How do you feel about buying used gear?

gafftaper

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As I keep saying... I'm in the process of purchasing a whole inventory for a new college theater. So, tonight I'm looking at Solaris Network and Gearsource and thinking hmm... I could save a good chunk of money buy purchasing some used gear.

Especially for something like a bunch of used Source Fours... they're just going to get dinged up a bit when I use them anyway right? The current price on Gear source for a pack of 12 S4's is $227 including a connector... that's at least $70 less than a new one at a great package discount. I could save several thousand dollars. For about the same price as a dozen new S4's I could get a dozen used, plus have the money to buy a dozen spare lens tubes of a different degree. That's tempting...

So has anyone purchased used gear from one of these places... What did you buy. Were you happy would you buy again. Any reason not to buy conventionals? What about movers? It seems a little more scary buying a used mover as there are so many parts that could be damaged.

Just curious about your opinions.

Got any other used websites to check out?
www.gearsource.com
www.solarisnetwork.com
http://www.martincheckmarked.com (sells factory warranty Martin "B stock")
 

soundlight

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I'd buy used source fours, used cable, other used conventional instruments, but that's about where it stops if I'm purchasing for a space. IMO, consoles, dimmers, automated lights, etcetera should be purchased new.
 

jmabray

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It also depends on your situation. A lot of times, when building a new space, you aren't allowed to buy used equipment with the funds. You must buy new. The funds and how they are allocated require it - it's a legal thing. If you can buy used, I'd agree with Soundlight - cable, conventionals, etc are just fine used. There are not any moving parts - they either work or they don't and you should be ok. (I would check the lamp sockets on the S4's though) Everything else - look at new. The main thing there is that you get the warranty.
 

icewolf08

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Well, I am going to go against the grain here apparently. I think with conventional units like Source Fours, it isn't really worth it to buy used instruments. I suppose you could look at a discount like you have as getting every fifth unit free, but do you really know what condition the fixtures are in? Are they going to need work to make them work? Plus, what generation are they? There are a bunch of revisions of the Source Four, some better than others, and some early ones are not completely interchangeable with new ones.

My thinking is, that if you are buying a fixture that is going to be the staple of your inventory, you want to know that it is going to work. If you buy them new you a) know who it is coming from, b) have some form of guarantee that it will work out of the box or be replaced, and c) you know you are getting top quality gear. I think all that is worth the extra money, plus, the only thing not included when you buy from people like BMI is the connector, but that isn't really a huge expense.
 

Sean

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Alexandria, VA
Used gear.

Perhaps I'm too used to working with a budget, and also for having to budget for labor costs:

Don't buy used Lekos. Period.

Two theatres locally have recently expanded, and to save money they bought used gear. It may have helped in the dollar department, but the electricians have all made comments about it having been a bad decision. They have shutter troubles, bad caps, and flakey reflectors.

I'm coming up on my yearly maintenance period. My rough assumption that the cost of owning a leko is about $10-$25 per year in parts and labor. I budget about 20 minutes of labor per light to clean, make minor repairs (new tilt handle, etc), and bench focus. That's to keep them running in good condition, not to hang, focus, etc. Our gear is well cared for--the 10 year-old S4's don't look any different than the brand new ones.

From my perspective, buying new pays for itself almost immediately. Last time I bought lekos (couple months ago) I think they cost $265-270. Saving $60 knowing I'll have to put more money and labor into them within two years just isn't worth it.

Many of us have used rented gear. I think for the most part people are careful with stuff, but there's always that guy on the call that says "doesn't
matter, it's rented" as he THROWS it into a box. I've been guilty of that myself on occasion. Now, send that same abused gear out on ~10 shows. Might be outside, might be handled by a bunch of drunks....whatever. Stuff goes back to the shop, and the manager pulls the oldest gear out of the pile and puts it on the "sell it" shelf. PRG paints the lights each time they go out (or just about). So, if you buy PRG used gear it will have several layers of additional black paint too.

If you want to save money buying used gear, buy your PAR's used. They're easier and cheaper to fix (and there are fewer failure points). Even S4 PAR's used aren't that bad, except again for the reflectors. I've had really good luck buying used foggers--they make a great intern project. Take it apart, clean it, put in new hoses, test it, etc. I've also purchased AF1000's used. And PAR-64's.

Build your own cable--it will be about the same cost as buying used, and it's pretty easy to "build it as you need it." It really is a volume purchasing discount situation though. Buy 1000' of 12/3 SOOW and 100 of each M & F 2P&G (the OEM cases of pin connectors come in 100 count boxes). You'll save a bit more money that way. But be really careful buying lights used.

Oh, and as for the "cost of connectors": I'm in the final stages of working on a new venue. When pricing the fixture package (a very large purchase ~$475,000) I made the discovery that Altman charges $17 per connector. That's the cost of the plug and the labor cost. As the only Altman lights in the package were 48 PAR-64's, we opted to not get the connectors on them. We'll have to put plugs on as we go, but my labor (and connector) costs are much lower than that! It wouldn't be worth it to put plugs on the ~1000+ fixture leads in the package, but the cost from Altman was the worst (especially when compared to the price of the fixture itself).

I've rambled quite a bit here. Do you have a list of the gear you want? Would you mind sharing the list of equipment with us?

--Sean
 

Sean

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Location
Alexandria, VA
Oh....

Buying used lens tubes is usually a very safe bet. That's especially true if you can examine them before you buy.

I'd suggest you not buy the older 19° tubes, as they are different from the rest of the 19's in production. Otherwise, buying used tubes can save you about $30 per tube.

--Sean
 

soundlight

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Oct 27, 2005
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NJ & NYC
Some first-gen 36* lens tubes are also rather flakey, as in you can't focus gobos sharp. We found this out with about 8 units in our black box space, and had to have the lens tubes replaced.
 

Sean

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Location
Alexandria, VA
Some first-gen 36* lens tubes are also rather flakey, as in you can't focus gobos sharp. We found this out with about 8 units in our black box space, and had to have the lens tubes replaced.
Yes, that's true.

A helpful hint for everyone. To get the degree sign, type (on the numeric keypad): ALT-0176. That's on PC....I'm not sure if it's similar on the Macs.

I got tired of hunting for it when working with Lightwright, so I finally just memorized it.


--Sean
 

Van

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If you Buy used, Pay Used. that's my philospophy. I'm the trusting sort and feel most people will be honest with you about the condition of used gear they are selling. As long as the savings are significant, the benefits can be significant as well. If you can afford to buy 30% more gear becuase you're saving 30%, and if 5% of the gear is parts, then you've just increased your inventory by 25% for the same amount of money. Yes we all like the "New Car Smell", but I can live without it. Now I do have issues with used Movers. Having working in Production rental houses, I know how beat up these fixture can be, with no outward clues of their internal conditions. Used board? What's wrong with it? A dirty slider? as long as it's not a faulty Motherboard, it's probably just being sold used 'cause somebody else could afford to upgrade.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Mixed feelings.

I once purchased used Shakespeares from BML, as a great deal w/ a trade in 1:1 for Altman 360Q's. I think they were $175 ea. w/ the trade

These 48 units became ladder side lights and generally work well. They were the last and only used units I have or will purchase used.

As units that are not used as much as the rest of the FOH/Box's and Overheads, I can deal with the more frequent issues of different generations, sometimes obsolete parts that Altman has changed, and what I feel is generally poor workmanship on Altmans part, as compared to the rest of the ellipsoidal inventory, which is slowly moving to all ETC.

I would not buy used for positions I am focusing everyday, needing consistency and reliability. Having the same generation in batches is really very important and is something you may not have control over w/ used gear.

In general, buying from the big firms - PRG, UsedLighting.com, etc... will most likely yield a greater consistency in the inventory, as well as getting you gear that is possibly better maintained then shops that have less turn-over and may have some really older gear they want to get rid of (except Ships shop, of course !). Big shops tend to turn around their stuff faster, thus the really old stuff is now gone.

I actually don't feel that dimmers are a bad idea to purchase used, as there's very little that fails in dimmer racks, as long as the electronics are up to date. Here too, I would stick to ETC Sensors, as pretty much anything else out there that's NOT ETC is going to be really, really old. ETC has pretty much ruled this end of the market for 15 years or so now (talking the high end and rental end of the market here).

SB
 

Sean

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Alexandria, VA
In general, buying from the big firms - PRG, UsedLighting.com, etc... will most likely yield a greater consistency in the inventory, as well as getting you gear that is possibly better maintained then shops that have less turn-over and may have some really older gear they want to get rid of (except Ships shop, of course !). Big shops tend to turn around their stuff faster, thus the really old stuff is now gone.SB
For the most part, I agree.

But, larger shops don't really "maintain" lekos, etc. PRG, for example, buys lekos and sells them off before they really start to need to be "maintained". Each time the units are rented, the lenses get cleaned, the lights get a fresh coat of black paint, and they get benched. Then out the door again. After several trips in and out of the shop they're sold off. Based on what my rental contacts there have said, PRG often sells off lekos after about a year of use.

When you're buying used, you don't know if you're getting a unit that's gone out on ~10 corporate gigs and has only 200 hours of use on it, or a unit that's come back from a 3 year run in a broadway house (or worse, a couple years on the road with a rock show).

--Sean
 

Eboy87

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Chicago, IL
Yes, that's true.
A helpful hint for everyone. To get the degree sign, type (on the numeric keypad): ALT-0176. That's on PC....I'm not sure if it's similar on the Macs.

--Sean
it should be option + k on Macs, but it's not showing up on the forums right.
 
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gafftaper

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Thanks for the thoughts. I'm really torn. On one hand I totally agree that a source four either works or it doesn't. On the other hand, I might end up with several versions of the Source four that aren't quite interchangeable and who knows how badly trashed the shutters and knobs might be. I've got a good budget so I'll probably just go ahead and buy new. But it sure is tempting.

As far as cable and connectors I'm all over that. A connector costs what about $5-$6 if you're getting a bunch of them. The preliminary bid I got to set my budget on was quoting $18 for a gsp connector installed. If I take the time to put a nice spade on I can probably install 8+ connectors an hour. Suddenly I'm making $100 an hour.
 

avkid

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I believe that about 95% of our instrument inventory is used.
The thing about buying used is that you can never just take something out of the carton and expect it to be perfect.
You have to work to save money.
 

jmabray

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Location
Dallas, Texas
Never ever ever ever ever buy connectors installed from the factory. They charge that much because they don't want to do it, but will if they absolutely feel like they are making money on the deal.

You can always have your local shop do it, if you want. I know when I worked at a dealer we charged 5 bucks to install the connector. Not a terrible deal, but not as cheap as doing it yourself.
 

Sean

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Thanks for the thoughts. I'm really torn. On one hand I totally agree that a source four either works or it doesn't. On the other hand, I might end up with several versions of the Source four that aren't quite interchangeable and who knows how badly trashed the shutters and knobs might be. I've got a good budget so I'll probably just go ahead and buy new. But it sure is tempting.
As far as cable and connectors I'm all over that. A connector costs what about $5-$6 if you're getting a bunch of them. The preliminary bid I got to set my budget on was quoting $18 for a gsp connector installed. If I take the time to put a nice spade on I can probably install 8+ connectors an hour. Suddenly I'm making $100 an hour.
I don't know how large your budget is (or how much cable you need to buy/build). If you are buying lots of pin connectors, you shouldn't be paying more than $5 per connector. I've purchased lots of 100 on ebay several times for ~$4.50-4.75 per connector.

12/3 SOOW should cost you about $700-800 per 1000' (plus freight). If you have an electrical supplier nearby you _might_ be able to get them to donate some. Do you have any "no cost" skilled labor (students, volunteers, etc)? You could always put connectors on while they cut the cable.

--Sean
 

gafftaper

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AVKID's quote about how you have to save money is so true. And unfortunately there's lots of money for equipment but a huge question up in the air about if there's money to hire me or not. SO... working to save money isn't really an option.

Actually that $18.30 to install a connector I mentioned before was a "competitive bid price" from one of the larger national dealers that you all know. My local shop charges about $12. So if you worked for a local shop that charged $5 you were offering a very good deal. But let's face it, they don't want to install the connectors as much as we don't. So why not charge for it. Yeah several students and I can knock those out quick.

I'm in Seattle so I've got no problem buying my cable straight from an electrical supply house, there are several to choose from. Anybody know if you can get gsp connectors from an electrical supply place or is that a theater only purchase.
 

Charc

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Feb 14, 2007
Mac users:

Option + 0 = º

Option + K = ˚

To me at least, they look just the slightest bit different.
 

Grog12

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gaff how close are you to a 4wall or a PRG. Sometimes you can get used equipment deals with rental companys that's pretty decent. Yes I love me the smell of a new S4 but good rental houses at least pretend to have mainted the equipment and the shutters/knobs are in good condition.