Used Test Equipment and Test Instruments

- information about buying used test equipment or second hand test equipment and the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining refurbished electronic test equipment / used test instruments for use in a laboratory of production environment.

It can be a difficult decision to decide whether to buy new electronic test equipment, used test equipment, or whether to proceed with test equipment rental. The costs of much electronic test equipment is high, and this means that it is necessary to ensure that the best value is obtained for any financial outlay on test equipment.

Used test equipment, or second hand test equipment may fall into many categories, and virtually any test equipment can be bought as a second hand item. Spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, test meters and DMMs, signal generators and virtually any piece of electronics test equipment can be bought as used test equipment. Even complete automatic test systems (ATE) can be bought as second user items, and this route offers some considerable advantages. The purchase of used test instruments is therefore an option that must be included in any acquisition of test equipment.

Advantages of buying used test equipment

While buying new electronic test equipment is one option, and another is to look at test equipment rental, and finally buying used test equipment is another option that offers many advantages. While there are some disadvantages to buying used test equipment, the advantages often outweigh the disadvantages. Some of the advantages of buying second user test equipment include:

  • Cost benefits
  • Swift delivery
  • Availability of out of production test equipment

These are just three of the reasons why it can be advantageous to buy used test equipment, second hand test equipment. There may also be other advantages, dependent upon the particular application, and they may be specific to a particular user.

Cost benefits of used test equipment

Test equipment rental can be one option when on a tight budget, but often the period for which the electronic test equipment is required extends well beyond the original estimates and this may not always be the best option. As a result purchasing used test equipment, or as it is often called, second user test equipment can prove to be an ideal option. The main benefit of this is the considerable saving over new test equipment. Typically used test equipment can provide cost savings of anywhere between 25 to 75% dependent upon a variety of factors. This makes the purchase of used test instruments a very attractive option under many circumstances.

Improved delivery

While it may be thought that purchasing new electronic test equipment would offer the best solution in terms of delivery this may not be the case. Some small items of electronic test equipment may be available ex-stock, but the larger, more expensive items are almost always on a long delivery. Six to eight weeks is not uncommon, and ten weeks is not unusual. When test equipment is needed urgently, there are two other options that can be considered, one is test equipment rental, and the other is to buy used test equipment.

Availability of out of production test equipment

It often happens that electronic test equipment that is not available new is called up in production test schedules. It may be that the electronic test equipment was available in the development of a new product and is required for its production testing, or it may be that increased quantities of test equipment are needed as the production of a product is increased. Whatever the reason, it can present a problem. Obviously buying the equipment new is not an option. Hiring the test equipment may also not be possible because the hire companies tend to focus more on new equipment. This means that acquiring used test equipment, second user test equipment, may be the only option.

Pitfalls of buying used test equipment

While there are many advantages to buying used test equipment there are some disadvantages and points to note when buying any used test instruments.

  • Ensure the test instrument is from a reputable dealer
  • Ensure it has been fully refurbished
  • Ensure it meets the required EMC and safety standards
  • Ensure it comes with a guarantee
  • Ensure it comes with support and can be calibrated in the future
  • Ensure it can be operated from the required supply voltage
  • If it is a software based product ensure that it has the relevant software and the latest software and updates can be obtained

Ensure the used test equipment is from a reputable dealer

There is naturally a risk in obtaining used test equipment. This can be minimised considerably in buying it from a reputable dealer. Dealers who have built a good name for themselves will want to ensure that any test equipment they supply will work satisfactorily and that they have satisfied customers who will return again.

Ensure the test equipment is fully refurbished

While there should be no problem with a reputable test equipment dealer it is essential to make sure that fully refurbished test equipment is being purchased. It is worth asking how much they do to ensure that they are offering fully refurbished test equipment. Normally the refurbishment will involve the test equipment being cleaned, checked and calibrated. Any problems that are found should be rectified. Fortunately most test equipment these days is built to very high standards and can be expected to provide good service for many years. Thus refurbished test equipment should not be much less reliable that if it were bought new.

Latest EMC and safety requirements

Safety and EMC standards are becoming more important. It is therefore necessary to ensure that any electronic test equipment that is purchased will meet the required EMC and safety requirements. For relatively new used test equipment that is purchased from a reputable dealer, this should not be a problem. However if it is being imported, it is from a foreign source, or it is being bought from an unknown source, it is necessary to check that the test equipment will meet the required standards.

Ensure it comes with a guarantee

In order to minimise any risk there may be in buying used test equipment, second user test equipment, make sure there is a good guarantee from the supplier. Any reputable dealer will ensure the test equipment comes with a good guarantee, but in any case it is best to check what is normal for the country in which the dealer is located - it can vary from one country to another. By ensuring the equipment comes with a guarantee, should any problems occur, then it will be possible to have them fixed.

Support and future calibration

This should not normally be a problem, but for older test equipment, or more specialised equipment it is worth checking whether it will be possible to maintain the equipment for as long as it is required. Most test equipment, whether new or second user test equipment can be calibrated and maintained by general test equipment calibration and maintenance houses. However it is worth checking, particularly for the more specialised items.

Power supply requirements

Most equipment these days can operate on supplies anywhere between about 110 volts and 240 volts. However, particularly when buying equipment from overseas it is worth checking that it can operate on the power supplies that are available. Otherwise an expensive and inconvenient transformer may need to be purchased. What would be worse, is the equipment arriving and being set up only to find the required supply is not available. It may be that a transformer tap needs to be altered, so check this before plugging in!

Software updates

Test equipment including logic analyzers has a heavy reliance on software. Any software is likely to be updated, and it is therefore necessary to ensure that there will be access to new updates and that these can be downloaded and installed.


Used test equipment, second user test equipment is a very sensible option for many electronic test equipment requirements. Buying used test instruments provides many cost savings along with the possibility of faster delivery than buying new, or obtaining specific items of test equipment that may not otherwise be available. Care is obviously needed when buying, and most of the precautions can made by purchasing from a reputable dealer. With their guarantees this can be an ideal way of purchasing test equipment.

By Ian Poole

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The Developing Role of Electronic Component Distributors Ian Poole | Electronic Notes
The Developing Role of Electronic Component Distributors
The service that electronic component distributors has provided over the years has changed very significantly. Nowadays, distributors provide a very effective service, meeting the many needs of development, manufacturing and service organisations small and large. is operated and owned by Adrio Communications Ltd and edited by Ian Poole. All information is © Adrio Communications Ltd and may not be copied except for individual personal use. This includes copying material in whatever form into website pages. While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on, no liability is accepted for any consequences of using it. This site uses cookies. By using this site, these terms including the use of cookies are accepted. More explanation can be found in our Privacy Policy