Buying Used Restaurant Equipment


Every food service owner or operator wants to save money. Money saved is money added to your bottom line. But sometimes, saving money in the short term will cost you money in the long term. Buying used equipment instead of new equipment will always save you money in the short term, but make sure to think ahead. With many pieces of equipment, the money saved by purchasing used is not worth the risk it entails. However, in certain cases, buying used equipment is a smart way to save some of your capital.

Advantages of New Equipment

As everyone knows, one of the most obvious advantages of purchasing new equipment is that it is guaranteed to work. When you purchase used equipment, there are no guarantees. There are many other advantages to purchasing new equipment, including the following:

  • Warranty. When you purchase new equipment, it almost always comes with a warranty on parts and labor. This warranty usually lasts for several years. This means that if your equipment breaks down within the time allotted by the warranty, you will get it repaired or replaced for free.
  • Longer life. While there is no guarantee that your new equipment will continue to function properly after the warranty, your new equipment will generally have a longer life than used equipment, especially if you maintain it properly. When you purchase new equipment, you will also have access to the manufacturer’s network of service technicians in your area, so you do not have to go out of your way to find a certified repair person. » Learn More About Inspection for New Restaurants
  • Better efficiency. Newer models tend to implement new, energy-efficient technologies. And in general, the longer a piece of equipment is used, the less energy-efficient it becomes. This is because the parts will typically wear down over time, slowly making the equipment less efficient. A new piece of equipment will be more efficient, and if you clean and maintain it regularly, you can ensure that it remains so. » Learn More About Energy-Saving Tips for Restaurants
  • Visual appeal. Unless you have an open kitchen, you are probably not too concerned with the visual effect of your equipment. However, open and exhibition kitchens are becoming more and more popular, and new equipment will look much more attractive to customers who see into your kitchen.

Tips on Buying used Equipment

Look for gently used equipment.

Do not buy equipment that has been used for more than 3 years. When buying equipment at auctions or used equipment dealers, ask how many years of regular use the equipment underwent. At a restaurant auction, it will probably be the amount of years the restaurant was open. Since about 30% of restaurants fail within a year of opening, and about 60% fail within the first three years of opening, finding gently used restaurant equipment at auctions is not hard. With a used equipment dealer, you will have to decide whether you can trust his or her word about how long the equipment has been used.

Go with top-of-the-line brands.

When buying new, you may not be able to afford a top-of-the-line brand, but when buying used equipment, it will be worth the extra cost. Equipment from a top-quality brand is more likely to work and have a long life-span. Brands like Vulcan, Traulsen, Delfield, Garland and Wolf are all good brands to look for when buying used equipment.

Choose gas cooking equipment.

Commercial gas ranges, charbroilers have few moving parts, so an inspection will usually reveal any major problems, such as leaks or operational defects. As long as you get the equipment inspected to ensure that it is in working order, you can save a few hundred dollars by buying this equipment used. When determining whether it is cost-effective to buy it used, include the cost of the technical evaluation. Make sure that the appliance uses the right type of gas. You can usually look on the tag on the rear of the equipment to determine whether it uses propane (LP) or natural gas.

Avoid used electric cooking equipment.

While electric cooking equipment is generally more energy-efficient and easier to maintain and clean, purchasing used electric cooking equipment is always a risk. This is because there are usually a lot more parts in electrical equipment than there are in gas equipment. If any of the wiring in an electric fryer fails, it will require an experienced technician or even an electrician to fix it.

Be careful with used fryers.

Because fryers have a relatively low cost when purchased new, most restaurant operators choose to purchase new frying equipment. Buying a used fryer is always a risk. Deep fat fryers have a high failure rate. Furthermore, because a gas fryer combines two flammable elements – cooking oil and an open flame – used gas fryers are at risk of causing a fire. If you do decide to purchase a used gas fryer, make sure to have it thoroughly inspected for leaks or worn out parts, first.

Where to Find Used Equipment

Finding quality used equipment is not always easy. You get what you see, so when you hook up the used equipment, there is no guarantee that it will work. Because of this, there is almost always risk involved when purchasing used equipment.

Used Equipment Dealers

To find a used equipment dealer in your area, look in the yellow pages or do an online search. There are also several online used equipment dealers available. You may want to ask a good friend in the food service industry for a recommendation of a trustworthy used equipment dealer. Be sure to ask the dealer how many years of use the equipment has undergone. Also ask if the used equipment comes with any certifications or guarantees of functionality. If not, since used equipment cannot be returned, you should bring in a technician to inspect the equipment before you make the purchase.


Look in the classified ads or contact a local auctioneer to find out when a restaurant auction will be held in your area. Usually, an auction is held onsite, at a food service establishment that has recently gone out of business. Because of this, you will know exactly who owned the equipment previously, and you will usually be able to determine how long the equipment has been used for. This makes it easier to find equipment that has only been gently used. » Learn More About Buying Restaurant Equipment at an Auction

Closing Restaurants

Usually when a restaurant closes, the owner will sell off all of the equipment to an auction or used equipment dealer. If you can speak with the owner before they sell the equipment, you might be able to circumvent this step and get even better deals on the equipment, since there will be no fees paid to a dealer.

Alternatives to Buying Used Equipment

If you want all the benefits of new restaurant equipment, but simply cannot afford it, consider these alternatives:

Dent and Scratch Equipment

When food service operators purchase new equipment and it arrives dented or scratched, they usually refuse delivery and return the equipment to the store or factory. Although the damage to this equipment is only cosmetic, the manufacturer or store cannot sell the damaged equipment at full price. Instead, the equipment is sold at a discounted price in line with the extent of the damage. If you are on a tight budget, purchasing new dent and scratch equipment is a good alternative to paying full price.

Closeouts and Overstocked Equipment

When items are overstocked at the warehouse, they will often go on sale. Sometimes, models that have been discontinued will also go on sale, so that the manufacturers can get rid of their stock of this item. To stretch your budget as far as it will go, look for discounted restaurant equipment.


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