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Buying a Used Ultrasound Machine: Costs and What to Look Out For

Used and refurbished ultrasound machines are a viable alternative to purchasing a new unit, especially if you're willing to spend the time it takes to research the machine beforehand. Sometimes called secondary units, the only qualification is that the unit has been sold at least once before. In some instances, the unit was never used, only opened and returned. Even ultrasound machines with a history of use are restored to meet OEM standards.

A secondary machine potentially saves you around 50 percent on the price of a new machine. Not a number to be sniffed at when new ultrasound machines can easily cost more than $100,000.

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Things to Consider

First, when buying used, choose a brand you know and trust. Has the manufacturer been in the medical game for a while? If so, you can be fairly sure this company knows what it takes to keep customers happy and returning for more. Of course, newer businesses may also offer great service and top-notch products. However, when buying used, a company's reputation plays a role. Make sure you get plenty of customer references before going to a new company.

Next, look for the newest used model available. Yes, the machine has been refurbished. However, newer models have greater compatibility with current units (naturally). This becomes important when it comes time to service your machine. It also influences how your patients view your practice. Outdated equipment reflects poorly while up-to-date technology inspires confidence.

Check the service or maintenance package. Even refurbished machines should include a warranty (at least 12 months) that guarantees quick response times, on-site repairs, and includes parts and labor.

Closely related is customer service. Choose a vendor who offers more than one method, and preferably three or four, to contact them with questions or problems. You likely also need training, unless you choose a machine that is the same model as one you already own. Make sure your vendor offers a basic training upon delivery of the machine. You may need a more in-depth training if the machine is more technologically advanced than your current model.

It should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: Test the machine before you buy it. Who should test it? Whoever uses it. This person is (or should be) trained according to OEM specifications. This means he or she knows the correct way to operate it as well as whether it functions properly. It needs to work well, not just look good.

If the inspiration of your purchase is upgrading your old equipment, ask whether the vendor or manufacturer accepts trade-ins. The worst they can say is "No," and you may get a discount on your new-to-you machine.

Finally, avoid "as is" machines if at all possible. A broken machine negatively impacts your operation in a significant way. If you must purchase a machine as is, include your most experienced technician in the testing to offer a full evaluation of the machine and explain any issues he or she sees occurring in the near future.

Average Costs of a Used Ultrasound Machine

Pricing used ultrasound machines is a challenge, as they vary so widely in cost. This is because they vary so widely in size, technology, features, and more. You can find used models for a few thousand dollars and all the way up to well over $100,000 for larger machines that produce 4D, color imagery. On average, though, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $40,000 for a used ultrasound machine.

A GE Voluson E8 Expert sells new for around $115,000, with refurbished models clocking in under the $100,000 mark. Another GE Voluson model, the 730 Expert, retails new for $75,000 and used for less than $50,000.

Chison comes in at the low end, with used models available from around $4,000 to $7,000. Sonosite demonstrates the full range of price variability. Their Titan Portable Ultrasound Machine sells refurbished for around $7,000 while their Edge Portable goes for $40,000 more.

Additional Costs

In addition to paying for the unit itself, you face numerous other costs. Delivery generally runs around $300. Installation should be included with the purchase price, though. If you need more involved training than the unit includes, expect to pay at least $1,000 and upwards of $5,000, depending on your training needs.

If you sign a maintenance agreement, expect to pay about 15 percent of the purchase price, each year. Replacement parts also cost you. Transducer probe pricing varies as much as the machines themselves do, from around $500 to over $15,000. A standard probe runs you around $1,000, though.

To print your images, you need an ultrasound printer. Black and white printers start around $1,000 while color and thermal printers run closer to the $3,000 range.

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