official” channels costs $145. By the time my husband and I buy tickets, pay for parking, and pay for food and drink, we’re talking close to $350 on game day — even if the Fan Cost Index says a two-person jaunt would cost, on average, $264.

So, what can you do to reduce the cost? Some fans turn to the secondary ticket market.

Buying NFL seats on the secondary ticket market

Web sites like StubHub (our choice when getting professional sports tickets), FlashSeats and SeatGeek offer you the chance to get seats for events that are sold out, or find better seats for less.

How much less, though, depends on how much demand there is among fans for tickets. In the case of the Giants, I was able to find better seats than what was available “officially” for $101. I’m assuming that the fact the Giants’ poor performance this season is helping to keep prices down.

Compare that to a similarly situated ticket to a Dallas Cowboys game, which costs $238.50 on StubHub, while the average ticket price listed by the Index is $110 and buying through “official” channels the seats would cost $179. But those comparable seats are sold out. So there is no choice but to pay the higher rate.

It’s true that it’s possible to find nosebleed tickets for just about any NFL game on the secondary market for less than $40 apiece. That can be a big money saver for families, since the cheapest tickets available for any NFL game are offered by the Cleveland Browns, at an average of $54 according to the Fan Cost Index.

What you have to decide, before you go looking on the secondary market, is what you’re willing to pay to attend a live NFL game. If your team is playing poorly, you can probably get mediocre-to-good seats at a discount as season ticket holders decide it’s not worth going to the games. Of course, in that case, your game day experience is likely to be fraught with disappointment.

If you are willing to sit in the nosebleed section, buying tickets on the secondary market may offer some great deals. But you’ll probably be dependent on the Jumbotron for a lot of your viewing experience. If you want to sit reasonably close, the secondary market probably means that you will have to pay more — possibly a lot more, depending on demand.

Another option, and one we’ve considered in the past, is buying seats at a game held against a less popular team. There are a few football stadiums within a reasonable driving distance where the tickets are a little bit cheaper.

In the end, whether secondary market tickets make sense for you depends on the experience you want, as well as how well your favorite team is doing, and who the other team is.

What do you think? Have you ever bought NFL tickets on the secondary market? Was it worth it?

(Photo: Flickr user RMTip21)

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2 Responses to “Does it make sense to buy NFL tickets on the secondary market?”

  1. I’ve purchased tickets through both the secondary market and through the official channels. I by far prefer the secondary market, for the reasons you’ve noted. In addition, buying through the official channels often has some questionable business practices, as well. When I was living in San Diego a large group of fans (about 25-30) would want to buy a block of seats when the Steelers came to town. Each year we did this, the Chargers were having trouble selling out their stadium, so if popular teams came to town, they forced buyers to pay not only for the Steeler game, but to also buy a preseason game to be paired with it (doubling the cost for a game no one was going to fly out for a second time to see). But if we wanted 25 seats together, we had no other choice. So we ended up donating the tickets each year to the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. But had we been okay just sitting in different areas, we could have saved quite a bit by going through StubHub.

  2. Rhino says:

    I, too, have purchased tickets for NFL games through various channels. My experience is that the secondary market often inflates the value of tickets (at least those outside of the “nosebleed” sections, although those are sometimes inflated as well), even when the team isn’t that good. Usually I will scour all available avenues for a particular game before I make a decision on which way to purchase.


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