The Problem with Grey-Market “Used” Equipment
Everybody wants a safe, effective, and reliable laser therapy. Nobody likes to pay a lot for it. On the surface it may seem quite smart, frankly, to let someone else pay for depreciation, which accounts for more than half the original cost of a new laser in most cases.
We all want to save money, but in the end, are we willing to assume the risks that come with buying used? They may outweigh the rewards. After all, would you give your daughter a used car without first being totally sure it was safe? When someone’s well-being is at stake, can we really rely on words like “As Is”? Is what you lose buying used worth the cost of simply buying new?
Risks You Must Consider when Buying a Used Laser
The Seller – Do you know who you’re buying from?
- Who is selling the device, and why? (If it’s junk to them now, why do you want it?)
- Is the marketplace really a safe environment for the laser buyer? (Sites like eBay or DOTmed, while reputable, may not be truly qualified to protect you.)
- Does the seller or broker have all the important information, documentation, and references to give you confidence in them?
- If there is a problem with the sale, to whom do you go for help? (In many cases the Latin phrase “caveat emptor”—let the buyer beware—applies all too often.)
Performance – How confident are you that your getting a useful laser device?
- How do you know the device will work as expected? (Are you sure the device meets the specifications that regulatory bodies understood it was capable of when they originally cleared it to market?) Refurbishers may not be subject to the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices process, which must be followed by manufacturers.)
- Are you properly educated to make informed judgments about the device you’re considering in the first place?
- Is the seller legitimate? (A major medical device manufacturer recently warned hospitals to watch their inventories for a batch of its products that had been stolen, and which may carry risk of infection. The stolen items included fiber optic parts for medical lasers.)
Hidden Costs – Do you know what you’re really going to be paying, long term?
- How soon might you need to replace parts, and what do they cost? (Think of a car with 100,000 miles on it. How long do you think the fiber will last?)
- What accessories normally available with a new unit will need replacement?
- What is the recertification fee? (Most device manufacturers charge a fee to inspect and recertify a used laser if you want to have it repaired by them in the future.)
- What can you charge patients for each treatment, versus demand?
Warranties – Are your out-of-pocket expenses truly less when buying used?
- What does a warranty cost, and what does it cover? (Some laser cavities cost more than a year’s warranty. Are they covered?)
- Who is backing the warranty? (The used equipment seller may not be able to guarantee parts and labor in a timely fashion, if at all.)
- What conditions must you meet to obtain a warranty on a used laser? (Manufacturers will probably require recertification at minimum.)
Maintenance – Will you get the service you deserve before you’ve lost too much money?
- Who will service your laser? (Technicians may not be certified by the manufacturer to service your laser.)
- How quickly can your service provider respond to you? (Every day a device is out of commission, you’re losing money.)
- Where will the service provider get their replacement parts? (As manufacturers will not sell to them, third-party providers must scavenge replacement parts from other used lasers.)
- If regulatory bodies require that the manufacturer modify or upgrade their systems, or there are useful software or hardware upgrades, how will they know where to find you?
Liability – Isn’t this the most important factor to consider?
- If someone gets hurt or things otherwise go terribly wrong, who is responsible? (You are!)