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Tips for Selling Used Laboratory Equipment

Changing your research focus? Consider selling equipment to recover costs and save space

Michelle Dotzert, PhD

Michelle Dotzert is the creative services manager for Lab Manager. She holds a PhD in Kinesiology (specializing in exercise biochemistry) from the University of Western Ontario. Her research examined the...

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Changes in research focus and methodology are inevitable. Often, it is necessary to acquire new instruments to assess different parameters and explore new research questions. Selling equipment no longer in use can generate some extra money for the lab and free up valuable work space. When selling used laboratory equipment, it is important to consider which instruments are in high demand, as well as determine whether a particular instrument is suitable for sale.

Technology is rapidly changing and improving, rendering some instruments obsolete in a matter of a few years. There are however, numerous instruments that stand the test of time, operating efficiently and producing reliable data for years. Richard Tula is lead product specialist at Biodirect (Taunton, MA), a certified pre-owned laboratory equipment provider. In his interaction with clients, he has developed a sense of what used equipment is in high demand and likely to sell. “Most of the purchases or selling requests are for general laboratory equipment like hoods, centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and thermal cyclers,” says Tula. “General lab equipment is less volatile and does not suffer as much from the technology obsolescence you may find in mass spectrometers and DNA sequencers,” he explains.

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In general, if the technology and operating principles have not changed significantly, the instrument should retain a good portion of its original value. Another important consideration is whether the instrument is highly specialized. Tula provides an example: “Centrifuges and hoods are used in 80 percent of labs and have a higher demand, and mass spec and DNA sequencers are used in 10 percent of labs.”

Related Article: Considerations for Transporting Used Lab Equipment

Some instruments are not suitable for resale. Equipment that has regulatory restrictions or potentially contains radioactive materials should not be resold. Lesser known impediments to resale include systems that are under lease and those with export restrictions. “Sometimes systems are unwittingly sold without having proper ownership. Also, some instruments have export restrictions and may not be sold to countries restricted by the US Department of Commerce or by the US State Department,” explains Tula.

A few key points may be used to evaluate whether an instrument is suitable for resale: “1) age, 2) functionality, 3) suitability for a specific purpose/application, 4) included options, 5) original price, 6) vendor support, 7) currently under service coverage, and 8) if a PC and software is included, is the software licensed?” Tula also notes that sellers should consider the costs of “de-installation, decontamination, rigging, removal, and packaging.”

There are also different approaches to selling used equipment, including direct sale to other labs, working with a used equipment broker, or trading in an instrument no longer in use for something else. A direct sale often generates the greatest return, but may be more difficult and time consuming than working with a broker. “If you are willing to consider trading your no-longer-needed equipment for something you need, you may be able to increase your return substantially,” says Tula.

Selling used laboratory equipment is beneficial for the environment, recovers some of the initial investment, and frees up valuable laboratory space. Taking time to evaluate the condition, components, vendor support, service coverage, and demand for an instrument can ensure you get the most out of a sale.