Buying Used Equipment: Considerations & Comparisons

Getting accurate and reliable laboratory equipment is essential to the success of your experiments and studies. And thankfully, lab supplies like beakers, bunsen burners, and protective eyewear are relatively budget-friendly. However, when it comes to specialized research equipment, the price tag can be exorbitant.

The high costs associated with brand-new instruments can pose a significant challenge, especially for those operating on limited budgets. In such cases, biotech companies need to explore alternative procurement strategies. This is where the option of purchasing used lab equipment becomes an attractive proposition.

While purchasing second-hand laboratory equipment might seem like a cost-effective solution, it often introduces unexpected challenges due to the variable quality of used instruments. An alternative approach is equipment leasing, a strategy that allows you to conserve capital while still incorporating cutting-edge technology into your lab.

So, the question arises: Should you opt for buying used lab equipment, or consider leasing instead?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll navigate through the realm of second-hand laboratory instruments, covering a range of practical options available to shrewd buyers. We’ll also compare buying used vs. leasing lab equipment.

What Kind of Used Lab Equipment Is Available?

Although this isn’t entirely helpful, the availability of used lab equipment largely depends on the company or platform you're sourcing from, and whether they currently have specific items in stock. This emphasizes the importance of familiarizing yourself with various used equipment suppliers in the market.

Knowing who you can source from and who sells what enables you to stay informed about the offerings of each supplier and be aware of when they're conducting auctions or listing new inventory. Check with each company to learn what brands and manufacturers they have in stock, and which equipment categories they carry.

Variety of Manufacturers

Reputable equipment dealers often boast an extensive inventory from a wide array of leading manufacturers. These may include well-known names such as Bio-Rad Laboratories, Agilent, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Shimadzu, Beckman Coulter, Tecan, and more. This diversity ensures that you have access to a comprehensive selection of equipment tailored to diverse laboratory needs.

Diverse Equipment Categories

The range of available equipment is diverse, catering to various aspects of laboratory work. You can expect to find analytical instrumentation for precise measurements, cutting-edge sequencers for genetic research, high-quality microscopes for detailed observations, and much more. This diversity allows laboratories to source equipment specific to their research focus, whether it's in the realms of chemistry, biology, genetics, or beyond.

How Does Buying Used Lab Equipment Work?

Understanding the process of acquiring used lab equipment is crucial for labs looking to make cost-effective investments. Typically, used lab equipment can be sourced from auctions, third-party vendors, or through consignment. These options can vary between in-person events and online. In fact, there are specialized websites and platforms that facilitate the discovery of these resources, making the search for reliable equipment much more convenient.

Third-Party Vendors

Specialized vendors in the field of laboratory equipment frequently deal in both new and used items. These vendors thoroughly inspect and refurbish equipment before offering them for sale. This option provides assurance of quality and reliability, as reputable vendors ensure that the equipment is in good working condition.

Auctions

One of the primary avenues for procuring used lab equipment is through auctions. These events can be physical gatherings or conducted online. Lab equipment auctions are often organized by institutions, universities, or companies looking to sell surplus or outdated equipment. Participating in these auctions can provide access to a wide range of items at competitive prices.

Consignment

Consignment arrangements involve a third party (typically a vendor or a platform) facilitating the sale of used lab equipment on behalf of the seller. This approach can be beneficial for both buyers and sellers, as it provides a platform for transactions and ensures that the equipment is properly vetted before being listed.

How to Determine the Quality of Used Equipment

Some of the most important factors to consider are the previous setting the lab instrument was used in, the previous servicing and maintenance of the instrument, its year of manufacture and serial number, and the resellers source.

  • Budget allocation: First and foremost, carefully assess your budget and allocate resources based on your lab's immediate requirements and long-term goals. Used equipment can offer significant cost savings without compromising functionality.
  • Previous setting: If the unit was used in a hospital or manufacturing production facility, it’s likely that it was put to frequent use, which means it’s probably more run down. On the other hand, if it was used in an academic or startup setting, it may have been used more sparingly, thus having less wear and tear.
  • Inspection and testing: Before finalizing a purchase, it's crucial to inspect and, if possible, test the equipment. This step ensures that it meets the required specifications and functions as intended.
  • Compatibility and adaptability: Ensure that the used equipment is compatible with your existing lab setup and research needs. Some adjustments or additional accessories may be necessary for seamless integration.
  • Previous servicing and maintenance: If possible, find out how regularly the instrument was maintained in its previous setting. Ask the seller if they have field service reports which document the instrument’s maintenance track record. If maintenance and servicing was frequent, you can be more confident in future usability of the equipment.
  • Warranty and service agreements: Check if the used equipment comes with any warranty or service agreements. This can provide a safety net in case of unexpected issues after the purchase.
  • Year of manufacture and serial number: Having access to this information will provide you with a greater understanding of its previous maintenance, as well as how expensive service costs might be in the future. You can usually check the serial number with the OEM and inquire about the unit’s age and history.
  • Reseller’s source: Did the person or company selling the instrument get it from a liquidation “fire sale”, company wind-down, or auction? Knowing the source will give you insight into why it is being sold in the first place and help you avoid poorly performing lab equipment.
  • Supplier reputation: When buying from a third-party vendor, consider their reputation in the industry. Look for reviews, testimonials, or any certifications that indicate their reliability and commitment to quality.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, and getting an answer for each one, can help you determine whether or not the equipment is in good condition still and worth buying. By understanding the different avenues for acquiring used lab equipment and considering important factors in the buying process, laboratories can make informed decisions that contribute to their research endeavors while optimizing budget utilization.

Pros & Cons of Buying Used Laboratory Equipment

When considering your options for equipment procurement, it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons. Let's delve into the most common factors to consider when buying used.

Pros

  • Cost-efficiency: Used equipment typically comes at a significantly lower price point compared to new or refurbished options. This translates to substantial cost savings for your laboratory.
  • Time efficiency: Purchasing used equipment can often be a more time-efficient option. Ordering new instruments directly from a manufacturer may entail a longer waiting period for production and delivery.

Cons

  • Matching specifications: It may pose a challenge to find a used instrument that precisely matches the specific requirements of your lab. Customized or specialized equipment may be harder to come by in the used market.
  • Risk of faulty equipment: There is a notable risk associated with used equipment, as it may have experienced wear and tear or be more prone to unexpected breakdowns. This can lead to increased downtime and unplanned expenses.
  • Warranty uncertainty: Used equipment often does not come with a warranty, leaving you vulnerable to potentially high repair costs in the event of a breakdown.
  • Service contracts difficulty: Securing service contracts for repairs and maintenance of used equipment can be challenging. Some service providers may be hesitant to extend contracts for pre-owned instruments.
  • Refurbishing quality assurance: Depending on the dealer, there may be concerns about the quality of refurbishing services. It's essential to ensure that the dealer has a track record of maintaining high standards in refurbishment to avoid potential issues with the instrument's performance in the future.

By considering these pros and cons, laboratories can make well-informed decisions regarding the acquisition of used lab equipment. It's crucial to carefully assess the specific needs of your lab and conduct thorough inspections before finalizing any purchase.

Buying Used vs. Leasing: A Cost-Effective Choice for Laboratories

Buying used and  leasing are both cost-effective options for acquiring lab equipment. But each approach offers unique advantages, and the choice depends on the specific requirements and circumstances of the lab. Knowing the benefits and considerations of each option enables you to make more informed decisions that align with your financial capacity and operational needs. Let’s compare the two avenues.

Buying Used Lab Equipment

To restate the obvious, acquiring used lab equipment is a popular choice for any business seeking more cost-effective solutions to buying new equipment outright. It allows for significant savings compared to purchasing new equipment. However, it's important to carefully inspect and assess the condition of the equipment to ensure it meets the lab's requirements. Used lab equipment can often be in poor condition and quickly break down, causing unwanted and unforeseen problems.

Leasing Scientific Equipment

Leasing is another viable and often superior alternative, especially for those same labs with budget constraints. The lease approach allows you to acquire new or refurbished units without a large upfront expenditure. Instead, payments are spread out over time and provide financial flexibility. This means that you can allocate the remainder of your funds to critical needs like staffing, consumables, or other investment opportunities.

Advantages of Leasing with Excedr

Leasing through Excedr offers additional benefits outside of simply acquiring the equipment you need. There are the financial advantages of choosing a lease over new or used equipment. In addition to the financial advantages, we also include repair and maintenance coverage for the entire lease term, which is conveniently grouped into your monthly payment, making it easy to manage service contracts and simple to protect your equipment from repair and maintenance issues. In other words, you minimize downtime associated with repairs, simplify managing service contracts related to the equipment, and reduce administrative burdens for lab managers.

Distinguishing Between Used & Refurbished Equipment

For labs considering the used equipment route, it's essential to understand the difference between used and refurbished. Our refurbished equipment page provides valuable insights into this distinction, helping labs make informed decisions.

Locating Used Lab Equipment By City, State, & Region

If you're considering buying used lab equipment, it's worth exploring options within your own city, state, or region before expanding your search nationwide. There are dozens of robust biotech communities and research institutions across the US, one of which you’re most likely located in, and some of which we’ll highlight here.

Boston, Massachusetts

Renowned as a leading hub for biotech innovation, Boston is home to a plethora of cutting-edge research facilities and biotechnology firms. The city's vibrant ecosystem ensures that local auctions, surplus sales, and specialized resellers frequently present a diverse array of high-quality, pre-owned lab equipment. If you’re located in the area, we provide a guide to buying used lab equipment in Boston.

San Francisco Bay Area, California

The Bay Area boasts a flourishing biotech ecosystem, characterized by a dense concentration of cutting-edge research institutions and innovative biotech startups. It's advised to monitor local listings, peruse online marketplaces, and explore university surplus stores to seize opportunities for acquiring top-notch used lab equipment. If you’re located in the area, we provide a guide to buying used lab equipment in the Bay Area.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California, is a dynamic hub for biotechnology and life sciences. The city hosts a thriving community of research institutions, biotech firms, and academic centers. This vibrant ecosystem often translates to a rich availability of used lab equipment.

Local auctions, university surplus stores, and specialized resellers in the Los Angeles area frequently offer a diverse selection of pre-owned lab instruments. Additionally, networking at industry events and exploring online marketplaces can lead to valuable leads for cost-effective equipment procurement.

Given the wide array of options, it's crucial to conduct thorough assessments of equipment condition and to verify the reputation of sellers. Consider reaching out to local industry peers for recommendations and always explore warranty options to safeguard your investment. If you’re lab is located in the area, check out our guide to buying used lab equipment in LA.

San Diego, California

San Diego, with its strong presence of biotech companies and research institutions, offers ample opportunities for acquiring used lab equipment. Engaging with the local biotech community can be facilitated through channels like industry conferences and specialized online platforms.

However, due diligence is crucial when making such acquisitions. It's important to thoroughly assess the condition of the equipment, verify the reputation of the seller or platform, and consider factors like warranty options. By following these practices, laboratories can confidently acquire used lab equipment that meets their research needs. If you’re located in or around San Diego, check out our guide on buying used lab equipment in San Diego.

New Jersey

New Jersey, particularly in areas like Princeton, New Brunswick, and the surrounding regions, hosts a significant biotech presence. The state is home to renowned research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and a burgeoning startup scene, providing ample opportunities for sourcing used lab equipment.

Local auctions, university surplus stores, and specialized resellers in New Jersey often have a diverse inventory of pre-owned scientific instruments. Engaging with regional industry events and leveraging online platforms can also yield fruitful leads for cost-effective equipment acquisition.

By tapping into New Jersey's robust biotech network, laboratories can often find high-quality used lab equipment that aligns with their research needs and budget constraints. If you’re interested, read our guide to buying used lab equipment in New Jersey.

Used Lab Equipment Resellers

Whether you're looking to acquire pre-owned equipment or sell surplus instruments, there is a network of reputable buyers and sellers that can potentially meet your specific needs. Below, we've curated a list of trusted names in the industry, each known for their reliability, integrity, and commitment to providing top-notch used lab equipment.

Explore these options to streamline your procurement process or find a new home for equipment you no longer need:

Copia Scientific

Copia Scientific, established in 2021, has rapidly emerged as a prominent player in the resale and refurbishment of laboratory equipment, serving the thriving biotech and life sciences industry. This dynamic company was born from the amalgamation of three industry stalwarts: BioSurplus, Inc. from San Diego, Biodirect based in Massachusetts, and Boston Microscopes.

With its headquarters situated in Taunton, Massachusetts, and a strategic west coast office in San Diego, the company strategically positions itself in two major life science markets in the US.

Copia Scientific specializes in an array of critical technologies including liquid handling, lab automation, flow cytometry, microscopy, and detection. This specialization underscores their commitment to providing high-quality, meticulously refurbished equipment to their discerning clientele. Through their comprehensive suite of services, Copia Scientific continues to play a pivotal role in supporting the research and development endeavors of numerous companies within the biotech and life sciences sectors.

American Laboratory Trading

American Laboratory Trading (ALT) stands out as an economical choice for acquiring laboratory equipment. This full-service company specializes in the refurbishment and resale of used equipment tailored to the unique requirements of the life sciences industry. Opting for surplus equipment can often prove to be a savvy and budget-friendly decision.

With a solid track record, ALT has successfully monetized surplus assets for over 300 companies. In a bid to closely engage with the biotech industry, ALT strategically maintains warehouses in Northeast and Northern California, as well as customer service centers in Connecticut and San Diego—key biotech hubs in the United States.

The company takes pride in offering tailored solutions that cater to the specific needs of its clientele. Whether it's the monetization of a single piece of equipment or the liquidation of an entire laboratory, ALT is well-equipped to deliver results. This commitment to customization sets ALT apart, ensuring labs have the flexibility they need to optimize their equipment resources.

The Lab World Group

The Lab World Group, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is a leading vendor of new and used pharmaceutical and laboratory equipment in the U.S. With over 10 years of experience, they serve key biotech hubs nationwide. Their strategic Massachusetts location provides easy access to major scientific communities in Genetown.

The Lab World Group offers high-quality life sciences and molecular lab instruments for biotech and biopharma companies. Additionally, they facilitate the sale of retired equipment, allowing labs to generate capital for other projects.

Surplus Solutions

Surplus Solutions is a comprehensive resource for both sellers and buyers of surplus biotech, life sciences, and pharmaceutical equipment. The company offers a range of services, including negotiation, cost-effective purchasing, brokerage, and auctions, ensuring maximum returns on surplus equipment tailored to individual needs.

Surplus Solutions boasts an extensive inventory featuring thousands of lab, processing, and packaging equipment from top-tier manufacturers. Notable brands include Thermo Fisher Scientific, GEA, IMA, Bosch, AB Sciex, and Fitzpatrick.

With multiple channels for both buying and selling surplus equipment, Surplus Solutions caters to the specific requirements of its clientele. Additionally, as a premier auctioneer in the pharma and life sciences industry, the company hosts numerous sales featuring late-model pharmaceutical equipment, providing valuable opportunities for both buyers and sellers.

LabX

LabX is an online marketplace for buying and selling scientific equipment and specializes in the fields of life sciences, biotech, and biopharma. It’s mission: to provide services related to laboratory equipment.

Leveraging expertise in HPLC and analytical instrument sales, LabX helps scientists procure top-tier, pre-owned equipment and instrumentation services.

While LabX itself doesn't engage in direct buying or selling of products, it serves as a robust marketplace for other companies and individuals to list their scientific equipment for sale. The platform features a diverse range of offerings, including new, pre-owned, and refurbished equipment.

EquipNet

EquipNet provides surplus asset management solutions. Renowned for its innovative asset management platform, groundbreaking equipment marketplace, and goal-oriented project management services, the company has consistently delivered exceptional results.

Catering to a diverse clientele ranging from small enterprises to multinational corporations, EquipNet serves a broad spectrum of industries, including pharmaceutical, electronic, consumer packaged goods, and R&D companies. This diverse client base attests to the company's versatility and effectiveness across various sectors.

EquipNet's offerings encompass over 1000 equipment categories, making it the most comprehensive resale marketplace for equipment related to manufacturing, packaging, laboratory, testing, electronics, and facility support. This extensive range underscores EquipNet's commitment to providing tailored solutions that address the varied needs of its global clientele.

Skip the Headaches & Lease High-Quality Lab Equipment

Yes, buying used lab equipment can be cost-effective. However, the uncertainty surrounding the quality of the instrument, as well as whether or not you’ll be able to meet your own and regulatory bodies’ standards, can make buying used a huge headache. In fact, it can even cost you more than simply purchasing.

Excedr’s leasing program meets in the middle. We’re not as cheap as buying used, but we make procuring equipment as easy as it is to buy used. And, we guarantee that the equipment you lease is not only top-of-the-line, but that it’s in excellent condition, covered under warranty, and protected with comprehensive repair and preventive maintenance coverage.

Curious what we have in stock? Excedr doesn’t carry an inventory, which allows us to go out and source the exact instrument you need, when you need it. The equipment we lease ranges from analytical instruments and biotech/life sciences equipment to diagnostic and clinical equipment. This includes:

Don’t see what you want? Browse our comprehensive list of leasing options.