Guide To Buying Used Lab Equipment In San Diego

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Last updated on February 15, 2022 by Ben

As one of the top cities in biotech, there’s no shortage of labs and equipment in San Diego. That makes it a great place to find used equipment to outfit your lab. However, that said, there are some risks associated with purchasing used, especially when compared to leasing the equipment you need as an alternative. 

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 and 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 and 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 and 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 to customers looking to lease rather than purchase. 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.

 Contact us today to learn more about our leasing options.