Every lab needs the right instruments, but not all have the luxury to buy new equipment. Frugality is an important tenet of managing a successful lab, and it's essential to straddle the line between cutting-edge technology and thriftiness. Fortunately, there is a solution that can offer the best of both worlds — used lab equipment. Buying or renting used allows labs to bring in or upgrade tools that may not have all the bells and whistles but are sufficient for getting the job done.
One problem is the number of misconceptions circulating about going this route. Since choosing used is such an effective way to save money, it behooves us to debunk these myths once and for all. In this article, we'll break down the realities of secondhand equipment and dispel the rumors that may prevent labs from saving money and acquiring equipment. Let's begin!
What Qualifies as Used Lab Equipment?
With lab equipment, some things are just non-negotiable. Whether new or used, these instruments must be up to performing intricate tasks. For this reason, there is still a standard for assessing the adequacy of a used item. Here's how we qualify used lab equipment at New Life Scientific.
- Tested: Qualified used lab equipment is tested, and this process involves more than just plugging something in or flipping a switch on and off. Proper equipment testing involves qualified technicians examining integral pieces to ensure everything is in top shape.
- Fully functional: Qualified used lab equipment is also fully functional when it arrives. It will require no repairs or initial maintenance and should operate at laboratory standards once it is set up or installed in the lab.
- Minor cosmetic blemishes: Qualified used lab equipment may have minor cosmetic blemishes. Because the equipment was used and handled elsewhere, scuffs, marks or fading just come with the territory. However, cosmetic blemishes should never impact functionality, nor should the equipment look like it was hauled out of a dumpster. Though marked, an instrument should still be neat, clean and presentable.
- Refurbished: Sometimes, used lab equipment is refurbished. Refurbishment happens when a technician services a product so that it's as good as new, both functionally and cosmetically. This equipment is the crème de la crème of used instruments, so it may come with a higher price tag. If you need an item that rivals a new product from the manufacturer and you can afford to spend a bit more, refurbished is the way to go.
To ensure these criteria are met, it's important to buy used equipment from reputable sources. If the price of secondhand equipment seems too good to be true, buyer beware. It probably is. At New Life Scientific, our goal is to be as transparent as possible and detail the condition and quality of our products to the most minute detail. We display professional photos and provide descriptions that reflect exactly what you’ll receive. Our prices reflect this attention to detail, and with our equipment, there's no guesswork!
Is Investing in Used Lab Equipment a Good Idea?
Buying used equipment may not seem like the ideal investment, even if it's more accessible financially. Fortunately, there is a multitude of benefits to purchasing used equipment. Here are some of the best reasons to opt for secondhand instruments.
The cost-effectiveness of buying used cannot be understated. Decreasing costs while still maintaining operational integrity is a big win for laboratories with financial restrictions. Affordable lab equipment can also allow you to buy more of what you need. Instead of putting all allocated funds toward one brand new item, you can make your budget go even further and add multiple lab upgrades by buying used.
Your selection of available instruments increases when you choose used equipment. Instead of a selection comprised of models from one manufacturer that were made in the last two to three years, used equipment distributors can offer various brands and model numbers. You're not relegated to outdated machinery, either. Many catalogs also feature products with modern enhancements and high-tech features.
Wait times from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can last for weeks. Manufacturing delays, especially when there are supply chain issues, can put your projects on hold for an indefinite amount of time. When working with a used lab equipment dealer like New Life Scientific, wait times are cut down considerably.
If a product is listed, it's already serviced and ready to be packaged and shipped upon purchase — no more wait lists or manufacturing delays. You can receive your newly purchased equipment quickly and start using it as soon as you need to.
Buying used is a low-risk investment when you purchase from a reputable or certified dealer. The secondhand industry is robust and, as we have covered, requires equipment to be on par with laboratory standards to be redistributed. This factor means that when you buy used, you get hardware that has been tested and optimized for reuse.
Many distributors will also back their products with warranties. For instance, New Life Scientific offers a 90-day warranty for most of our products, and we stick to it to the letter. If you submit a claim, we'll go above and beyond to ensure we remedy the issue.
When you drive a new car off the lot, its value depreciates as much as 20% by the end of the first year. New lab equipment isn't much different. Like used cars, used lab equipment is past the point of precipitous depreciation and will retain its value over several years of use. This matters because selling your lab's used equipment could help you cushion your budget to afford an upgrade. If your initial investment is for something new, however, you won't be able to make back what you initially spend.
As climate change looms large, many people are looking for sustainable products. Opting for used equipment is a great step toward a greener lab! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, manufacturing accounted for 23% of gas emissions in 2019. As laws governing emissions become stricter, manufacturers will need to adjust to new guidelines, which could impact production rates. Buying, renting or selling used lab equipment won't be affected by these changes, especially since it plays perfectly into the adage of environmental conscientiousness — reduce, reuse, recycle.
With this myriad of benefits, it's a wonder that more labs don't jump at the opportunity to acquire reasonably priced and functional used equipment. The reason is due to the many myths circulating about used lab equipment. Let's debunk those now.
Debunking Myths About Secondhand Lab Equipment
Buying used items comes up against many misconceptions. Though the concerns are reasonable, they are misattributed to purchasing secondhand. We debunked eight of the most common myths we hear about used lab equipment so that labs can start taking advantage of the benefits of acquiring used products. Explore the truth about used lab equipment below:
1. Used Lab Equipment Is Defective
The most common misconception circulating about used lab equipment is that it's defective in some way. Why else would a lab get rid of it unless it wasn't working well? There are actually quite a few reasons why a lab might sell their equipment instead of repairing or replacing it, and none of them have to do with effectiveness.
For instance, a lab could be downsizing or discontinuing a type of test or service. It may be moving locations and won't have enough space for all its current instruments, or it could also be liquidating its assets or receiving an upgrade.
Selling unwanted or unneeded equipment is a much better alternative to leaving it in a dumpster or letting it collect dust in storage. It's also a great way to acquire new assets, especially if the lab is changing its objectives and goals. Buying used products from a reputable source can also alleviate concerns about functionality by ensuring an instrument receives testing for full functionality — and sometimes gets refurbished. This means your product will be fully operational once you receive it.
2. Used Lab Equipment Has a Short Life Span
Used lab equipment may start out functional, but will it last? Yes! The idea that instruments will have short life spans after purchase is another prevalent myth that keeps lab managers from a catalog of affordable options. Some secondhand lab equipment is sold after barely being used, even if the model is many years old. Turning it away because it's been somewhere else is like rejecting a car with only 35,000 miles on it. There's still a lot of life left in the product.
Even if the product sees more use before its sale, that doesn't mean it's near quitting. Doing some research beforehand about the life expectancy of certain models can be beneficial. Some products will even come with a detailed maintenance report from the previous owner, or the dealer may outline the care and maintenance that was performed to get an item into top shape.
If an instrument was outfitted with new parts or resealed or has undergone any other adjustments, it will likely have many years of use left. Proper care and ongoing maintenance of the product can also ensure it lasts for the long haul.
3. Used Lab Equipment Is Out of Date
Another myth is that used equipment will offer fewer features or be unable to perform the latest tests. Fortunately, that's not usually the case. Many essential tests and functions that laboratories perform have only been refined or fine-tuned as opposed to drastically changed. This means newer models may be nearly identical to their older counterparts, with only slight tweaks or changes. Sometimes, they're practically indistinguishable from each other.
Therefore, secondhand equipment can come with all the right specifications while costing far less than opting for something new. Unless your lab is breaking into cutting-edge research or newly minted testing procedures requiring the latest technology, you can still perform all necessary tests with the same essential features more cost-efficiently.
4. Used Lab Equipment Does Not Come With Service, Support or Warranties
One reason labs may be hesitant to go with a secondhand purchase is because they want service guarantees. Many times, buying a new product comes with additional support and warranties. Since it's important to factor in regular maintenance and emergency repairs for lab equipment, buying new makes those add-ons desirable and even necessary.
Fortunately, some manufacturers may be willing to service equipment even after its changed hands. It's important to research ahead of time to know whether this is the case for your desired purchase and be mindful about the potential associated costs.
The alternative is that some full-service resellers offer the same type of support for the instruments they sell. Since they market various products, these dealers can be especially knowledgeable about a multitude of makes, models and lab equipment types. They'll be available to answer any questions over the phone or an online service ticket, and some sellers may even send out technicians for routine checkups or needed repairs.
Some companies also offer their own warranties to ensure their tuneups will produce proven results — or else they'll fix the equipment. At New Life Scientific, we stand by our warranties and are happy to correspond with customers who have in-depth questions or need help troubleshooting their equipment.
5. Used Lab Equipment Is the Same as Refurbished Equipment
To debunk the myth that used lab equipment is the same as refurbished, it's important to understand the words "used" and "refurbished" are not meant to be interchangeable. When an item is used, secondhand, as-is or preowned, it was owned and operated by someone else prior to it being on the market.
When a product is refurbished, that means it was serviced and tested to the OEM's specifications. To summarize, all refurbished equipment is used, but not all used equipment is refurbished, just like how Hondas are cars but not all cars are Hondas.
Be mindful about the labels attached to used equipment. Seeking refurbished instruments can offer more of a safeguard — many sellers provide warranties on this type of equipment. However, some used dealers also offer transparent descriptions and testing of used equipment that isn't necessarily tuned to OEM requirements. Once again, working with a dependable reseller is a great way to alleviate these types of concerns.
6. Used Lab Equipment Means You Won’t Know What You’re Getting
With the multitude of scams on the internet, it's unsurprising that people are nervous about buying secondhand products sight unseen. Due diligence is never a bad idea, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from buying used lab equipment. You can take plenty of practical steps to avoid scammers. Proper research of a seller's credentials and cross-checking reviews and manufacturing specs will go a long way when purchasing anything off the internet.
Shady sellers will often provide vague descriptions or use OEM photos to advertise wares they don't have, so make sure there's a picture of the actual product you intend to purchase. If the price seems too good to be true and there are other red flags signaling a bad deal, trust your instincts and buy elsewhere.
Choose used lab equipment from transparent dealers. At New Life Scientific, we pride ourselves on the quality of our service and the attention to detail we take with all our sales. We don't want anyone to wonder what's going to show up when they order from us. Our policy is to professionally photograph all our items and pair those images with detailed descriptions of what you'll receive if you purchase the product.
7. Used Lab Equipment Is Not Widely Used
It may seem reasonable to believe used lab equipment is relegated to academic labs, small companies or startups. While used instruments are ideal for laboratories running on limited finances, they can also be an asset for those operating on larger budgets. No lab is lucky enough to have infinite funds, so finding cost-efficient solutions is valuable for everyone.
Saving on a piece of used lab equipment could liberate funds for something expensive down the line or enable a lab to afford two instruments in the same fiscal year. If a lab is in the market for multiple new instruments, it can evaluate those needs on a case-by-case basis to see if any older models are just as capable as the new ones. Money can be a limiting factor for any laboratory's goals, which is why selectively purchasing refurbished equipment can be handy.
8. Used Lab Equipment Vendors Are All the Same
No, not all used lab equipment vendors are the same. We've emphasized that many quality ones are out there, and positive customer feedback and reviews are enough to debunk this myth. Many experienced vendors are small businesses that offer a boutique-like experience where the customer is valued and can receive special attention. Working with a company with a positive reputation, solid background and extensive experience in the industry is the best way to make shopping secondhand as easy as possible.
Tips for Selecting Used Equipment for Labs
With those myths debunked, you may be ready to start hunting for used lab equipment. We have some great ways to help you see even more success when shopping for used laboratory instruments. Here are our best tips:
- Request demonstrations: Feel free to ask the vendor for a demonstration. If you're unable to travel to the vendor or they don't have a customer-facing storefront, video conferences and clips are a good way to accommodate this!
- Know what equipment you are looking for beforehand: Don't start shopping without an idea of what your lab needs. Getting specific will help you filter listings and locate a vendor that specializes in your desired equipment. If consumables are required for your equipment's operation, make sure they can be acquired before purchase. Consumables are not always available for used lab equipment that's old or discontinued by the manufacturer.
- Review different vendor listings: Shop around before settling on one vendor. Looking at multiple listings can give you a sense of the going rate for a product or discover which makes and models are available for sale. Comparable prices can also be used as a bargaining tactic when negotiating with a vendor.
- Ask about warranties and support features: Reach out to a vendor that's selling a product you're interested in and ask detailed questions about their support features and warranties. Sometimes these details are available on their website, but calling them will give you a sense of their customer service. These conversations may also reveal details or caveats not mentioned on their website.
- Read reviews: Reading customer reviews is a good way to see a company's strengths and weaknesses. Put stock in detailed descriptions over one-sentence reports, and be judicious when approaching negative comments.
- Ask about the equipment’s history: An item's history can reveal a lot about it. Reviewing any available maintenance logs for the instrument you're considering can be especially insightful.
With these strategies, buying used laboratory equipment can become a selective process that can help you acquire the instrument you need.