Sourcing Refurbished Lab Equipment: Considerations & Comparisons

Obtaining new equipment is vital for a company’s success and growth in many different industries—especially in capital-intensive sectors, where equipment is essential to daily operations and long-term growth.

However, not all businesses have the capital to cover daily operational costs and purchase brand-new instruments. Suppose a company isn’t currently generating revenue. That’s yet another hurdle to jump to get new equipment in the lab or office. 2022 and 2023 have exemplified how difficult it can be to secure further funding for operations. Biotech companies, in particular, have faced significant challenges.

Even if a company has room in the budget, buying a new instrument might not make sense: the high price of lab equipment can hamstring your ability to invest in other important areas of business.

When money is limited or allocated to other costs and expenses that cannot be paused, companies often opt to lease or purchase refurbished lab equipment. This approach saves them money while obtaining high-quality equipment necessary to hit milestones.

If you’re thinking of acquiring used or refurbished equipment for your lab, there are some things you’ll want to consider before you purchase or sign a lease contract. This article will cover those considerations.

Need new or refurbished lab equipment? Excedr leases.

See our equipment list and browse a sample selection of what we can source. Or, if you’re ready, request an estimate.

What Types of Equipment Can Be Refurbished?

Refurbished lab equipment offers a cost-effective solution to extend the lifespan of various instruments. Commonly refurbished items include:

  • Centrifuges: Lab equipment used to separate materials of different densities.
  • Microscopes: Optical instruments for magnifying small objects or organisms.
  • Mass Spectrometers: Tools for analyzing the composition of chemical compounds.
  • Spectrophotometers: Devices measuring the intensity of light in a spectrum.
  • Chromatography Systems: Techniques for separating mixtures into individual components.
  • HPLC Systems: High-Performance Liquid Chromatography systems for precise chemical analysis.
  • PCR Systems: Polymerase Chain Reaction machines for DNA amplification.
  • CO2 Incubators: Controlled environments for cell culture.
  • Cell Analyzers: Instruments for counting and characterizing cells.
  • Microplate Readers: Devices for analyzing samples in microplates.
  • Autoclaves: Machines for sterilizing equipment and media.
  • Autosamplers: Devices automatically drawing and injecting samples.
  • Freezers: Storage units for preserving biological samples.
  • Fume Hoods: Ventilated enclosures for safe handling of hazardous materials.

Refurbished equipment can provide comparable performance to new ones, making it a cost-effective option with extended usability.

How Is Used Equipment Different from Refurbished?

Used equipment simply means that someone else owned the equipment before you. It doesn’t specify whether or not the equipment is in good condition, while refurbished equipment refers to lab equipment that has been serviced and tested to meet the seller’s or manufacturer’s standards. There may also be a warranty or service contract included with the equipment.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the term refurbished is “good” and used is “bad”. It means that a piece of equipment has been repaired to a condition that can often be considered “like new,” while a used piece of equipment may have problems that need fixing. Knowing the difference between these terms will help you discern between an instrument that’s had upkeep and one that has merely been used by a previous owner or owners. Discerning between the two can maximize your chances of ending up with something in good condition.

Who Refurbishes Lab Equipment?

Used laboratory equipment can be refurbished by a variety of different businesses, including:

  • Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
  • Independent Service Organizations (ISOs)
  • Third-party refurbishers
  • In-house maintenance teams at labs or research facilities

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are the companies that originally manufacture and sell the lab equipment. They often have their own refurbishment programs where they take in used equipment, inspect, clean and repair it to factory standards and then resell it as refurbished equipment. Excedr works with OEMs to provide labs with refurbished lab equipment on a leased basis, which can help labs dramatically reduce the upfront costs of purchasing.

Independent Service Organizations (ISOs) are independent businesses that specialize in repairing and maintaining lab equipment. They have their own refurbishment programs where they take in used equipment, inspect, clean and repair it to original standards and then resell it as refurbished equipment.

Third-party refurbishers specialize in refurbishing lab equipment, they take used equipment from various sources, inspect, clean and repair it to a high standard and then resell it as refurbished equipment. Third-party vendors typically sell both used and refurbished lab equipment.

In-house maintenance teams at labs or research facilities may also refurbish equipment in-house, in order to save money and ensure that the equipment is tailored to their specific needs.

Third-Party Vendors & Manufactures vs.Leasing

Let’s compare the differences between buying refurbished from a third-party vendor or through the manufacturer.

Buying from a Third-Party Vendor

Going with a third-party vendor can be an good option if you’re looking to save money. Buying from a third party can be cheaper than buying from a manufacturer. Although this may be due to their service standards not being as high.

Not all third-party vendors are the same. Some may have a good reputation, certifications, warranties, and support, and others may not. Some sellers may not be qualified to refurbish sophisticated laboratory equipment back to OEM specifications.  It’s important to do some research before making a decision.

You will want to gauge their legitimacy by finding out how long they’ve been in business and whether or not they specialize in the type of equipment you’re purchasing. You will also want to understand what range of services they offer, as well as the equipment may be more reliable if the company offers services like testing, calibration, reconditioning, and application development.

Familiarize yourself with the company’s warranty, service, and return policies in case anything goes awry with your product after purchasing.

There are several reasons why you might choose to lease an item instead of buy from a third-party vendor, including:

  • Quality concerns: Third-party vendors may not have the same level of expertise or quality control as OEMs or ISOs, so the equipment may not be refurbished to the same standards as equipment from these sources.
  • Warranty and support: Equipment from third-party vendors may not come with the same warranty and support as equipment from OEMs or ISOs, which could make it more difficult to get repairs or replacements if something goes wrong.
  • Lack of transparency: Third-party vendors may not provide detailed information about the equipment’s history, making it difficult to assess the quality of the equipment.
  • No certifications: Third-party vendors may not have certifications such as ISO, CE, FDA, or GMP, meaning that the equipment may not meet the same standards as equipment from OEMs or ISOs.
  • Price: While third-party vendors may offer refurbished equipment at a lower cost, it may not be worth the potential risks in terms of quality, warranty and support.

Know that if you have concerns about the quality of an instrument, the warranty and support the third-party vendor is providing, and the lack of certifications, it will be easier to lease with a company like Excedr. We work directly with OEMs and provide excellent warranties and support to ensure your equipment is being looked after.

Buying from the Manufacturer

Buying directly from the manufacturer is another good option for procuring the equipment you need. Not as many third-party vendors invest in testing, calibrating, diagnosing, and repairing sophisticated scientific instrumentation as OEMs do. Manufacturers typically guarantee they’re refurbishments meet a high and strict set of standards and specifications.

You can usually check whether or not the manufacturer you’re interested in sells refurbished equipment. If they do, weigh your options. Compared to buying new, you will likely be able to save some money buying a refurbished instrument. It will generally be in better condition than a used instrument.

The refurbished unit will usually come with six months to a year of manufacturer-issued warranty as well, which will lower the risk that you would otherwise take on when buying from a third party. However, because the manufacturer services the equipment to the highest standard, their pricing will reflect this and may be higher than that of the third-party vendor.

That said, There are several reasons why someone might not want to buy refurbished equipment from a manufacturer. These reasons are somewhat similar to why someone may not want to buy from a third-party vendor, and include:

  • Quality concerns: The quality of refurbished equipment might be of concern, as it may not have been thoroughly tested or inspected before being sold.
  • Warranty issues: Refurbished equipment may not come with the same warranty as new equipment, which could leave a buyer vulnerable to costly repairs or replacements.
  • Lack of support: Some manufacturers may not offer the same level of support for refurbished equipment as they do for new equipment.
  • Age of the equipment: The equipment can be outdated, which means it may not be supported by the manufacturer and might not meet the latest industry standards.
  • Unpredictable condition: Refurbished equipment doesn’t always go through the same rigorous testing and quality control as new equipment, so it’s difficult to predict the equipment’s condition.
  • Limited stock: Refurbished equipment may be limited in stock, which can be suitable for the buyer if they need a large quantity of the same equipment for their business or project.

It’s important to research the manufacturer and the specific product before buying refurbished equipment, and to make sure that the equipment meets your needs and that you are comfortable with the risks associated with buying refurbished equipment.

Leasing vs. Buying Refurbished Equipment

While you might simply want to buy a refurbished item, be sure to consider the benefits of leasing. There are several reasons why it may be better to lease refurbished equipment instead of purchase:

  • Cost savings: Leasing refurbished equipment can be more cost-effective than buying new equipment. This is because refurbished equipment is typically less expensive than new equipment, so the monthly leasing payments will be lower than the cost of purchasing new equipment.
  • Flexibility: Leasing allows a lab to upgrade or replace equipment more easily. Instead of being tied to a piece of equipment for a long period of time, a lab can upgrade to newer equipment when the lease ends, which can be beneficial if the technology or the lab needs change over time.
  • Maintenance and repairs: When labs lease Excedr, we’re generally responsible for maintenance and repairs, which can save the business time and money.
  • Preservation of working capital: Leasing equipment helps laboratories preserve working capital, which can be used to invest in other areas of the business or to cover unexpected expenses.
  • Less commitment: Leasing can be less of a commitment than buying. Depending on the lease length, it gives the lab the opportunity to test the equipment before making a much longer commitment, which can be beneficial if the lab is not sure if the equipment will meet its needs.
  • Environmentally friendly: Leasing refurbished equipment can be more environmentally friendly than buying new equipment, as it reduces the amount of waste generated by the disposal of perfectly usable equipment.
  • Tax advantage: Lease payments can be written off as a business expense, which can lower a lab’s overall tax bill.

Simply put, you can preserve working capital and maintain some flexibility when you lease scientific instrumentation that’s been refurbished Additionally, spreading your payments out over time can create considerably better cash flow for your ongoing operational needs, such as staffing, supplies and consumables, and marketing or sales activities.

Lease Refurbished Laboratory Instruments with Excedr

Unlike third-party vendors whose equipment may not be entirely up to spec, Excedr works directly with manufacturers who run their own refurbishment programs to provide with properly maintained and refurbished instruments.

Some of the equipment we’ve leased to clients in the past include analytical instruments and testing equipment like LC/MS and GC/MS systems, spectrometers, flow cytometers, and sequencing systems. While our clients work in a wide variety of scientific areas, some of the research we support includes gene therapy, cell therapy, and cardiovascular disease.

Although we are brand agnostic—we don’t work solely with one manufacturer—the OEMs we’ve worked with include Shimadzu, Beckman Coulter, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Agilent, Tecan, and Bio-Rad Laboratories, among many others.

If you’d like to speak with our sales team, or have a quote from a manufacturer you’d like to send us to learn more about the costs of leasing, you can request a lease estimate. We can also help you sell used equipment! If you’re trying to figure out how to trade-in an instrument you no longer use, we may be able to help.

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