Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's your experience buying used equipment online?

I've asked this question before, but I'll ask again:

Anyone want to talk about their experiences buying used equipment on Dovebid and the like?

I've found it to be hit and miss, you? 


  1. Buying used HPLC can be tricky. We got used Waters system a for bargain price - but then it turned out the modules did not communicate properly (some required ethernet connection that the other modules lacked) - it looks like what they sold us was actually assembled from two separate instruments/models by someone who did not know what he was doing... We were able to get it replaced eventually, for a system that works, but it took couple of months and was a quite frustrating experience.

    I would not mind buying simpler stuff - mechanical stirrers, stirplates, heating mantles/regulators and the like. Even the old-fashioned Welsh belt driven pumps. (Things get trickier with rotovaps, where a small damage around the seal can really screw up the rotovap usefulness.)

  2. CJ; we ordered some used equipment’s (HPLC, Combiflash). Our experience is that you are better off buying it from the makers (in this case Agilent, Isco). Dovebid is more like a scam game. My experience and also that of my partner is that if you are ready to pay a price for certain equipment, you will always find a sucker bidding higher than you did! Eventually we realized that the whole process was robotic. On one occasion the bidding went on and on for days and that were until we threw up our hands and walked off! Going with the makers allows you to buy some maintenance for the same, of course for a price. We also ordered a nitrogen generator (used one) for LCMS need, but then it was a kaput. Despite what they claim all used equipment came as is and we had a problem with compressor that no one could fix it and the maker of this equipment (Danish?) also went belly up! Some $5000+ was wasted!

  3. I prefer to buy from used equipment dealers rather than auction sites. The prices are usually better and there is one person to hold responsible should something go wrong. This goes for both instrumentation and plant equipment.
    Plan for extra expense of full PM service on receiving the goods. There is no such thing as "works out of the box".
    I have seen good successes on expensive items like NMR, XRPD, etc. at about 10% of the new equipment cost (purchase, delivery, manufacturer setup and PM). For plant equipment that ratio is higher at 25-40%.

  4. My colleagues and I buy used equipment on eBay probably a few times a month... chillers, RF electronics, vacuum parts, and the like. Sure, sometimes we have to return or fix something, but it's totally worth it for the cost savings (I'd guess we would've spent >$50,000 more in the past year or two buying things new instead). Plus, when we're looking for a replacement part for something old and/or specialized, oftentimes eBay et al is the only place to find what we need.

    (Disclaimer: my lab is more of a laser spectroscopy lab than a chemistry lab (I am not a chemist in any way, shape, or form, but the blog is too entertaining to stop reading), so perhaps we simply have more success with the different kinds of items we tend to look for.)

  5. I bought a used lab balance from DoveBid and it didn't work when I plugged it in. When I complained, they told me that they couldn't guarantee anything, and offered me a 50% refund. I took it because it was better than nothing, but I felt cheated. I've had several good experiences buying used equipment on eBay because the sellers care about their reputation scores, but this was the first and last time I ever dealt with DoveBid, and I would not recommend them.

    On another topic, is there a legitimate way that brand-new in-the-box lab equipment could end up on eBay for well below market value? I've seen this several times, but I'm skittish about buying potentially stolen goods.

    1. Re DoveBid: You should have disputed the knowingly faulty + misleading advertisement purchase through your credit card company as a fraud case. That has some teeth.
      Brand new equipment in the original box, on discount: This could have been an unsold inventory from a lab equipment re-seller outfit that got insolvent and liquidated at 50% of the list prices.

  6. Since I asked CJ about (re) posting this question, I will relate my recent experience as the first Organiker with a small start-up in the CA Bay area. I worked with two different second-hand equipment dealers, both actually located in CT.

    Dealer #1, claims to be the largest in the US: sold us (a) a Vacuubrand regulator for a rotavap. Claimed that they had "tested" it beforehand, yet delivered it without the plug-in solenoid. How the f*** can one "test" a vacuum regulator without the solenoid? I had to explain this over the phone to the person who tested it, who clearly didn’t know what he was selling or working with. The same company sold us (b) a hand-held UV lamp, also claiming that it had been "tested". I tested it: it flashed once, and then never again; since the bulb was OK, I suspect the starter had died. Finally, the same company sold us (c) a new balance by the company "Citizen". As far as I can tell, the on/off switch does, in fact not turn the balance off. In spite of what the CT company claims about having warehouses on the West Coast, all of these items were apparently shipped from CT.

    Dealer #2: sold us (a) a circulating cooler, which works as advertised, also (b) a KNF Neuberger vacuum regulator, which also was fully operational (it doesn’t use solenoid technology).

    If you can’t guess the names of the respective companies, then please ask, and I will be happy to provide you with them.

    eBay: so far, I’ve purchased variacs, IKA stirrer-heaters and miscellaneous glassware from various sellers. So far, everything works as advertised, and the prices are much better than normal dealers. Just filter out the junky Chinese glassware from the search results. There is a lot of that advertised there.

    BTW, there is also a company in Alabama which will ship you 2.5 L conc. HNO3 for $ 112, delivery included.