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What to Consider When Purchasing Refurbished Test Equipment 
Thanks to the Internet revolution, the market for used test and measurement equipment has soared in the last few years, with dozens of websites offering used instruments for sale. As with any choice, the decision whether to buy new or used is a difficult one that should be fully understood as there are both benefits and drawbacks to each alternative. This article will discuss the issues of both and will help you make an educated decision. 

I sell refurbished, used equipment, but seek to inform my customers of all of the potential issues so that the ownership experience will be enjoyable, and the business relationship long lasting. I have been in the test and measurement business since 1986, originally with a company that focused on rentals and leasing, then over the last sixteen years I began working with customers looking to stretch their budgets by buying refurbished (used) equipment. I have had many conversations with customers who have made used equipment purchases – the overwhelming majority of those customers have been satisfied with their choice to buy used.

I hope the following information will give you some insight into the issue of new vs. used equipment purchases, and help you to make the decision that is right for you and your company. Many of us simply have a preference for either new or used equipment, and we are not easily persuaded to abandon our comfort zone. Yet there are good solid reasons to evaluate your purchasing strategies. I want you to make the decision that is right for you and the one you will be happy with in the coming months and years.

Why would a person choose to purchase new equipment?
 I think most people find reassurance in the knowledge that their hands are the first ones to have touched their testing equipment. When you alone are first owner or user, you can be certain the instrument has been cared for. For others there is the satisfaction of having the latest state of the art equipment. Everyone welcomes the assurance of a factory warranty and the support of both dealer and manufacturer.

Why would a person choose to purchase used equipment?
 The obvious attractions for purchasing used, are price and lead-time. Often these instruments can be purchased for half to two-thirds of their original price - a nice savings, assuming that no problems arise. Yet used equipment carries more risk than new, so let’s examine the potential problems. 

 This may be the most critical issue of all, as so many of the problems we will discuss hinge upon the ethics of the seller. Can you trust the source? Is the supplier reputable? An individual seller has no reputation to protect, so you operate on blind trust that the person is honest. A company that has been around for any length of time has a reputation to maintain, thus it is much more likely that you will get satisfaction from any issues that might arise. Individuals are selling much of the used equipment offered and lets face it there are those out there who are less than trustworthy. Once the seller has your money, it may be very difficult (or impossible) to gain satisfaction if you are unhappy with your purchase. Try to deal with companies that have been around for a few years rather than individuals, and do not be afraid to ask for current customer references. While references are no guarantee, it may be of some benefit.

 Check to see if your purchase will have a warranty. Most manufacturers do not offer a transferable warranty. A used equipment company will sometimes warrant that a product will operate correctly on arrival. Make sure your used equipment company offers a minimum of a 6 month warranty. At Test Equipment Solutions Today (T.E.S.T.) we offer a 12 month warranty on most equipment we sell.

Unless you can personally inspect the product before you buy (and you know what to look for), you rely completely on the seller to accurately describe the instrument. A photo is great, but even that may not be enough to spot many problems. Condition goes beyond the external appearance, and the internal workings should be considered. Indeed, the inside of the instrument is often a better indicator of how the unit has been cared for than the exterior appearance. 

 Much of this happens by accident, but misinformation is commonplace. Incorrect information can be the result of ignorance or downright deception. It can range from misrepresenting the condition of the unit, age or functionality, to the owner simply not being very well informed about the unit. In many cases, equipment cannot be upgraded to the current version, so you may want to check with the manufacturer to be sure. If there is a question, get the serial number of the unit you are considering and call the manufacturer to verify the information you have been given. 

Financial risk
 When buying from an individual, this can be one of the most devastating potential consequences of the transaction. More often than not, Cash On Delivery (C.O.D.) is the method of payment between buyer and seller. This requires a level of trust on both parties - the seller does not want to send the goods without assurance of being paid and the buyer does not want to release payment until he has received and inspected the merchandise. The whole C.O.D. process is ripe for rip-offs. I’ve been ripped off myself, and I have spoken with countless customers that have lost money to con artists. All I can say is be extremely careful. If you get a bad feeling, there is probably reason for it. Again, sticking with a reputable company has far fewer risks.

As any used test equipment company knows the only way to know if a purchase is right for you is to set-up the unit and use it for your application. Quality dealers will offer a minimum of 5 days to accept your purchase. At Test Equipment Solutions Today (T.E.S.T.) we offer customers a 10 day acceptance period to insure satisfaction. 

 Generally, used test equipment companies take very good care of their investments. Yet with even the most careful among us, accidents happen, so be sure and check the unit carefully for any damage – inside and out before your acceptance period expires. Of course, normal wear and tear is to be expected, but signs of abuse are reasons to reconsider your equipment supplier. 

 If you purchase a refurbished instrument from an individual, you are pretty much on your own if you have questions. While the manufacturer may be able to provide some assistance, they are often busy helping others with warranty related issues. Test equipment companies, of course, cannot and should not be expected to provide technical support and expertise on instruments not acquired through their company. However, if the unit was purchased from them they should provide any technical assistance needed for you to get your unit up and running. The unit should be thoroughly tested and a certificate of calibration provided. Purchases made from a bad source can be expensive and time consuming. So, consider carefully and decide whether refurbished or brand new equipment will best preserve your sanity!