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Buying New vs. Used Gutter Machines

You are starting a seamless gutter business.  You have carefully analyzed the market in which you are going to compete.  You have decided what type of gutter you want to market.  You have identified the companies that manufacture the seamless gutter machine you want to buy.  You have researched their web sites, talked to the dealers, and gotten quotes.  The costs are a bit higher than you expected, but you are not deterred.  What next? 

Somewhere in the back of your mind a question arises: “Can’t I save some money by buying a used machine?”

New Gutter Machines

A shiny new gutter machine includes all the latest technologies and improvements, which can help make your business productive and profitable.  It has up-to-the-minute everything.  It is new and has 100% of its useful life, waiting for you to use it.  It has the advantage of having just been assembled, run, and tested by the skilled technicians of the company that designed it, those who know best how it is supposed to work.  There are no skeletons in its closet, no worn-out parts, no hidden damage.

In addition, assistance is available from the factory or dealer in getting it going. Operating and maintenance manuals are available to assist you in training your personnel in mounting, loading, adjustment, operation, and maintenance.  And, like those guys in the cell phone ads who are “the Network” behind the cell phone service, you have the dealer and the factory standing there, behind the product, and they want you to be a satisfied customer.

And there is the warranty, the factory’s guarantee that there is nothing wrong, and promise that, if there is, they will fix it:  2-3 years on parts, 1 year on labor, lifetime warranty on selected parts.

But, all this comes at a price.  Even if they have a sale, the price tag looks big—and you wonder…

Used Gutter Machines

You check the Internet and discover a number of listings for used gutter machines, a couple of them are the kind of machine you want.  And the prices are definitely less than what a new machine costs.  What can you get, and what do you risk?

Do you have the knowledge, experience, and skill necessary to evaluate a used seamless gutter machine?  If not, do you have access to someone whom you trust who does?  Will they help you (either as a favor or as a paid consultant)?

The used machine may not have the current level of technology that the new machines are offering.  If the used machine is fairly new, the difference may be small.  The older the machine may mean fewer bells and whistles.  This gap may not be meaningful in your intended business—or it may.

In addition to inherent productivity issues, the machine has undoubtedly suffered some wear and lost some amount of its total life potential—no one knows how much.  However, a good machine that is given careful maintenance, cleaning, and service is capable of operating for well over thirty years.  Much of its life may still be there, waiting to serve you.

Maintenance and service are described by many as the keystone of machine life and continuing successful operation.  However, if the current (or some previous) owner has not been rigorous in these areas, there may be hidden damage.  Some people seriously abuse their machines, significantly shortening the machine’s total life capability.  You don’t know.

When your used machine requires service, repair, or parts you are still dependent on the services of the original manufacturer or his local dealer.  So, even in selecting a used machine, you must be aware of the accessibility and reputation of the original equipment manufacturer.

It is crucial to run some stock through the machine and inspect the resulting gutter very carefully.  This may reveal problems.  Various kinds of hidden problems with adjustments or roller damage may lead to an improper gutter shape, damage to the paint on the material stock or other visible defects on the gutter.

On the other hand, if parts have been damaged, but not yet to the breaking point, the fault may not be detectable.  A current owner/user is unlikely to agree to any kind of warranty for his used machine.  Manuals may (or may not) be available.  If the machine is quite old there may even be problems obtaining parts.

Clearly there is an increased risk in buying a used machine.  There may be hidden damage the owner does not disclose.  There may even be hidden damage of which the current owner is unaware.  And the risk is with the buyer.  So it is extremely important to have the equipment examined by a competent expert before buying.

Still, there are always used gutter machines that come on the market that still have much useful life in them and that represent good value to the knowledgeable buyer.  It is particularly valuable if you know the seller well and know him or her to be reliable, honest, and forthright in their business dealings.

Another possible route is to purchase a used machine that has been refurbished by the manufacturer or a qualified repair and maintenance shop.  They represent some middle ground, with a higher assurance of condition and functionality and lower risk to the buyer.

In the end, the decision is still yours.  You have to evaluate the factors and decide how you will spend your money.  New or used or reconditioned?  The risk is yours, as are the profits.