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When 'Used' Makes Economic Sense

(July 2008) posted on Tue Jul 01, 2008

The upsides and downsides of the used-equipment market.

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By Jonathan Zinsmeyer

* Always make sure the machine is working to its full potential-considering that this is a used piece of equipment. My refurbished and upgraded equipment still took months to get running to its full potential. So even when you go through very reliable OEMs for your used equipment, it's still possible that you will experience some frustrations, particularly in the early going.

Ask: Does it print to your satisfaction; do the head tests consistently good; how's the bi-directional alignment? Are there any funny noises; is there a maintenance log; how often has the current user performed maintenance (ask the operator or tech, not the owner).

At the selling shop, talk with the people who actually run the device and spend your time learning the "tricks" and "quirks" about this specific unit since all printers have something unique about them. Get as many phone numbers as you can before leaving-cell, business extension, home-because you will have questions when you start it up at your place. I even suggest recording your test drive; there is a lot of info that you can miss that is essential to running these used devices.

Again, if you're using a broker this is the time you make your final offer and negotiate any additional items like parts, ink, and media. Only set your final offer after you have seen or paid someone to inspect the printer. Once the offer is accepted, your broker will present you with options for shipping. Often brokers have a freight service they typically use, and can help secure a rigging company that can load the unit. However, you can do this legwork if you want to be cost conscious or if you broker does not offer these services.

An economy decision
Looking at used equipment is a cost-effective way to enter the market or expand your machinery repertoire. Buying used is nothing to be scared of, but it's cheaper for a reason-it is not new. So don’t expect it to last forever or even print to the original specs.

But you will likely be pleasantly surprised at how easy the process can be. And in this economy, saving or making a couple hundred grand is always something worth considering.

Jonathan Zinsmeyer is president of The Big Print ( in Seattle, one of the first print shops in the industry to adopt flatbed and bio-based printing solutions. His new blog can be found at