Erica Tennenhouse, PhD
Once the decision has been made to purchase a piece of used laboratory equipment, customers are faced with several options for procurement, including auctions, buyers/resellers, refurbishment, and brokerage. The benefits of each channel largely depend on the unique needs of the buyer.
“The advantage for somebody attending an auction is that those items usually sell to the highest bidders . . . and so there are bargains to be had,” says Roger Gallo, CEO and president of EquipNet (Canton, MA).
Prior to the auction, customers typically have an opportunity to inspect the equipment—at the very least, one can expect a walkthrough of the facility to see what they will be bidding on. But, as Gallo notes, auctions are time-sensitive: “You have to be available to put in your bid on that day, at that moment, in order to win.”
For some labs, an auction is not compatible with their purchasing practices. For example, often a buyer needs to know the price of the purchase ahead of time, in order to get approval. Purchasers should also be aware that warranties usually do not accompany equipment sold at auction.
For those looking for a simpler, more orderly process, there are many reputable buyers/resellers that offer less time pressure than an auction, giving the customer a better chance to gather further information about an item prior to purchase. These companies take ownership of pre-owned equipment prior to reselling it, and will often provide a warranty and servicing.
Jayson Bernstein, president of American Laboratory Trading (ALT; East Lyme, CT)—a company that specializes in selling refurbished equipment—believes refurbished instruments can give peace of mind to customers who lack the internal resources to handle the maintenance of a piece of equipment that they may have acquired through another channel. “We provide an end-to-end solution—a product is tested and refurbished at our facility, it’s packed up carefully, and it’s sent out to the customer with a warranty,” he says.
Additionally, one can go through a broker that maintains the exclusive right to sell equipment on another’s behalf. “It’s a process where somebody is willing to sell an item and we find buyers wanting to buy it, and we allow questions to be asked and further information to be exchanged,” says Gallo of EquipNet’s brokerage channel for sourcing equipment.
ALT also facilitates consignment, but only on hand-selected, high-end instruments that are known to have long sales cycles.
“We’ll put that item on the market for [the seller] while they continue to use it with an end date on it that says when it will be available,” says Bernstein. The company will still service the instrument and provide a warranty, but it comes directly from a customer location as opposed to an instrument that was refurbished at ALT’s facility.
For customers, Bernstein notes, it is rarely a question of whether to buy used versus new. That’s because there is so little overlap between the markets—“New is not something that [our customers] are strongly considering; the costs are just too exorbitant.” Rather, with so many options available, which procurement channel to use presents a more relevant question for those looking to buy pre-owned.