Buying a New vs. Used Wide Format Printer: A Large Format Printer Buying Guide
Many people prefer to purchase used equipment, especially if they can find a refurbished printer for half the price of a new unit. Most people understand the benefits of buying new:
- The latest software and upgrades
- A full warranty and probably a full-term service contract
- A unit without wear and tear
- No worries about finding ink and replacement parts
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Despite all of these benefits, there are also pluses to buying used. If you go the used/refurbished route, do your research and know the full cost of your choice.
What's the Difference Between Used and Refurbished?
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, used and refurbished are not technically the same thing.
A used machine simply means that another entity previously owned and operated the printer. In the process, the unit accumulated standard wear and tear (or greater than standard, depending on its level of use). When you purchase a used machine from a dealer instead of a private party, you typically receive some type of warranty or guarantee, possibly up to 90 days, though 30 days is more common. The dealer may also offer certification that the unit was inspected and works properly.
Refurbished typically means one of two things:
- The customer who bought the printer returned it for some approved reason (such as did not meet their needs or failed to work properly).
- The printer was a leased unit, traded in or surrendered at the end of the lease. The leasing vendor may have repaired or serviced the unit, but not always. Verify, do not assume, that repairs occurred.
What to Look for in a Used Wide Format Printer
You find the same variety in used wide format printers as you do in new machines. In addition, you have a wide selection of used equipment dealers available.
When buying used equipment, look for the bigger names. Well-known manufacturers tend to earn their stellar reputations by creating reliable, long-lasting equipment. That means that one of the top brands is more likely to be a great used machine than an unknown brand. In addition to having a longer lifespan, you'll also have an easier time finding replacement parts, getting repairs made, and finding the toner or ink you need to operate the unit.
You also want to look for vendors with the best reputation. Check out online reviews, giving extra weight to ratings with lots of reviews behind them. Five-star ratings are great, but not reliable when only a few reviews back it up. A four-star rating with hundreds of reviews carries a lot more weight than a five-star rating with only two. If you see negative reviews, look to see if the vendor replied.
Another vendor plus is the offer of guarantees and/or warranties on used equipment. Ask for referrals, as well. This lets you talk to other customers for an "in the weeds" take on the vendor. Questions to ask:
- Did you purchase used equipment? Were you happy with the purchase?
- Does the vendor respond to service and maintenance requests? Is response time prompt?
- Have you purchased from this vendor before? How many times? How long have you been a customer?
- Would you buy from this dealer again?
That last question may be the most important one to ask.
The Cost of Buying Used
On average, you'll pay about half the price of a new printer when you buy used. Prices actually vary, based on how old the unit is and its mileage, so savings may be as low as 25 percent or as high at 60.
You need to make sure the unit hasn't been discontinued, or the manufacturer hasn't gone out of business (another reason to stick with well-known brands). You want to be sure you can get replacement parts, not to mention ink or toner. Though printers are incredibly common, wide format printers are not. You need to ensure you'll be able to get the machine serviced and keep it running.