Excedr’s Guide to Laboratory Equipment Auctions

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Last updated on February 15, 2022 by Ben

Looking to purchase or sell laboratory equipment? You might consider participating in a lab equipment auction.

Auction events, traditionally held onsite, are more recently being listed across various websites. They are often a great place to find or sell used lab equipment.

Maybe you need to acquire several instruments to outfit a new lab space? Or, perhaps you need to sell some equipment that’s no longer in use? Whichever it is—buying or selling lab equipment—scientists have turned to laboratory equipment auctions time and time again.

Equipment procurement and management can be tricky, especially in an industry like the life sciences, where you need heaps of equipment to get anything done. There are constant updates and replacements to technology, and acquiring the right system or figuring out how to get some money back on something you no longer use can be difficult. Auctions can help you cost-effectively acquire some essential pieces of equipment for your lab. They can also help you sell them when they are no longer used.

It’s necessary to keep cost-effectiveness in mind when starting a new lab. In a field where it’s challenging, or literally impossible (maybe you’re knee-deep in research during your discovery stage), to generate revenue, conserving funds, and working capital is the name of the game.

However, auctions may not be the best option for you to buy equipment. When you purchase used equipment, especially specialized equipment, you may be creating more headaches than you’d like. Without the proper instrumentation, your team may be hamstrung and fall behind in hitting your milestones.

That said, we’ve seen the upsides of auctions in action and work with several labs that have equipped a portion of their lab using lab equipment auctions. If you’re interested in learning more about this route, we’ve broken down the basics in this guide.

How Lab Equipment Auctions Work

Where Does the Equipment Come From?

Items for auction typically come directly from a manufacturer as surplus laboratory equipment, but that’s not always the case. There are some auctions in which items can come from many different sources. Because of this, it’s important to research the auction service itself and where the items are coming from before participating.

If you’re looking to sell, many online auction services provide you with the option to do so! We’ll list some of those sites and companies below. But first, let’s review the differences between in-person auctions and online auctions.

In-Person Auctions

In-person auctions take place as a live auction where an auctioneer announces the items and awaits bids from participants in an audience.

In a typical in-person auction, you’ll be able to examine the items up for auction and ask questions before deciding to bid. The information you obtain may help you estimate how much an item may go for or how much you think it’s worth bidding for.

If you decide to bid and win, you can pay for your item(s) and have it in your hands within minutes. However, depending on the size, weight, and transportation requirements of some items, they may be shipped and delivered to you at a later time.

In a live auction environment, you’ll also get to compete with other bidders in real-time and personally connect with other buyers and sellers. Attending an in-person auction may introduce you to others and help you grow your network.

However, because of COVID-19, many in-person auctions have moved online.

Online Auctions

Online auctions have always been about convenience. But now they are about so much more. With the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant creating a surge in cases and the pandemic in full effect still, most auctions are now being held online.

It is often less expensive for sellers to use the online format when participating in one. It can be easier for buyers as well. They can bid from their lab or home and don’t have to travel to the auction location.

Online auctions can reach a wider audience because they don’t limit buyers and sellers to in-person auction events in their local area.

In online auctions, items are listed in classified catalogs with specific information so potential buyers can easily learn more about them. While all the information is readily available, an online auction may prevent a thorough inspection of the item. If buyers still see items they are interested in, they can place bids with their credit cards.

List of Laboratory Equipment Auction Sites

  • Copia Scientific: Created from a merger between three well-established resellers, Copia Scientific is one of the nation’s largest non-OEM resellers, refurbishers, and service providers of quality, pre-owned laboratory equipment. They offer a suite of asset management services, including auctions and asset disposition solutions, specializing in liquid handling, microscopy, laboratory automation, and more.
  • Equipnet: Equipnet is a global leader in asset management solutions. Their clients span across multiple industries and range from small to enterprise businesses. Their services include auctions, appraisals, asset redeployment management systems, global consignment, and much more.
  • American Laboratory Trading (ALT): ALT offers a surplus asset management strategy to help your company access working capital and provide your team with more time on science. Their services include auctions, asset valuation, redeployment, lab closure, and relocation.
  • LabX: LabX is an online marketplace for lab equipment and products. It provides buyers and sellers a space to connect and specialize in scientific, medical, process, and electronic equipment.
  • Surplus Solutions: Surplus Solutions provides high-quality used equipment and services to meet the needs of companies in the life sciences, from pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations. Their services include auction services, brokerage, consignment, outright cash purchases, and more. 
  • Public Surplus: Public Surplus is an online marketplace for buyers and sellers to connect. While the space sells different types of equipment, from computers and heavy equipment to industrial instruments like packaging equipment, there is a robust medical equipment section that includes microscopy, imaging, and research instruments. It also includes smaller items, such as general supplies and glassware.
  • The Lab World Group: The Lab World Group is a buyer and seller of high-quality lab equipment. For sellers, they provide auction services and several other services to help you liquidate your surplus equipment. For buyers, they list a wide variety of readily available equipment tested for quality. They also help clients recover income by selling their retired and decommissioned pharmaceutical and used biotech lab equipment.

Tips for Purchasing At Auctions

Know Your Price Limits for Each Item

Researching specific items can help you understand how much they typically sell for and what a reasonable bid is for the equipment. Checking instrument manufacturers, such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Shimadzu, Eppendorf, Beckman, Agilent, Mettler Toledo, and Sartorius, allows you to see the brand new pricing of certain items, compare models, and more. 

Collecting this information can help you set a price limit and establish how much you are willing to spend on each item. This way, you can better allocate your overall budget.

Research the Auction‘s Listings

Whether you opt for an in-person auction or an online approach, it’s crucial to research upcoming auctions ahead of time. Research the auction itself to make sure it’s reputable. Then, explore the catalog of items to make sure they have what you’re looking for.

Suppose you’re looking for an analyzer, such as a mass spectrometer, or a few centrifuges and a spectrophotometer, but the catalog only contains incubators, glassware, ovens, shakers, and freezers. In that case, you know you’ll need to look elsewhere. 

What about if you need a flow cytometer, but the auction only lists miscellaneous equipment like compressors, lab amplifiers, vacuum pumps, la washers, or processing equipment? You’ll need to keep searching for an auction event that lists what you need.

Assess the Quality of Equipment

With any item, it’s essential to do a diligent quality check to prevent any maintenance issues or identify any damages. The quality of things can be based on a variety of factors such as:

  • Instrument age: Check the serial number with the manufacturer.
  • Repair/maintenance history: Check the manufacturer’s serial number and maintenance history.
  • Who was using the instrument before you? Was it Big Pharma? A biotech startup? Academia? Manufacturer surplus assets? Industry usage varies widely in terms of intensity. Knowing where it came from can help you determine how it was previously used and whether or not it is worth the investment.

Keep in mind the information from the manufacturer may not be readily available. Still, it will be instrumental in assessing an item’s quality if you can find it.

Look for Fees and Charges

Even if you find a great deal on the HPLC system, chiller, or evaporator you’ve been looking for, by the time you add on certain fees and charges, it may not be the value you initially thought it was. 

Many auctions charge a buyer’s premium to cover the cost of running the event. Even online auctions may have extra or hidden fees. These can range from shipping costs, handling costs, and insurance fees that protect your items while in transit.

Disadvantages of Laboratory Equipment Auctions

Condition and Maintenance Problems

You may find the equipment is not in the best condition or up to your standard. Suppose you manage to find something that appears to be in good condition. In that case, there’s still the possibility of maintenance issues. If you spend a lot of money on a piece of equipment only to have it cost you a significant amount in repairs down the line, the initial investment may not have been worth it. 

Additionally, purchasing an item from an online auction without inspecting it in person may increase the likelihood of running into problems. However, whether online or in-person, auctions are well-known for rigorously checking the quality of the equipment being sold.

Auctions Don’t Happen Often

Laboratory equipment auctions aren’t as common as car auctions or estate sales. Because of this, they don’t occur as frequently, and you may have to invest the time to research available options. Depending on event timing and proximity, you may not find any auctions that are possible or convenient for you to attend.

You May Walk Away With Nothing

Attending an auction and placing bids don’t guarantee you’ll bring anything back to your lab. You could be outbid, find that the equipment available is not worth bidding on, or determine the equipment is all out of your budget.

Here’s Our Bid

If auctions don’t sound like the right fit for you, you can trust Excedr to help you procure all your laboratory equipment. You can skip all the risk and repair issues by allowing Excedr to do the work for you. 

We Only Lease High-Quality Equipment

Our equipment leasing programs only provide new or manufacturer-refurbished equipment. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything will remain functional because we include maintenance in all of our leases. If something breaks down, we’ll cover repairs, too.

Wide Range of Equipment

We lease lab equipment from today’s top manufacturers, and we have the things you need no matter what type of lab you’re starting. Whether it’s general lab equipment, pathology equipment, or imaging equipment, you’ll have access to a wide variety that will meet your specific needs.

You’re Guaranteed to Get What You Need

Instead of scouting auctions with the hope that you’ll be able to find and get what you need for your lab, you can confidently lease all your equipment from us. You won’t run the risk of coming back empty-handed. 

Choosing Excedr won’t only save you time but money, too. When your lease is over, you have the option to upgrade the equipment or switch to another brand if you need to. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.