Erica Tennenhouse, PhD
Purchasing used equipment can be a great cost saver for labs that are strapped for cash. However, as with new equipment, it is important that sellers of used equipment stand behind their products. “Simply put, customers are looking for some kind of assurance that the system will work and that the seller provides support for the product in the event of a malfunction,” says Rich Tula, lead product specialist at Biodirect (Taunton, MA).
A variety of options for warranties are available, depending on which vendor you buy from. For example, GenTech Scientific (Arcade, NY) offers one-year warranties on its equipment as well as extended two-year warranties, says CEO Clair Bragg. International Equipment Trading Ltd. (Mundelein, IL) also offers a standard one-year warranty on its equipment, but customers may request a shorter warranty for a lower price, according to Ceylan Bilgin, VP of marketing. Additionally, Biodirect offers a full original equipment manufacturer (OEM) warranty, says Tula.
Whether a warranty is required depends on the type of equipment you’re purchasing and who you ask. “For something like a higher-end instrument, I would generally recommend that [customers] have the warranty,” says Bilgin. “If it’s something basic, like a water bath, let’s say, then it’s maybe not as critical, but for something like a mass spectrometer that requires maintenance, I would recommend a warranty.”
Tula, on the other hand, always recommends a warranty. “It eliminates any gray areas, sets expectations, and establishes the chain of responsibility,” he says.
In addition to warranties, many vendors offer service contracts that come with their own set of benefits. “It’s hard to void a service contract,” Bragg explains, “but by moving the instrument or putting options on it or changing the location of the instrument, that may void the warranty. With a service contract, they would call us to do those things for them.”
As with warranties, when it comes to service contracts, numerous options are available. The service contracts offered by International Equipment Trading range from around $10,000 to $50,000. “It depends on how quickly you want onsite service, how many onsite visits you want included, and how much preventive maintenance you want,” explains Bilgin. The price of a service contract may also differ depending on the customer’s location, as labs in very remote places can be difficult for service providers to reach. Tula recommends service contracts for mission-critical systems and break/ fix time and material coverage for those items that serve a support role. “I would also recommend inspect-and-replace PM [preventive maintenance] inspections for non-mission-critical systems versus the more expensive full OEM-style PM services,” he adds.
According to Bragg, customers opting for service contracts are typically running production labs. “Production labs go for service contracts because they need to be producing samples every single day,” she says, “so they want to buy the insurance.” University labs, on the other hand, rarely have the budget for a service contract.