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Used: The Previously Owned Option

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 15, 2008

Evaluating the pros and cons of purchasing a used printer.

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By Anya Rao

If a shop owner is considering purchasing a machine that is in use by another shop, Bergamo advises checking out the machine while it’s operational. "Bring two or three types of media and files on a USB drive to be printed. That way you know what you are getting," he says.

Brokers are another source of used wide-format inkjet printers. In the used-printer business for five years, Wildcat Imaging Solutions ( explains that the company works with two types of customers: entrepreneurs that have been associated with the printing industry and now want to strike out on their own, and established print shops that need to add equipment-for additional capacity, added capabilities to capture new markets, or a newer printing technology-but cannot afford the new-machine price tag.

As with other brokers, however, Wildcat does not have a warehouse somewhere filled with used printers. Instead, the company serves as the "middleman" between the buyer (print shop) and the OEM seller. While many OEMs offers a trade-in/used equipment program (see p. 64), "they’re in the business of selling new equipment," says John Trayner, Wildcat’s managing director. So OEMs and their dealers often turn to a broker when a customer wants to buy a new wide-format printer but needs to sell his older machine first (typically due to cash or space restraints). Wildcat, much like a real-estate broker, will step in and identify potential buyers for the older equipment and then facilitate the sale/purchase of the machine.

Buyers of used equipment are encouraged to test the equipment with their own files, see the printer run with various media, and thoroughly inspect it. Additionally, Wildcat has contacts with independent contractors who, like a home inspector, can provide an unbiased opinion of the condition and value of the printer.

The company also works on the back end to help customers decommission the printer and arrange for installation and training, often through the machine’s OEM. Additionally, Wildcat can help printer buyers secure financing, locate finishing equipment, and will work with private companies who are in the looking/evaluating stage of purchasing new equipment or need to get rid of excess inventory of used equipment.

Essential questions

Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a checklist of basic questions handy for every previously used printer you’re considering. Questions should include at least the following:

* How old is the printer? Is the machine so old that you cannot modify it yourself if need be?
* How many owners has it had?
* How many hours of service does it have?
* Why is the former owner selling it?
* When was it last serviced? How often was it serviced? Is a documented service record available?
* Is the printer still under warranty? Is it under an extended warranty?
* When were the printheads last replaced?
* What brand and type of inks were used in the machine-both OEM and third-party?
* What’s the machine’s top speed on specific media?
* Can I get the specs on this machine when it was new?
* Are supplies still readily available?
* What does this machine do best? That is, what is its best application? Its worst?
* What product produced on this machine has sold best for the former/current owner?
* What problems/glitches does this machine/technology present to a print provider?
* Has the machine been modified in any way? If so, what kind of modifications are these? Have these modifications affected/negated its warranty?

And, if you’re dealing with non-OEM dealer/broker or private company selling a used machine, keep these questions in mind:

* Does the company only have paperwork on the machine or does it have the machine itself on hand?
* How long has the company been in business? Can you get references?
* Does the company comprise a brick-and-mortar facility as well as its website, or is it a website-only operation?
* Is the company specific to the graphic-arts? How much knowledge does it have of wide-format printers and related technologies?
* Does the company simply turn around and sell the printer "as is," or does it refurbish and/or upgrade the machine? Be sure to ask just what the company’s definitions of "refurbish," "upgrade," "remanufacture," etc. are and what each comprises.

Anya Rao is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer.