Second-hand machines: choosing a good buy or goodbye
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
10 February 2011
Older machines can still represent good value
At times I'm contacted by lenders in various shapes and forms asking me about the value of funding a used wide-format digital printing machine. On a sadder turn of the coin, I also get calls from auction companies wondering what price to put on a piece of equipment which represents part of a company's former assets before receivership beckoned.
Following Laurel Brunner's comments, there are indeed some excellent offers around today and plenty of companies eager to snatch them up. Machines originally sold by reputable manufacturers and resellers are often easily matched up with new users. Service agreements can be set out anew, and the equipment in question is delivered having been thoroughly checked and tested prior to installation in its new home.
But these aren't the machines I'm often contacted about. The finance houses and banks that turn to me do so because they're trying to work out a viable return on investment so that payment terms can be configured accordingly. In other words, the banker needs his pound (or kilo) of flesh but he wants to make sure that his customer isn't buying a dog and is actually going to make a living from a machine that no-one seems to know anything about.
Putting a street value on second-hand printing equipment isn't the same as evaluating a used car. There are no simple guides or charts to assess the worth of a machine or its usability well into the future. Often no-one knows its history, whether it has been loved and cherished by former operators or if it's been treated badly and ignored completely when it's crying out for maintenance.
When I've visited manufacturers, I've cringed when I've seen some of the machines which have been returned for one reason or another. Covered in ink, grime and general detritus, these costly lumps of metal and technology will be cherished and put back into good order for resale.
So when I'm asked by a loan company about the perceived value of a used printer, it is usually impossible even to guess without seeing its condition and the quality of what it can output. A high mileage machine might be a better bet than one which has been used rarely, and a well cared-for unit which has long been superseded in model terms could prove to be better value than a later version that has been badly treated.
Users after a second-hand machine might get a bargain. But they could be buying into someone else's nightmare which is now being passed down the line. Taking the reputable route to purchase is the most sensible option but, if the printer in question still has plenty of life in it, although no longer supported by its original manufacturer, get it checked out and test it's working before showing anyone your money.
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