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Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

There are still many questions to be asked and research to do when considering buying pre-owned equipment.

by Ryan Ackerman
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Doing the Proper Research can Alleviate the Stress of Buying Pre-Owned Equipment

The process of outfitting a laboratory with equipment can be a daunting and expensive task. It’s no wonder that over the past few years more and more laboratories—whether a small research laboratory or full-scale production facility—have begun to realize the benefits of purchasing pre-owned equipment. When the decision to do so can enable a researcher to save upward of 70 percent on their costs for name-brand equipment, it’s easy to see why this trend is becoming so popular. That being said, there are still many questions to be asked and research to do when considering buying pre-owned equipment.

Navigating the landscape of pre-owned lab equipment can be intimidating, but doing proper research into the supplier one has decided to purchase from will help ease this stress. A sound warranty, proper documentation, and a shipping guarantee are enough to put most minds at ease.

One of the most important considerations in the purchasing process is proof that the equipment still meets the manufacturer’s specifications. Many preowned suppliers will sell equipment that is “refurbished” or “reconditioned.” This indicates that the supplier has repaired or replaced any faulty components in order to bring it back up to the manufacturer’s specifications, and will be able to provide proof thereof.

On the other hand, equipment advertised as being in “as-is” condition may not have received the same treatment. While it will likely carry a more attractive price tag, the risk associated with purchasing as-is equipment is far greater. The condition of the equipment could be unknown and a solid warranty may be unavailable, not to mention that the equipment may be faulty to begin with.

“That’s something else to look for in a company when you are doing research. Is the company just selling equipment, or do they have staff to be able to service it, install it, warranty it, help with tech support, and help with questions,” says Tracie Brombos of GenTech Scientific (Arcade, NY). “If you’re buying on eBay, you don’t really know who that company is.”

No two labs are the same, and the sample type can vary enormously as a result. If you are planning on purchasing an ICP-MS for trace analysis with silver as an analyte of interest, it would be helpful to know whether the instrument was previously used in a lab that was analyzing impurities in silver samples. Alternatively, an instrument could have come from a laboratory that works with radioactive materials, biological samples, or other pathogens. While all laboratories follow stringent protocols on how lab equipment must be decontaminated or decommissioned prior to removal, having proof of this from the supplier can help ease any worry.

When purchasing pre-owned lab equipment, taking the proper steps in advance can help prevent the risk of running into unforeseen downtime or monetary costs. By choosing a reputable supplier and performing some research beforehand, purchasing equipment that is reliable, robust, and fit for the purpose of the laboratory can be a seamless and enjoyable experience.