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Purchasing Laundry Equipment: Buying New or Used?

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(Photo: © iStockphoto/sezer yadigar)

CHICAGO — When a laundry services operation is in the market for equipment, its administrator or manager can choose from among new, used, rebuilt/refurbished, or a combination, so it’s important to be able to compare options as far as total costs vs. benefits are concerned. How does one go about deciding which choice is the best?

American Laundry News has tackled this topic in depth at various times and in various ways over the years, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Given today’s give-me-the-highlights culture, we’ll summarize some basic guidelines for you to keep in mind when in the buying mood.

BUYING NEW

It’s easiest, but likely more expensive, to buy new. You’ll have the opportunity to examine the equipment closely and may even see it in operation at a manufacturing facility or distributor’s showroom, at a laundry that’s using the same type of equipment, or at a major trade show such as the Clean Show.

But seek out other laundries that have this equipment and learn what issues they may have experienced with it. You’ll know soon enough if it will fit your task.

New equipment will come with brochures, the owner’s manual, and a great deal of other documentation. You’ll receive assistance from the manufacturer and/or distributor regarding the equipment’s transportation and installation, staff training, replacement parts, and more. Everything is under warranty, and the manufacturer and/or distributor will make certain the equipment is working properly and that you’re satisfied.

By buying a new piece of equipment, you’ll know that the recommended preventive maintenance and repairs are carried out from the date of purchase. Your new equipment will invariably have the latest technological advances and safety devices, plus you’ll have the opportunity to add as many bells and whistles as you’re willing to pay for.

BUYING USED OR REBUILT/REFURBISHED

Previously owned machinery can work out quite well, and you can save money in the long run, but take care of the due diligence before signing on the bottom line.

There may be a good deal to be had if, for example, a laundry shuts down, relocates or expands and can no longer use a piece of equipment that’s in good shape. When considering used machinery, ask these questions:

  • When was the machine originally manufactured, and how long did it run? Was it used during multiple shifts? (The average life expectancy on well-maintained laundry equipment operating in a single-shift operation is about 15 years.)
  • Did the previous owner run constant, heavy-soil formulas, or light-soil formulas?
  • Was the machine maintained while in service, and are there any records to support this?
  • What is the availability of repair parts?
  • Why is the current owner willing to part with this equipment?

Ask for photos of the equipment, at a minimum. If you’re able, see the equipment in operation. If the used machine has been removed from service and can’t be hooked to power and air so you can see if it works, you won’t be able to fully evaluate its condition. You’ll be buying “as is.”

An alternative to buying used is buying a unit that has been rebuilt or refurbished, often to OEM standards.

Want to compare the costs vs. benefits of the different options? Try adding all the savings and benefits each year while subtracting all costs involved each year throughout the lifetime of both options.

Finally, no matter which choice is in front of you, you have to weigh it against your operation and its needs:

Return on Investment — How does it compare between the options you’re considering?

Financial Position — Can you pay cash for the purchase? If not, how will you finance it?

Efficiency — Which offers the greatest efficiency in terms of energy, processing capacity, chemical/water usage, etc.?

Environment — Which option is greenest?

Labor — How will the options reduce your labor needs?

Space — Which option offers the greatest production capacity for the least amount of space?

Installation — Which installation will disrupt your operation the least?

Vendor Reputation — How well known in the industry is the organization or business from whom you’re considering buying?

Morale/Image — Which option will have a more positive effect on employee morale and on your operation’s marketable image?

Every situation is unique, so be sure to research the equipment thoroughly. Determine how it might fit into your organization’s short- and long-term goals before buying anything, new or used.

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