If the cosmetic condition of a machine is important to you here are a couple of points to consider in your choice of machine type. Many modern arcade pinballs have broken plastics resulting from repeated ball impacts that are not often found on the older electro-mechanical games. This is partly due to the slower nature of the play on these machines and partly because the designers allowed for ball impacts and had plastics that could lift off their support posts when hit, as opposed to the tightly torqued down plastics found in modern games. Conversely, the condition of the cabinet on an older game is unlikely to be as good as that of a well looked after modern machine.
Generally speaking, there are four levels of restoration likely to be encountered in buying a pinball machine.

The highest level of restoration and nowadays very difficult to find. Machine should be in an  "as new"  condition and fully working. Components used should all be manufacturer's original parts, the cabinet should not show signs of touch up or fading, playfield in an unmarked condition with no broken plastics and internal components such as circuit boards should not show signs of major remedial work.  Games sold in this condition rightly command the highest prices.

The next level down from restored and a more realistic aim for both supplier and purchaser, both in terms of price and end product meeting expectations. The playfield and cabinet should both be in very good cosmetic condition and the game should be fully working. Components need not be from the original manufacturer but they should be of a good quality and to the original specification. A full overhaul of the machine should have been carried out prior to sale.

This is the level at which most machines are sold by private sellers and also the level at which dealers may dispose of unwanted stock. If a machine is offered for sale by a dealer and it is not stated that the machine is being sold either as restored or reconditioned you should assume that it is not in a better condition than "as is", sometimes referred to as "site ready". It is probable that the new owner will have to carry out repair work to machines sold at this level, if not immediately, then within a short time of purchase.

For the private buyer who does not already own a machine this is an unrealistic level at which to buy a machine. If you have gone to buy a machine and found it to be non-working when the seller told you it was working, walk away! Getting this type of machine repaired is likely to be expensive and time consuming. It may even not be repairable, usually because the required part cannot be sourced.
There are three classes of pinball machine; electro-mechanical, electronic and advanced electronic. Our guide to MACHINE  TYPES  details the differences and suggests advantages and disadvantages of the different types. Some websites and entries into discussion groups may suggest that reliability will be an issue with the older types of pinball machine. As long as the machine has been properly reconditioned prior to sale reliability should not be an issue. Fairly obviously, you cannot expect to take a machine that has been in storage for the past ten or more years, plug it in and get a rewarding game. Although there are common factors between working on machines from different eras, working on electro-mechanical games requires skills that are no longer encountered in other areas of work simply due to the advances in technology since these games were originally designed. We have been successfully repairing and reconditioning these machines for the past twenty years. 
Buying a pinball machine can be a costly business so how long should you expect your new purchase to last?  In home use, a machine takes far less of a battering both in terms of regular game play and general wear and tear than would be encountered in a commercial arcade type environment. We have many machines that have been working successfully without the need for repair in customers houses for periods in excess of five years. 
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