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Common Misconceptions About Used Lab Equipment

While used equipment is not for everyone, certain misconceptions about preowned equipment persist and may deter those who would benefit most from it

Erica Tennenhouse, PhD

Erica Tennenhouse, PhD, is the managing editor of Clinical Lab Manager.

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Vendors Set the Record Straight

Purchasing preowned equipment can be a good cost-saving solution for labs that are tight on funds. However, those tasked with purchasing equipment sometimes express concern over buying anything other than brand new. While used equipment is not for everyone, certain misconceptions about preowned equipment persist and may deter those who would benefit most from it.

All vendors are not equal

Although used equipment vendors play in the same sphere as one another, they are not all the same, says Octavio Espinosa, senior director of sales, marketing, and operations at BioSurplus (San Diego, CA). “We have different offerings, we have different customer-centric approaches, and perhaps different quality.” Ceylan Bilgin, VP of marketing at International Equipment Trading (Mundelein, IL), adds that it is unfortunate when one negative experience deters a customer from ever buying preowned equipment again. James McCloskey, manager at American Instrument Exchange (Haverville, MA), would agree: “Some sellers might not be as familiar or well-versed in lab equipment as a company like ours, so the equipment may not be described properly or fully tested. An experience with a seller like that can contribute to a bad reputation for used lab equipment.”

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Quality is key

Potential customers often question the quality of preowned equipment, but for many vendors, quality is the top priority. “We focus on taking equipment out of working labs…we don’t like to acquire equipment that’s been sitting in storage or sitting unused,” says Reid Hjalmarson, director of marketing at BioSurplus. “We want to target our equipment supply from the best of the best.” American Instrument Exchange will provide pictures or videos of the equipment to customers prior to shipping it out, says McCloskey. “We also thoroughly test equipment to make sure it works to the manufacturer’s specifications. If customers have particular testing requirements, we’ll make sure these requirements are met during testing, and we can provide the test records to customers,” he says. At International Equipment Trading, Bilgin encourages potential customers to visit the facility to see the instruments in person. “We’ve had customers actually run the instrument at our facility,” she says.

Service contracts and warranties are available

Those in the market for preowned equipment need not worry about a lack of warranties or service options. “We have warranties up to two years available; it’s usually just an additional cost,” says Bilgin. International Equipment Trading also offers custom warranties, such as parts-only warranties and full warranties with service agreements. On the subject of service, Bilgin explains: “We do service our instruments, and we make sure when we’re getting an instrument that it actually is serviceable by the manufacturer.”

American Instrument Exchange offers a 90-day warranty on all their equipment, which is typically plenty of time to determine whether a piece of equipment is functioning properly, says McCloskey. He notes that there are times when manufacturers phase out support for certain pieces of equipment. “If we can’t source replacement parts to repair equipment, then we may not be able to sell that equipment,” he says. However, as he points out, some repairs don’t require OEM parts: “For example, we might be able to source a new compressor for a malfunctioning freezer from half a dozen different suppliers.”

At BioSurplus, customers are entitled to a 30-day money-back guarantee, and other options are also available. “We make sure that our customers have the support they need,” says Hjalmarson. For example, “If a customer wants to purchase a piece of analytical equipment under a one-year full-service contract with preventative maintenance and a guaranteed response time, we know which individuals to reach out to and will help foster a relationship between those two parties.” Espinosa thinks that end users sometimes view providers such as BioSurplus as providers of only whole, intact working systems. “In fact,” he says, “we are a good resource for parts, repair, and service.”