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Guide to Buying Used Lab Equipment in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is home to one of the top cities in biotech, meaning there’s no shortage of labs and scientific equipment. And because places like South San Francisco boast strong scientific communities, the Bay Area is a great place to quickly find used lab equipment for your lab. 

However, there are some risks associated with purchasing used equipment. Especially when compared to leasing scientific instruments instead. While the costs are different, the benefits you experience from leasing research and medical equipment far outweigh the cost-effectiveness of buying used. 

Rather than purchase an instrument that produces suboptimal results, you can lease high-quality equipment instead and save yourself the headache of managing second-hand instrumentation.

Nonetheless, buying used is a still a viable option in some cases, and because of that, we want to help you understand what’s available to you when sourcing equipment for your lab in the Bay Area. Let’s review some of the places you can buy used, and what you’ll need to consider when doing so.

San Francisco Lab Equipment Industry

The laboratory equipment industry in the Bay Area includes pharmaceutical companies, biotech, and academia. Each industry may have specific equipment available that may be difficult to find elsewhere, including centrifuges, microscopes, analyzers, incubators, autoclaves, freezers, refrigerators, fume hoods, and more. You may even be able to find smaller items, such as glassware and other lab supplies for research in the life sciences.

Big Pharma and Biotech Companies 

Finding big pharma and biotech companies that sell used can be tedious, especially online. Contact the facility to inquire about any items available for purchase. Some may list their items on third party websites. While getting used equipment may be a good option, there are no guarantees about the equipment’s condition.

Some companies in the San Francisco Bay Area include:

Academia in San Francisco

Colleges and universities often sell their lab equipment when upgrading their facilities. The Bay Area is home to many schools that have a wide variety of equipment. In San Francisco, the University of San Francisco offers online auctions to bid on their equipment. However, they do not separate their items into categories so it can be daunting to find the right item. Stanford University also offers lab equipment sales through its Surplus Property Sales Department. The University of California Berkeley Property Management Department is in charge of surplus sales. They have a showroom and host online auctions.

Smaller colleges can also be of help when looking for smaller equipment. There are over 40 community colleges in the Bay Area to reach out to. Contact the relevant department heads to inquire.

What to Consider When Looking at Used Lab Equipment

When shopping for used laboratory equipment, you get what you pay for. That amazing price on a centrifuge may not be the great deal you think it is. Depending on where it was used, if the staff kept up with maintenance, and how old it is, the piece of equipment may be in much worse condition than you initially thought. 

Previous Setting

Knowing where the equipment was used is important because it often indicates how often the unit was used and if it was maintained appropriately. It’s important to understand what the conditions there were like. For example, equipment responsible for maintaining ultra-low temperatures will have had to work harder in a warmer climate. 

Sanitization is crucial, but depending on where the equipment was previously used, extra sanitation may be required. For example, if the equipment was used in an infectious disease lab, more pathogens may live on the surface.

Previous Servicing and Maintenance

To avoid purchasing faulty equipment, ask for maintenance records. If the seller cannot provide them, you could end up with costly breakdowns and repairs. If the records show immaculate service and care, you may be able to get many more years of service.

Year of Manufacture and Serial Number

Knowing when the unit was manufactured prevents you from buying equipment that is outdated or may not suit your current needs. Additionally, you’ll need the serial number to ensure that you have legitimate equipment and to transfer any warranty that may still be available.

Reseller’s Source

Since some colleges and businesses sell their surplus, a third party company could buy it to resell later for a profit. This can be an issue, especially if they don’t have all the information we have cited previously. You might think you are getting a great deal, only to find out later that it has to be replaced in a few months. 

Benefits of Leasing vs. Buying Used Lab Equipment

Purchasing used lab equipment may not be a good idea for all labs. Leasing scientific equipment is a viable option and better suited for some companies. 

  • Pros of buying used lab equipment
    • Costs can be much lower than purchasing new equipment. 
  • Cons of buying used lab equipment
    • The older the equipment, the increased likelihood of failures and repairs.
    • Productivity can be reduced by less efficient components.
    • Can lead to a higher cost in the long term when having to repair or replace machinery often.
  • Pros of leasing lab equipment
    • Leasing can have an affordable upfront cost compared to purchasing equipment new or used.
    • Operating lease payments are considered tax-deductible expenses. Speak with a tax expert to find out more.
    • Better flexibility. As your needs change, you can “upgrade” to newer equipment models.

When shopping for equipment, either new, used, or leased, it’s best to have a budget in mind for each item in addition to the total amount you can spend on everything. These numbers will help make better purchasing decisions.

Excedr Lab Equipment Available in the Bay Area

Here at Excedr, we offer a variety of new and refurbished lab equipment to lease rather than buy. 

From specialized equipment like chromatography systems (FPLC and HPLC systems), mass spectrometers, spectrophotometers, flow cytometers, and BLI or SPR instruments to more general equipment like steam sterilizers, ovens, shakers, stirrers, blenders, and evaporators, we have a wide selection of equipment leases to offer. (That said, we don’t typically offer to lease smaller laboratory supplies, such as glassware, lab dispensers, and pipettes.)

Purchasing used or new adds up fast, and leasing provides you a way to get all your needs at a fraction of the cost so that you preserve your operating budget. You won’t have to worry about maintenance and repair, as this is included in the cost of the lease.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your lab be successful, and feel free to browse some of our selection online: