One constant we face in IT is ever-tightening budgets. One way to ease the financial pain is by purchasing used or refurbished equipment rather than new. Is it a good option or not? Read on and take the poll. 


When economic times start to get bad, organizations scramble to tighten the belt. Layoffs happen. Budgets get cut. Projects get changed or canceled. In many organizations, one of the things that gets hit first and hardest is IT.

Many organizations still view IT as a necessary evil, not an intricate part of the organization. IT is a cost center with head count and budget that is normally never tied to revenue, and thereby merely dilutes per-capita revenue. When it’s time for cutbacks, you know where they’re going to come from first. And when times get better, don’t count on the money spigots to open widely either.

Much like Oliver Twist, we’re always asking the CFO: “Please sir, may I have some more?” The response we get is usually the same one that he got. So we make do and try to figure out how to stretch the last penny out of our budget.

One way to stretch the IT dollar is through the purchase of refurbished or used equipment. For example, let’s say you’ve decided that a branch office needs a new router and you’ve settled on the Cisco 1841. You can get one new from Tiger Direct for $2,099.99. Alternatively, you could go to eBay and pick up a “new” one for $1,471.99 and a used one for as little as $569. If you went for a refurbished unit, you could get one for as little as $1,282.50 from a place like nuLime.

What’s the best choice?

Buying new is the easiest choice. You know you’re getting a piece of equipment backed by a solid vendor and a warranty that will back it up. Equipment fresh out of the box probably works well, and if not, you can quickly get it fixed or replaced.

Purchasing used equipment is much like buying a used car. You don’t know much about the product other than what the seller’s going to tell you. Chances are you’re buying someone else’s problem. There’s probably no warranty backing up the product. But there is that low, low price to consider.

Refurbished equipment is somewhere in the middle. Someone had the product before you did, and something went wrong. They returned it, and it was checked out, fixed if possible, and reboxed up. Now it’s yours. You’re DEFINITELY buying somebody else’s problem, but chances are whatever the problem was before with the specific unit, it’s OK now. Often there’s a warranty to go with it.

In the places where I worked in IT, we always bought equipment new. I don’t think we ever purchased used or refurbished equipment. However, I’ve read that many companies have had success and saved lots of money by going those routes. I suppose it’s just a matter of how tight your budget is and how risk averse you are.

What about you?

I wanted to see what the TechRepublic community felt about used and refurbished equipment. Is it an option? Even in a lousy economy such as this one? Or will you only trust shiny new stuff on your network? Take the poll below and sound off in the Comment section.