Buying Used Equipment: What to Consider & Look Out For

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Last updated on January 12, 2023 by Excedr

Beakers aren’t too expensive. Neither are bunsen burners or protective eyewear. But specialized lab equipment used for research? Extremely expensive. When buying a new piece of equipment isn’t in the budget, biotech companies start looking for alternatives.

While buying used laboratory equipment can be a cost-effective option for laboratories, buying used is not your only solution to the prohibitive pricing of new technology.

It can often lead to more problems then expected, due to the unpredictable quality of the used equipment. You can lease what you need to conserve capital and get cutting-edge technology into the lab instead of taking a swing on a potentially faulty instrument.

Should you buy used lab equipment, or lease the instrument instead?

In this article, we’ll review how buying used lab equipment works, what kind of equipment is generally available used, determining the quality of used equipment, and much more. Additionally, we’ll compare which option is better: buying used or leasing new/refurbished?

How Does Buying Used Lab Equipment Work?

First, let’s talk about how buying used lab equipment works. Typically, used lab equipment comes from an auction, a third-party vendor, or consignment. There are various websites which make finding used lab equipment auctions, resellers, and distributors easier. 

Many new laboratories often find themselves buying used, especially when there isn’t a whole lot of capital available to make new equipment purchases.

What Kind of Equipment is Available Used?

It’s hard to say! It all depends on the company or site you’re sourcing from, and whether or not they have something in stock at the moment. Which is why it’s important that you learn about all of the used equipment suppliers on the market. This way, you have an idea of what each supplier offers, and when they’re running auctions.

In general, equipment dealers will have selections from a wide range of leading manufacturers, including Bio-Rad Laboratories, Agilent, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Shimadzu, Beckman Coulter, Tecan, and more.

This can include analytical instrumentation, sequencers, microscopes, and much more.

Determine the Quality of the Used Equipment

While buying a pre-owned instrument can be cost-effective and simple, it’s important to determine whether or not the piece of equipment is in good condition.

Although it was at one point a high-quality instrument, it may have gone through wear and tear that greatly reduces its performance, and, consequently, the results of your own work can suffer. We’ll cover some of the factors to consider before you finalize the purchase.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

If it has gone through a lot of wear and tear, is relatively old, and wasn’t properly maintained during the course of its use, you probably won’t to avoid buying it, as the instrument may cost more to repair than simply buying a new or refurbished model.

Buying Used Pros & Cons

There are some important pros and cons to consider when weighing your equipment procurement options. Let’s review the most common when it comes to buying used.


  • The price for used equipment is lower than new or refurbished equipment. This can save you a lot of money.
  • Buying used can often be time-efficient. When you buy new from a manufacturer, it can sometimes take a long time for them to build the instrument.


  • It may be difficult to find an instrument with the specifications your lab needs.
  • There is a substantial risk that the equipment you buy is faulty, worn down, or more likely to break unexpectedly, increasing your lab’s downtime and incurring unnecessary costs.
  • Used equipment doesn’t guarantee the device will be under warranty. This can lead to high repair costs in the event the instrument breaks down.
  • Securing service contracts for repairs and maintenance for used equipment is very difficult.
  • The dealer might not perform refurbishing services themselves, which can lead to issues of quality with the instrument down the road.

Should You Buy Used or Lease New?

Buying used lab equipment isn’t the only cost-effective option available for laboratories. Leasing scientific equipment is another cost-effective solution that many lab managers take advantage. In fact, leasing can often be a better option than buying used. 

That’s because, if you’re strapped for cash, leasing new or refurbished units is another great way to save money. Not only do you spend significantly less cash up front, but you also spread your payments out over time, allowing you to stretch your budget and use your remaining cash for other immediate needs like staffing, consumables, or investment opportunities. 

When leasing through Excedr, we also cover repairs and maintenance for the duration of the lease term, saving you time and administrative headaches by minimizing downtime associated with repairs and by handling all service contracts associated with the equipment. 

Check out our refurbished equipment page for information about how used equipment is different from refurbished. Plus, some of our blog posts give insight into where to find used equipment in different areas across the country, if you decide that option is best for your lab. 

Lease Your Lab Equipment & Have Peace of Mind

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.

Our 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.

Our selection is not dependent on our inventory as well, meaning we can go out and source the exact instrument you need, when you need it. Some of the equipment we’ve leased and currently lease includes analytical instruments, biotech equipment, and clinical equipment, such as:

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

If you’re thinking of buying used lab equipment, try leasing instead. It might be what you’re looking for. Request a lease estimate today or simply get in touch with us to learn more about our program and the costs of leasing.