Acquiring the necessary screen printing equipment can require a significant investment to allow your custom apparel printing to take off. Entry-level equipment may be affordable, but you can only go so far before further progress requires better equipment to meet growing demand reliably. Buying new is going to be costly, especially for higher-grade equipment. The very thought of spending so much on something can be daunting, especially if you worry about your ROI.
Buying used equipment is an option; quite a few print shops have done this to maximize savings while getting the most out of their new old equipment. But should you follow in their footsteps as well? Why should you buy used screen printing equipment anyway when newer ones are a better option in the long term?
- Why Buy Used Equipment
- Where to Buy Used Equipment
- Used Equipment You Can Buy
- Important Considerations when Buying Used Equipment
Why Buy Used Equipment
For those starting out with screen printing, the biggest pro to buying used is simple: cost savings. Think of it as buying a used car: plenty of models are out there, some of which are still in working condition. It becomes a matter of looking around for the right one, finding out more about it, then deciding to purchase it. Sometimes, you can even pay for used equipment in cash – no leasing or loans required.
Most of the time, you’ll find yourself owning a slightly older model that’s been well taken care of, ensuring that it’s still usable for a decent amount of time. You might even be fortunate enough to get your hands on relatively new equipment that’s only a few months old at a low price. Ultimately, it’s a win-win scenario for you and the seller.
Depending on where you buy your used equipment, you might even get some additional goodies thrown into the mix, either at a discounted price or bundled with your initial purchase for free. Of course, while it is a bargain, you might receive faulty items (like warped screens). You’ll also have to foot the bill if anything breaks down when you use it. Used equipment has no warranties or guarantees; what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.
The bottom line is that you can maintain your cash flow by purchasing used equipment. With how cash-intensive acquiring new equipment can be, getting used equipment in good condition can still allow you to screen print quality custom apparel for your customers and maximize profitability. You’re leveraging used equipment to your shop’s advantage.
Where to Buy Used Equipment
You can find used equipment sold on various channels. It’s a good idea to occasionally keep tabs via these channels if you’re searching for the used screen printing equipment your shop needs. Whenever the opportunity arises, you’d best hurry up to see what’s available before it sells out.
It’s fairly easy to find things online these days. Whether through Facebook’s Marketplace or dedicated buy-and-sell sites like eBay and Craigslist, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are even dedicated sites for screen printers looking to acquire new or used equipment, such as Screenprinting Magazine’s Classifieds section and Digitsmith.
Buying online does have its caveats. Most notably, you won’t be able to see the equipment for yourself; you can only rely on photos that the seller includes. How do you know if it’s in working condition or whether it has missing parts? If you can’t ascertain if the equipment is working as it should, you might waste money on a faulty piece of equipment.
Some print companies might not be doing well and decide to close their doors. Others may want to find new opportunities elsewhere and choose to move. Whichever the case is, when these companies open their doors to buyers looking to “rehome” some of their equipment, you might find something worthwhile.
Whatever used equipment the company might be liquidated via a conventional sale or an auction. With sales, you may have an opportunity to see the equipment in person and examine it thoroughly to see if it’s worth the asking price. Some sellers may be willing to bargain if they really need to get rid of their equipment fast, so if you’re lucky, you could get used equipment for a much lower price than what was initially offered.
The term “liquidation” usually refers to converting assets into cash, especially with companies going out of business or getting rid of excess stock. Liquidation outlets are usually entrusted with this task, so getting to know the people involved can benefit you greatly. Frequent contact with these liquidators might give you first-hand knowledge of planned sales or auctions where you can get screen printing equipment cheaply.
It does still pay to do a little research. Some liquidators might base their discounts on the equipment’s MSRP, which might be higher than what it was actually sold for. Compare prices where possible so you’re maximizing your cash with any purchase you make.
These brokers help companies sell used equipment to interested buyers while taking a cut of the profits. In some cases, some brokers may offer leases on certain equipment, allowing you to try them for a short trial run or use them long-term. Leasing can also be a cost-effective way to acquire screen printing equipment, if only for a stipulated period of time as per the lease’s terms.
Just make sure you buy only from trusted brokers and research equipment pricing before you buy from a broker. Some brokers may sell used equipment at a hefty premium compared to current used equipment pricing trends.
Used Equipment You Can Buy
There are plenty of things you can buy used if you know where to look. Just make sure you check them thoroughly before you seal the deal.
We don’t just mean tables and chairs. There are pushcarts and racks you can also get on the cheap, and because of how often you’ll be using them (plus the amount of wear and tear they’ll be put through), buying them at a bargain makes sense. Print shop furniture is generally replaceable, so it’s better to get low-cost options instead of more expensive alternatives.
You might also find other kinds of furniture your shop needs from neighborhood garage sales or flea markets. Consider looking around, and you’ll definitely not be disappointed.
You don’t need to splurge on an industry-leading heat press; as long as the heat press evenly applies heat and pressure, it’ll ensure your prints turn out nicely. Used heat presses are relatively easy to find and can be quite inexpensive to own, but do remember to check that they’re functioning optimally and apply the right amount of heat and pressure to your garments.
Screen Printing Presses
Manual and automatic presses can also be bought at a bargain if you know where to look. Manual screen printing presses are good for your fledgling business, and you’ll usually be able to get reliable presses at affordable prices – sometimes for as low as $1,000. Some screen printers gradually phase out their older used presses for “newer” used presses: for example, they might replace their four-color, four-station screen press with an eight-color, six-station one.
Automatic presses are also easy to come by and can be purchased for equally low sums. Good fortune might see you nab a reliable used automatic press (say, three years in service) for $10,000 when its retail price may be three times that amount.
You can’t be screen printing without mesh screens, and you can get a wide range of mesh screens with different mesh counts for a good deal. Screen tension does weaken over time, but you can easily (and affordably) have them re-meshed.
New platens can be expensive to acquire. Used ones can be bought for a fraction of the price, but be sure that the ones you buy aren’t warped; aluminum platens are usually more durable than wooden ones.
Inks and Other Chemicals
Plastisol ink can last a lifetime if stored correctly. You can buy pre-owned ink containers, but buying new ones is usually recommended to avoid problems down the line. You’ll never know what the previous owner used the inks for, nor what may have been added to it. If you still plan on buying used ink, consider only unopened containers that are still sealed and well-kept.
Retired Enterprise-Grade Computers
Some companies might liquidate older computer systems when they upgrade to newer ones. They’ll usually sell off these older computers to interested buyers, and you’d do well to get one or two where needed. While they might have older hardware, these enterprise-grade computers are built to last long. There are also enterprise-grade laptops if you prefer having something more portable for your needs.
Find out about the specifications of these computer units, such as the type of hard drive, processor, and storage capacity. Prioritize computers with solid state drives (SSDs) that offer better system performance; if these are refurbished units, ensure it’s done by an authorized party to avoid buying a problematic unit.
Other Electrical Equipment
Flash cures, exposure units, and even conveyor dryers can also be had for low prices. Sometimes, you only need to replace a few inexpensive parts, like flash cure bulbs, to get them working nicely. Be sure to test the equipment before buying it; if it’s an online deal, ask for photographic or video proof, including the plug attached to the socket and the switch turned on.
Remember that if something seems fishy about a potential purchase you’re about to make, don’t hesitate to call off the sale.
Important Considerations when Buying Used Equipment
It always pays to be cautious about whatever you’re purchasing, especially with used equipment. Here are some pointers you should always keep in mind.
It might seem trivial, but asking more about the used equipment you plan to buy never hurts. If it’s an online-only deal, what guarantees can you get that the equipment functions as it should? Photos don’t tell the whole story, after all. Even if you’re checking out the equipment in person, discussing it in detail with the seller is within your rights.
- How long has the owner used it?
- What’s its current condition?
- Can you see more photos (if you can’t be there in person)?
- Can they take a video demonstrating that it’s still in working condition?
- Can you or your friend examine the equipment?
A seller willing to share as much information about the equipment you’re enquiring about is always a good sign. It could be a potential red flag if they hesitate to reveal any particular information you’re asking for. Nevertheless, exercise caution at all times.
Test the Equipment
If you’re unsure what to look for when reviewing a piece of equipment, you will be in a lot of trouble. It wouldn’t hurt to bring along a staff member or a friend who knows a lot about the equipment to accompany you. They’ll be able to ask the right questions for you, identify problems with the equipment (if any), and work with you on how to get it set up in your shop if the deal is good.
Testing the equipment goes beyond ensuring that the equipment works. You’ll be able to trust the seller and choose to buy other used equipment they might have. The seller will be able to get rid of their used equipment while earning a positive review from you, prompting others to consider doing business with the seller. Everybody wins!
Know What You Really Need
It might be tempting to scoop up all the deals you can find, but you’ll need to be judicious about where you’re spending your money. Sure, they might be priced lower than market rates, but if you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to use them (or if you’ll actually use them), you’re only going to be left with a lot of waste and less cash in your business account.
Think back to when you went shopping during a sale and bought several items on offer because they were heavily discounted. When you come back home and take stock of your purchases, you conclude that you didn’t even need any of those items on offer. You ultimately give these items away to relatives and friends who expressed an interest in them.
When it comes to your printing business, where you spend your cash really matters: you can’t get a return on your investment if you never have a use for it. It becomes a giant paperweight in your shop; you might even have difficulties trying to sell it off, and you’ll have to sell it for less than its purchase price.
Having a plan written up on what equipment you need would do you good. This way, you’ll ensure that your funds are used for the right reasons, avoid unnecessary wastage, and have funds available for other important aspects of your screen printing business.
Sometimes, solutions may present themselves in other ways. In the case of furniture, you might be good at woodworking and can make some sturdy tables with wood from a relative and various supplies from Home Depot. Or you might have some unused cabinets at home that you can take to the shop and convert into paint or squeegee storage cabinets. Simple, practical solutions like these can ultimately be beneficial for your shop.
An equally important factor to consider is maintenance. Older used equipment may be more prone to breakdowns or other mechanical problems that impair its usefulness. When looking at used equipment, make sure you take a look at its preventive maintenance logs and see how often it was serviced. Did it also need parts replaced? How frequently did these replacements need to be performed?
If the equipment looks new but has to be fixed up over and over again due to multiple issues, it isn’t going to be worth your investment. You may have to pay a lot more for what it’s worth just to keep it running smoothly. You’ll also need to ensure that spare parts are readily available or are still made by the manufacturer. Without these spare parts, the equipment would be rendered useless when it does break down.
Last but not least, who’s going to maintain the equipment? If your staff can’t do it at all, you’ll have to rely on service technicians or independent contractors to do the maintenance for you (and impart the necessary skills to your staff as well). It gets worse if there aren’t any support channels that can help you with your maintenance woes; you’ve ended up with a wasted investment.
There’s plenty of used equipment out there waiting to be acquired. Not only is it a great way to save on expensive long-term investments, but you’re also still able to make the most of the equipment and earn strong profit margins from its use. As long as you do your homework before buying used equipment, you’ll be able to leverage all your equipment to great effect and take your screen printing business further.