Pros and cons of selling excess lab equipment
Selling redundant equipment could generate vital funds – but how do you go about it, and what are the pitfalls? Here is our guide to becoming an equipment trading expert
Times change and things move on, both in our lives and in our labs. Equipment that has served us well for years will, by very nature, come to the end of its useful life. This may be due to changing requirements, improved methodology or funds being made available to us for equipment replacement. But what is to be done with these ‘old’ pieces of equipment that are now out of service?
We can take one of two views; either, this is a real problem for us or, this is a great opportunity. The problem could be that these items now have to take up valuable storage space, or worse still will cost us money to have them removed and recycled. Better, then, that this is viewed as an opportunity to generate money for our equipment fund, to help the environment and to see the equipment re-used by another lab.
When you start to acknowledge that your redundant equipment has potential value, how are you going to realise that value? Well, again, there are options. Firstly, you can advertise the equipment internally within your organization. It may well be that other laboratories in your company, hospital or university are crying out for that exact item; in which case it may be possible to make an internal ‘sale’ or perhaps exchange it for an item, consumables or even services from the recipient lab.
The next option worth considering is to offer it for sale to scientists within your organization. Often, scientists like to have their own personal items of lab equipment – for example their own microscope – so it may be that the member of staff who previously used the item in the lab may want to buy it themselves. This means that the item will be taken off the premises and so will need to be decontaminated in line with required methodology. It may also be that you have in place a ‘disclaimer’ that the buyer will need to sign. This is something specific to each organization, so worth checking to ensure all procedures are followed correctly.
Finally, the other option is to sell the equipment to a third-party outside of your organization. This can often be the most ‘profitable’ method of selling equipment, as it can be undertaken on a competitive basis. Once again, you have a number of options available to you. Some labs (and staff) are already registered on well-known Internet auction sites, so items can be listed there. However, there are pitfalls in relation to the method of payment used by some buyers. Ideally, items sold should only be released on receipt of cleared, non-refundable payment, such as bank transfer.
A better way forward is to offer the equipment to a number of established companies who regularly buy secondhand laboratory equipment. In this way you should hopefully receive at least two independent offers, and then be able to lay down set payment terms with the selected buyer. As with selling to individuals within your organization, equipment should be fully decontaminated before collection, but this is no different from times when you have service agents attend instrumentation for PMs or breakdowns.
How then do you select which companies to approach to offer them your unwanted equipment, and moreover how do you find details of them in the first place? As with most things these days, an Internet search is a good place to start, although by no means the only way. Most established buyers have a web presence, and their sites can often provide further information on the way forward for sales of lab equipment. In addition, one company has even produced a short video which can be seen on YouTube, called “5 Steps to Selling Your Lab Equipment” which explains just how quick and simple the process can be, either for a single item or a whole laboratory. You can see the video at youtube.com/labnews.
Assuming then that you have identified a selection of companies to approach, it would be a good idea to offer a number of them your equipment, by email. To do this, simply send details of make, model, approximate age, accessories included and a brief description of the condition of the item, both functionally and cosmetically. In addition, if you are able to take some digital photos showing the overall appearance (and internally, if there are doors/covers) and email these it would greatly assist in valuation; as the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words! On occasion it may be necessary for prospective buyers to inspect equipment on site, prior to them making an offer, however some companies are more than happy to make offers ‘unseen’ as they have substantial experience in assessing equipment remotely.
So, let’s say you have offered your equipment out to a number of companies and have received three offers; is the highest offer always the best? To answer this we must look at one of the most important factors in selling your unwanted lab equipment: payment. The payment terms should always be pre-payment or at least cleared funds on the day, before allowing the goods leave your facility. Some buyers may want to propose payment on 30-days, or perhaps 50% pre-payment and the balance at a set date in the future. However, the goods are yours and should only be released to a buyer once you have confirmed full receipt of funds in your bank account. Even a company cheque, presented on the day of collection is not sufficient, as there is no guarantee the buyer has funds to cover it. A bank draft/cheque would be better, however the ideal is identifiable cleared funds in your account.
The buyer to select should therefore be willing to adhere to your payment terms, and be flexible on when they can collect the goods. Prior to collection, good communication with the buyer is key, to ensure a smooth upload on the day. Confirm with them that they will be sending sufficient members of their team (or third party freight staff) to transfer the equipment from point of loading to their vehicle, unless you agree to provide assistance with this, either by hand or with your own lifting equipment. And once the goods have departed, that should be the process complete.
Hopefully you can now see that converting the problem of redundant lab equipment into an opportunity is very simple.