Guide to Buying Used Lab Equipment in San Diego

Guide to Buying Used Lab Equipment in San Diego

When setting up a laboratory, searching for affordable and reliable lab equipment is a top priority for researchers in San Diego. As one of the top cities in biotech, San Diego presents abundant opportunities to acquire used lab equipment to outfit your lab.

However, it’s crucial to approach this process cautiously, as certain risks are associated with purchasing used equipment, particularly in comparison to alternative options like equipment leasing.

In this blog post, we will navigate the intricacies of buying used lab equipment in San Diego, offering valuable insights based on experience and thorough research. We aim to provide researchers with the knowledge to make well-informed decisions when procuring used lab equipment while mitigating potential challenges.

We will explore practical tips, highlight trustworthy sources, and discuss key considerations to ensure a successful and cost-effective equipment acquisition journey. By shedding light on potential pitfalls and providing guidance, we aim to empower you to strike the right balance between affordability and quality.

By leveraging the insights shared in this guide, you can confidently navigate the market, optimize your research budget, and acquire the equipment necessary for your scientific endeavors. 

Let’s delve into and review practical strategies for securing lab equipment deals in San Diego.

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Lab Equipment Industry in San Diego

The lab equipment industry in San Diego consists of academia, pharmaceutical companies, and biotech companies. Each of these may have equipment that is specific to their field and may not be available elsewhere.


The University of California San Diego has a surplus sales department, which covers everything you’d expect to find in a college, including equipment once used in the research labs. These are sold to the public in an outright sale, monthly bid on the website, and a third-party bid, where they are listed on other sites for exposure. Property is always sold as-is, where-is, and the successful bidder is responsible for payment and transport to the new location within seven days of receiving notification.

San Diego State University also has a surplus department that makes items available to the public. Here, you may find equipment sold individually or in a lot. All items are sold as-is. The items are sold on auction, and medical lab equipment can be found under Industrial Equipment.

There are many academic institutions in the San Diego area, so you can also check with any 2-4 year college there for smaller lab needs. You may not be able to buy equipment from a website, so you’ll need to call the department head. Since many schools start replacing lab equipment in the summer, that’s the best time to search for used lab equipment.

Big Pharma & Biotech

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the academic sector, you can try contacting local biotech companies to see if they have any used equipment they’re interested in selling. This has become a growing market in San Diego, with several new companies opening each year. Unlike academic institutions, these companies do not sell their used equipment on their websites.

Some San Diego based companies to investigate are:

What to Consider When Looking at Used Lab Equipment

If you see an excellent price on some used lab equipment, it may not be as good of a deal as you think. It’s important to consider factors such as where it was previously used, how well the unit was maintained, how old it is, and the company who made it. Do your research about the equipment before making an offer.

Previous Setting

Was the equipment used in a university, for-profit research lab, or contract research organization, for example? Where it was previously used determines how often it was used and how likely it was to have been serviced regularly. What was the climate like? Equipment made for subzero temps won’t necessarily do well in a warmer environment. It is also essential to sanitize the equipment, but the type of sanitization depends on the previous setting. For example, if you are buying lab equipment from a pathology lab, the sanitization must be able to remove all presence of disease. Consider these items when determining if the used equipment you’re looking at is a good fit for your lab.

Previous Servicing & Maintenance

Before buying, always ask to see the servicing and maintenance records from the previous owner. Knowing how often the equipment was cared for can alert you to possible breakdowns. While lab equipment can last a long time when properly maintained, you don’t want to buy something that may need to be replaced sooner rather than later. If the seller cannot provide you this information, avoid the purchase.

Year of Manufacture & Serial Number

Service and maintenance records are important, but so is knowing the year of manufacture. Without this, you run the risk of purchasing an out-of-date machine that won’t fit your needs. The serial number is equally important, especially if there is an active warranty on the lab equipment.

Reseller’s Source

Finding out where the equipment came from before it landed with the reseller is also critical to making an informed decision. Manufacturer overstock is different from well-used equipment in a busy biology lab setting. If a third-party just bought a lot of lab equipment sight unseen, and they are looking to resell piece by piece, you may not be getting what you think. Only purchase equipment from trusted sources.

Benefits of Leasing vs. Buying Used Lab Equipment

Purchasing used lab equipment may not be ideal for all labs. Leasing can be a viable option and better suited for some companies. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

  • Pros of buying used lab equipment
  • More affordable than purchasing new equipment
  • Maintenance costs can be specifically lower if the previous owner has provided proper servicing.
  • Cons of buying used lab equipment
  • The older the equipment, the increased instance of failures and repairs
  • Less efficient components reduce productivity.
  • Higher risk of acquiring a faulty machine.
  • Pros of leasing lab equipment
  • Compared to purchasing equipment upfront (new or used), leasing offers a much lower upfront cost.
  • Leasing offers flexibility with the equipment. As your needs change, you can “upgrade” to newer equipment models at the end of a lease term.
  • The lease payments are tax-deductible expenses. Speak with a tax expert for more information about how this works.

Knowing your budget will help you make the right decision for buying used or leasing new lab equipment.

Lab Equipment Available in the Southern California Area

Here at Excedr, we offer a wide range of lab equipment through our leasing program. Buying used or new adds up quickly, and lab equipment financing gives you a way to get all the things you need for your lab at a fraction of the cost, without the worry of maintenance and repair. Instead, our leases can include service coverage as part of your monthly payment, ensuring your equipment is fully taken care of.