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computers on tables in a classroom

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With increasing economic and environmental pressures, companies are looking for new ways to save money as well as demonstrate corporate responsibility. One strategy that addresses both issues is purchasing pre-owned equipment. There are a lot of opportunities, but also misconceptions and factors to consider, especially when buying online.

Here are the ten things to keep in mind before purchasing pre-owned business equipment.

1. Calculate the cost savings. Buying pre-owned should save you money – generally 20 to 50 per cent and sometimes even more. If you do not already have a benchmark of what the price should be, do a quick search online for comparison.

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2. Get product reviews online. An advantage of pre-owned equipment is that is has been previously used and tested. When searching online, look at the real world product reviews of what you are buying. You may discover unexpected considerations, such as software that may be needed.

3. Pre-owned does not necessarily mean used. It actually just means that someone owned it previously – it does not speak to the condition or quality of the item. There is a considerable amount of refurbished, re-manufactured and never used equipment for sale. Select the condition you prefer.

4. Worried? Get a warranty and check the refund policy. Many sources of pre-owned equipment will offer a warranty and may offer an extended warranty at an additional cost. If one is not readily offered, just ask. You need to feel comfortable with your purchase decision so paying for an extra warranty may be the assurance you need. Be sure you are also clear on the purchase terms and understand the refund policy.

5. Unsure of the supplier? Do your homework. Look at the company's credentials and ratings if available. Call and speak with someone, or send them an e-mail with your questions; they should respond in a timely manner and be transparent with information. Feel free to ask for references or case studies that show they deliver. In the end, trust your gut.

6. Factor in your own time when considering shipping costs. It is important to consider the cost of shipping – and possibly customs - when buying pre-owned equipment, particularly from an online supplier. While these costs may add up, prospective buyers should also consider the value of their own time to source and pick up equipment from another supplier. In many cases, companies can get the product shipped to them. It is usually worth the cost to avoid your time and hassle.

7. Look to pre-owned as a source to locate hard-to-find equipment. Technology moves on, but this does not mean there is no longer a need for older gear. Whether you need to maintain existing systems or find spares, it can get even harder to find these older parts, placing a premium on their demand. With online sources, it is possible to reach more suppliers in a shorter amount of time than ever before. If you do not find what you are looking for, some sites offer the ability to post a wanted ad to proactively source the product.

8. See if the supplier can help you deal with your old equipment. If you have old equipment to dispose of, enquire with the supplier to see if they can help. This may even help subsidize the cost of your current purchase or generate additional cashflow back into your business.

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9. Use the stats for your corporate responsibility and sustainability reports. 'Reuse' is not only a good financial decision, but also a sustainable one. When you purchase pre-owned equipment, you can show your commitment to the environment through the waste diversion rates and sustainable procurement spend of your purchases. Use these statistics in your Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, website information, RFP responses, and more.

10. Build pre-owned equipment into your sustainablepurchasing plans. Once you have bought pre-owned and become comfortable with the process, build it into your strategy for Environmentally Preferring Purchasing (EPP) policies and sustainable procurement. As an increasing emphasis is placed on sustainable strategies, companies with a pre-owned plan will be able to seize opportunities.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Stephanie McLarty is CEO of REfficient (www.REfficient.com), an online reuse marketplace for businesses. Companies can source business equipment from others' surplus, connect with RE+ centres where equipment is resold or recycled, and receive sustainability reporting.

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