Scientists in laboratory

What to Look for When Buying -  and Using - Second Hand Lab Equipment

Updated on July 26th, 2022

It’s no secret: lab equipment is EXPENSIVE. The finely calibrated, highly sensitive machinery being used in today’s clinical labs, research facilities, and some universities to conduct groundbreaking work also often comes with a bank-breaking price tag.

This is why more and more labs are looking to buy used lab equipment to meet their needs. The good news? It’s everywhere (which is also rather bad news as that availability is often the result of labs going out of business…but we digress).

There are dozens of websites auctioning off refurbished or used lab equipment that can save a company thousands of dollars in operating expenses. You can even buy lab equipment off sites like eBay and Craigslist. But, just like with any second-hand purchase, buying used lab equipment has risks, so buyer beware.

Here are a few issues to consider/things to look for when buying–and more importantly, when using- second hand lab equipment.


Warranties and Guarantees

Most lab equipment resellers will offer a warranty on their goods. As lab work is not always fast work, ensure that any warranties are at least 90 days (ideally, 180 or more). Unfortunately, there’s rarely an opportunity to “take this baby for a test drive.” You don’t always know if the equipment you bought is all you need it to be until you put it to actual work in your lab.

Along with a warranty, a qualified seller will also offer guarantees of service and support. These guarantees typically have an expiration date as well, but most sellers will offer paid service packages you can use for the lifetime of the equipment.


Service Records & Calibration Logs

While you’re not likely to find service/maintenance records or calibration logs on smaller pieces of lab equipment (e.g., a centrifuge), a seller of more complex and costly lab equipment (e.g., a sequencer) should be able to provide details about its history and use. How often it was serviced, parts that have been repaired or replaced, etc. If calibration history is missing, but the item has always been under a manufacturer service contract, it should also be possible to obtain calibration history via the instrument serial number. 

Consider a cold storage unit. What usually fails after a few years is the compressor. If it was replaced, your seller should not only have the records but should even be delighted to share them. Why? Much like when you buy a used car with a new transmission, a new compressor in an older cold storage unit is actually a selling point. The more information the seller can provide, the more assurance you'll have that the equipment is functioning properly. (Read our white paper “When Freezers Fail” to learn more.)

While most used lab equipment won’t have a history report equivalent to Carfax, the seller or reseller should be able to provide the basics around maintenance and service for most major lab equipment.

New vs Used Lab Equipment

Monitoring Lab Equipment: When You’re Putting the “Use” in Used

As stated, with used or refurbished lab equipment you often don’t know what you’ve really got until you have it up and running in your facility. And even then, keeping it up and running is a worry that can keep you up all night.

Here’s where a laboratory monitoring service can help give you peace of mind that 1) the second hand equipment you bought is doing what it’s supposed to be doing and 2) that it continues doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

While monitoring is a critical component to ensuring new equipment is performing as intended, it’s even more critical when you’re using equipment that has already enjoyed a few trips around the sun as–fact of nature–it’s simply more prone to break down.

And as expensive as lab equipment can be–whether new or used–the cost is nothing compared to when lab equipment fails and no one finds out until it’s too late. And then… weeks, months, or even years of critical work and resources may be lost.

With independent sensors, probes, and other monitoring tools attached to laboratory equipment and sending real-time data to a centralized monitoring system, you can essentially “live stream” the efficacy and efficiency of every piece of equipment in your lab (as well as the overall laboratory environment, the air quality, the facility temperature, etc.).

Dashboards present data that gives you both a 30,000-foot overview of your lab, and a granular understanding of each piece of equipment as well. Most monitoring systems also include mechanisms to alert technicians in the event of any equipment failures as well.

If you’re considering buying used or refurbished lab equipment, XiltriX can help you keep a close, constant eye on its performance and efficiency. With lab monitoring services created custom for each client, XiltriX ensures you have the right system to ensure your system–and all the equipment therein–is working as planned.

Read more about Equipment Monitoring in our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Lab Equipment Monitoring

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