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Tips for Purchasing Pre-Owned Laboratory Equipment at Auctions

The search for good deals on used laboratory equipment often leads scientists to auctions

Erica Tennenhouse, PhD

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

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Today, most of the auctions for used laboratory equipment take place online. As Roger Gallo, CEO and president of EquipNet (Canton, MA) explains, these are timed events without an auctioneer. The buyer is able to place bids on any listing at any given time during the auction, which typically lasts between eight and 24 hours. Although live on-site auctions do still occur, he notes that they are waning in popularity.

The attendees of these auctions typically have at least one thing in common: they’re looking for value. According to Octavio Espinosa, senior director of sales, marketing, and operations at BioSurplus (San Diego, CA), there are “really, really good deals” to be had at auctions. “The other benefit is that auctions can be great places to source parts,” he adds.

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The supply of equipment at EquipNet’s auctions comes directly from end-user companies, which often have maintenance records and a documented history of what the instrument had been used for, along with a service log history, says Gallo. BioSurplus runs two types of auctions, says Reid Hjalmarson, the company’s director of marketing. There are clearance auctions of their own inventory, where customers can find deals on both functional equipment and pieces explicitly advertised as “for parts,” and then there are liquidation auctions of functional labs. “That’s where customers really get incredible deals on really high-quality equipment that they know that is coming out of a professional working lab,” he says.

Related Article: How to Ensure Compatibility When Buying Pre-Owned

To get the best deals at an auction, the experts offer a few tips. “Know the market,” says Gallo, who recommends that attendees check out the posted ask prices on EquipNet’s negotiated sales platform, MarketPlace, and contact their equipment experts to learn more about items ahead of time. “The more educated the buyer is, the more savvy of a bidder he or she becomes.”

Along with looking through the catalogs in advance of BioSurplus’ auctions, Espinosa advises attendees to ask a lot of questions. “We have a very responsive team,” he says.

“We’ll be on chat, we’ll field calls, we’ll respond to emails, and we’ll entertain visits or line up special visits so that people can see items.” Hjalmarson adds that BioSurplus provides watch lists, which enable participants to monitor bidding activity throughout the course of the auction.

The entire process begins, however, with finding an auction. As Espinosa points out, the life-sciences community has a number of options when it comes to auction houses. “I would say consider what each auction program offers in terms of the quality of equipment that’s offered, as well as how customer-centric a given program is.”

“There are many good auctioneers out there; there are others who are less reputable,” Gallo notes. To make sure they are selecting a reputable auction, individuals are well advised to become familiar with the company’s terms and conditions, assess the quality of the listings in the catalog, and find out how many auction events the auction house holds each week or month.