Should You Buy New or Used Restaurant Equipment?

Restaurant equipment is a big expense, so it’s important to make sure you invest in the right pieces. But is it better to buy brand new equipment? Or should you try to save money with used restaurant equipment? We’ll cover the pros and cons of both options, plus we'll explore a third option called scratch and dent equipment. Keep reading to learn about the different types of restaurant equipment and which type is right for you.

New Restaurant Equipment

woman taking food out of avantco refrigerator

Who doesn't want a kitchen outfitted with shiny, new restaurant equipment? New kitchen equipment has the latest features and requires less maintenance, but it also has the highest price tag. But if you shop smart, there are ways to offset the cost. Invest in pieces that do double duty, like combi ovens, instead of purchasing multiple units. Make sure to choose equipment with an Energy Star rating, and the cost savings on your utilities over time can help make up for the higher up-front cost of the equipment.

Do some comparison shopping and you’ll see that some equipment brands are more affordable than others but still offer great performance. Consider the volume of your operation and determine which areas can be served with an entry-level model. Do you need a full-size fryer or will a countertop fryer suffice?

You also have the option to lease new equipment, which can free up capital and keep you operational. This is a smart option for new operators who don't know what their daily volume will be yet. You can test out new equipment with the option to purchase it at the end of your lease, if you desire.

Where to Buy New Restaurant Equipment?

Buy your new equipment through reputable restaurant supply companies. Traditional cash and carry stores are preferred by some, but online wholesale companies offer many benefits. Fast shipping, a wider catalog of models, and access to product reviews are just some of the perks of buying restaurant equipment online.

New Equipment Pros

person taking fries out of deep fryer
  • Warranties - New equipment most likely comes with a warranty that can help protect you if something goes wrong. Replacements and repairs may be covered, which saves you money and limits downtime.
  • Energy Rebates - If you haven't looked into energy rebates on new equipment, you are missing out on an opportunity to get back some of your investment.
  • Newest Tech - You could save on labor cost when you invest in equipment with the latest features, like WiFi-enabled options and smart technology.
  • Less Maintenance - New equipment should be free of defects and maintenance issues, which eliminates the hassle of dealing with costly repairs.

New Equipment Cons

  • High Up-Front Costs - The obvious downside to purchasing new equipment is the cost. If you are starting a new restaurant, purchasing all new equipment is a considerable investment.
  • Depreciation - When you are purchasing a new unit, the last thing on your mind is reselling it down the line. But it's good to keep in mind that new equipment depreciates more quickly than used, just like with cars.

Used Restaurant Equipment

four used mixers outside on road

Buying used equipment for your restaurant is a huge money-saver, but it does come with some risks. Second hand restaurant equipment could harbor unseen issues that result in costly repairs. That doesn't mean there aren't opportunities for huge discounts if you do your due diligence.

Where to Buy Used Restaurant Equipment?

One of the best places to buy used restaurant equipment is from a reputable dealer or online store. Many dealers test used equipment to make sure it’s operational before they put it up for sale.

Restaurant auctioneer companies handle the liquidation of entire restaurants that have been forced to shut down, which means you can find great deals on equipment at auction. Many auctioneers that specialize in restaurants employ trained technicians and will inspect and appraise the equipment before it is listed.

You can also find used equipment from private sellers. Between Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist, there are numerous sellers and a wide variety of name brand models to choose from. You can find amazing deals, but if you are purchasing used kitchen equipment from a private seller, be cautious. The seller may not be aware of all the issues with the equipment.

If you do find a great deal on a slightly used range from a private seller, just keep some of these tips in mind.

  • Research the seller to see if they actually owned the equipment or if they are a reseller.
  • Request to test out the equipment before purchasing and bring along your chef.
  • Avoid buying second hand electrical equipment and stick with gas, which is easier to repair
  • Be cautious when buying used refrigeration equipment because if something goes wrong, you could lose your food inventory to spoilage.
  • Ovens, ranges, and fryers make the best second hand purchases because they have longevity.

Used Equipment Pros

store with used commercial kitchen equipment

Check out some of the benefits associated with purchasing used restaurant equipment:

  • Save Money - The greatest benefit to buying used restaurant equipment is the cost savings. If you need to replace an old unit, you may not have the capital on hand for a new piece of equipment. If you're completely outfitting a new kitchen, cutting cost where you can is essential.
  • Make Room in Your Budget - When you save money on equipment, you can allocate more of your budget to other parts of your business.
  • Finding a Piece with Character - Maybe you’re looking for a specific look or feel with your equipment. For example, you could have your heart set on an old-style brick pizza oven.

Used Equipment Cons

Make sure to consider the potential risks when buying second hand restaurant equipment:

  • Limited Availability - With used restaurant equipment, you must choose from a limited selection of second hand models.
  • No Warranty or Ownership History - You’ll have no warranty to fall back on if your used equipment needs repaired.
  • More Maintenance and Repairs - Older equipment breaks down more frequently and requires more maintenance.

Scratch and Dent Equipment

scratch and dent

Scratch and dent equipment, also called outlet restaurant equipment, is a third option that offers some of the same benefits as used equipment but without the risks.

What Is Scratch and Dent?

Restaurant equipment labeled as scratch and dent has minor damage, like dents, scratches, or other superficial imperfections that occurred during shipping or transit. Because the unit is no longer picture-perfect, it’s being sold at a discounted price. This is a huge benefit to you because a scratch and dent model is brand new and is often still under warranty.

Where to Buy Outlet Restaurant Equipment?

Many restaurant equipment dealers offer a scratch and dent outlet where you can find deep discounts on brand new equipment. You can even sign up for email updates to be notified as new units are added to the outlet. You never know what will pop up in the scratch and dent category, but if you are patient, you can score new equipment at a great price.

Outlet Equipment Pros

carnival king waffle maker

Buying outlet equipment has many of the same benefits as buying brand new:

  • Brand New Equipment - Scratch and dent equipment has never been used, so it should be free of major defects. You can also expect all the newest technology and bells and whistles of a brand new model.
  • Warranties - Outlet equipment still carries a factory warranty, just like new equipment.
  • Cost-Saving - Just because of some minor scratches or dents, outlet equipment is offered at a deep discount that can save you hundreds of dollars.

Outlet Equipment Cons

There are some of the cons associated with purchasing scratch and dent restaurant equipment instead of new:

  • Limited Selection - If you have a specific model in mind, there's no guarantee it will pop up in the scratch and dent outlet. The selection of units is limited and tends to be random.
  • Cosmetic Damage - There are some instances when cosmetic damage is undesirable, even if the unit operates perfectly. In an open kitchen environment, you want all your equipment to look its best. The same thing goes for any equipment used in front-of-house applications.

New vs Used vs Outlet Restaurant Equipment

New restaurant equipment costs the most upfront, but it may offer savings over time because of increased efficiency, especially if you purchase Energy Star models. Buying used restaurant equipment saves you money initially, but could lead to more repairs and maintenance down the line. Outlet equipment offers the best of both worlds with new models at discounted prices, but the selection is small. To decide which option is right for you, consider some of these questions:

What Is Your Equipment Budget?

You should always start with your budget. How much money do you have to play with? Set yourself a budget and don't forget to think about cost savings over time.

What Type of Equipment Do You Need?

Some types of equipment have more longevity than others, which means less risk when you're buying used. Gas equipment, ranges, and fryers tend to be a safer option than refrigeration or electric equipment.

What Is the Application/Volume?

What are the workhorses in your kitchen? Spend more on the equipment you use the most, and budget less for equipment that is secondary.

How To Save Money on Restaurant Equipment

There are many other ways to save when you're investing in new restaurant equipment. Try some of our tips for finding discounts and freeing up cash flow when you need it:

  • Sign Up for Memberships - Membership programs like WebstaurantPlus offer unlimited free shipping and guaranteed savings on thousands of products.
  • Look for Discounts - Keep an eye out for clearance events and special deals. You never know what might pop up for sale.
  • Monthly Coupons - WebstaurantStore offers a monthly coupon code for certain seasonal items. It's a great way to save on items like outdoor cooking equipment and countertop equipment.
  • Financing - Before making a large equipment purchase, find out if the supplier offers financing options. You may be able to make payments instead of paying for the unit outright. This won't save you money in the long run, but breaking up the cost lessens the sting when you need to purchase a new unit right away.

There's no reason why you can't take advantage of new, used, and outlet equipment for your restaurant. When you buy new, make sure to shop smart and compare different models to get the most bang for your buck. If you're looking for used equipment, keep an eye out for restaurants that have recently closed and owners who need to liquidate their equipment quickly. Don't forget about outlet deals, and sign up for updates so you know when scratch and dent equipment is coming up for sale.

Posted in: Management & Operation|By Michale LeRoy
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