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Buying Used

(April 2010) posted on Tue May 04, 2010

Consider these variables when pursuing a previously owned printer

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By JP Pieratt

One of the largest one-time expenditures facing any print provider—particularly those shops just entering the market—is equipment, specifically printers. While smaller rollfed machines can be had for as little as $2500, the buy-in price for a production-oriented rollfed or flatbed is considerably higher.

As we’ve previously reported in these pages, many printer OEMs are helping shops get into a new printer by offering intriguing deals. The past year has seen manufacturers offer shops a range of incentives, from special financing and packaged bundles to extended warranties and instant rebates (see the July 2009 issue for our last full feature on this topic).

Still, with many shops operating on leaner margins these days, budgeting for a new high-end printer expenditure might not be possible. One solution to consider is buying a previously owned printer.

While it’s probably fair to say that most companies would prefer to buy new, bringing in a used machine can prove to be a viable alternative. Yes, you must exercise due diligence to ensure that the printer is more than just a sticker-price bargain and, as with any used piece of machinery, a previously owned printer can come with some specific challenges. But buying used can help you fill an equipment niche in your operation. If you opt to try this route, consider the following basic guidelines when shopping for a used printer solution.

Establishing printer support
First, establish if a printer is a currently produced model. If a particular printer model is no longer available, it’s probably best to move on unless you can get verification from the manufacturer that support for that printer—in terms of maintenance and supplies—is ongoing. A check of the manufacturer’s website should provide you the information you need. Another source is The Big Picture’s Printer Sourcebook, which is available online at; it lists currently produced printer models as reported by printer OEMs.

Also, while an OEM may no longer support a particular printer, it may have a third-party distributor that does. If so, approach that distributor similarly to how you approach the OEM. And if you still can’t find any support for the machine, it might be best to pursue another option.

Sourcing OEMs
Several OEMs have pre-owned printer programs, while others will occasionally have previously owned units that they become aware of and can make available to the interested buyer.