New vs. Used – Points to Ponder

by Tom Kirkland,

There are those who say nothing used is as good as the same thing new. Then there are those who say buying something new, especially a big-ticket item, is throwing away money. Who is right? A spectrum of new, near-new, reconditioned, running-used and bone-yard equipment exists in the marketplace, and sorting through it all can be something of a challenge.

Here are a few tips to ponder when considering a piece of used equipment:

  • Find out as much as possible about the history of the machine. Used equipment ranges from demo presses with very little wear to presses that ran two or three shifts a day.
  • Negotiate some type of warranty when buying used equipment. At least 90 days is preferred.
  • “Reconditioned” can mean many things. Make sure the machine has been cleaned, inspected, repaired and wear parts that are near end-of-life are replaced. Also makre sure that the machine has been tested to new machine specifications.
  • Do not buy used equipment without seeing it in person. The cost of a plane ticket and one night at a hotel are well worth the investment.
  • Be cautious of buying equipment if the original manufacturer has gone out of business. This can create many potential challenges – mainly finding replacement parts in the future.

Remember that a new machine is worth much more than a used one, but in many cases, costs a lot less than the sum of its parts. If I went to the local Chevy dealer’s parts desk and ordered all of the parts to build a brand new Corvette, would it cost me more or less than a new one from the factory? The same is true with machinery. How about trying to obtain parts for a 30-year-old car? Same with machinery, though perhaps less severe. Even with significant prices for service parts, a machinery manufacturer runs a parts and service operation primarily to benefit its own direct customers. Would it be surprising to learn that buying used machinery from a third party most likely will not come with free copies of manuals, service bulletins, free training and phone support as would be the case with buying a machine new? This should be well evaluated before purchasing anything used.

The tough realities of today’s manufacturing world has manufacturers trying to make value decisions in an environment where “just-in-time” is the rock and “do more with less” is the hard place. There is room for both new and used assembly and decorating equipment in such value decisions. But there are no quick and easy answers, no one-size-fits-all solution. The buyer must do the homework and ultimately make the decision that is most likely to produce the best financial outcome in the end.

Tom Kirkland originally trained in industrial/manufacturing engineering and worked as a project engineer whose responsibility was to purchase and implement assembly and decorating equipment and tooling. He has since spent over 20 years supplying assembly equipment and parts to the industry. Holding numerous board positions with many industry-related associations, he has authored numerous articles and papers, is a renowned trainer, and is a recognized expert in plastics joining. For information on Tom Kirkland’s consulting and machinery parts business, visit