The Ultimate Guide to Buying Lab Equipment on eBay: 8 Helpful Tips

buying lab equipment on ebay

Buying lab equipment on eBay can seem daunting if you’ve never used eBay before. You might be worried that the equipment won’t meet the standards you need to complete your research.

If you master a few basic skills, though, you can find excellent lab equipment at amazing prices. eBay is a surprisingly simple, trustworthy platform with thousands of lab instruments, devices, and accessories available for sale.

Learn the basics of how to buy lab equipment on eBay in this guide.

1. Understand how eBay works

eBay is an online marketplace for used and new items. It acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers.

Compared to a marketplace like Amazon, your experience on eBay will be much more seller-specific. Individual sellers set their own shipping, payment, and return policies. They pack and ship their own items. 

This means that the quality of the equipment (and the customer service) you receive depends significantly on who is selling the equipment. You need to evaluate your experience on a seller-by-seller basis.

However, eBay also offers a lot of buyer protection, which makes the platform very safe to use. If you ever get into an unfortunate situation, you can ask eBay to help you sort it out.

2. Check the item condition, description and photos

It’s important to pay attention to the details of a listing to make sure it meets your needs.

When you conduct a search on eBay, you’ll notice words such as “New,” “Pre-Owned/Used” or “For parts or not working” next to search results. This is the item’s condition, which is usually correlated with its price. 

Outside of the generic condition, you click on the listing and read the item’s description to see if there’s a more detailed assessment of the condition. Sellers may note specific points of interest in the description section. Seeing that an item is “tested,” “working” or “recently calibrated” is always a good sign, but not required.

Here’s an example of an eBay listing for a vacuum valve and solenoid:

In this example, the condition of this vacuum valve is used. The seller has also indicated that the knife edges of the conflat flange are in great condition and the solenoid is pre-installed.

Finally, make sure to look through all of the photos for any obvious signs of disrepair. If a device usually comes with an accessory and you don’t see it in the photos, assume it is not included or ask the seller about it.

3. Send messages to sellers

eBay is a very conversational marketplace. You’re encouraged to ask sellers questions, and it’s easy to send a message.

Under seller information, click “Contact Seller” to send a message directly. Most sellers respond within a day.

You can ask a seller for…

  • Clarification about anything that was unclear in the description
  • More detailed specifications or measurements
  • Applications or use cases for the equipment
  • Custom shipping options (such as overnight or international shipping)
  • Anything else you have a question about

Sellers will have varying degrees of knowledge about their equipment, but it never hurts to ask a specialized question.

4. Don’t be afraid to make an offer

Items on eBay are sold via one of two ways: Auction or Buy It Now. Most lab equipment is sold as Buy It Now, which means you’ll see an exact purchase price.

However, many sellers still allow buyers the ability to make an offer. This is a simple way to score some great deals.

Especially for used lab equipment, sellers are usually open to negotiation within reason. You and the seller can make offers back and forth until you agree on a price.

5. Read the return policies

If returns are important to you, make sure to check the return policy of an item before you purchase. 

For lab equipment, it’s normal that sellers do not accept returns. This is because the equipment is already used, and it can be difficult to ship fragile items back without damaging them.

You don’t need to worry about getting ripped off, though, because eBay has a great Money Back Guarantee. If any item you purchase arrives not as it was described, eBay requires the seller to give you a refund as long as you report it within 30 days. 

If your lab equipment breaks in transit, you can ask for a return with the Money Back Guarantee. Of course, if the item was listed “for parts or not working,” you can’t get a return for receiving a broken item because the seller made it clear the item was broken.

6. Check the seller’s reviews

If you’re still uncertain, research individual sellers to determine if they are reputable and trustworthy. The quickest way to evaluate a seller is by looking at reviews.

Under seller information on the right-hand side, you’ll see the seller’s name (such as llscience), a number with a star, and a percent.

The seller’s name links to their profile, where you can read more about their history and policies.  The number indicates the total number of reviews they’ve received, and the percent shows the amount of positive feedback they’ve received.

All of this information is helpful for learning more about a seller’s reputation. 

7. Pay early

Once you click “buy it now,” win an auction, or have your offer accepted, you have two days to pay. This policy allows you to secure a unique item before someone else buys it.

The sooner you pay, though, the sooner you will receive your item. A seller will not ship your order until they have received payment. 

This matters for handling time. If a seller offers one-day handling, it means they will ship your item out within one day of your payment, not one day of your purchase.

An exception to the rule for paying early would be if you want to combine shipping on multiple products from a single seller, or if you have asked the seller for a different shipping method. It’s better to wait to make a payment in these cases until you know the exact shipping cost.

8. Create alerts for frequently purchased items

If you buy certain types of equipment or consumables regularly, you can set up an alert for a specific keyword, such as “vacuum gauges.”

Whenever new items are listed with that keyword, eBay will send you a notification.

Why set up alerts? The main reason is to save money. The best deals on lab equipment get snatched up pretty quickly after the item is listed by a seller. The early bird gets the worm on eBay.

Conclusion: Buying lab equipment on eBay is easy

Buying lab equipment on eBay is an easy way to save money for your lab.

If you follow the tips in this guide and exercise good judgment, you can find high-quality equipment at unbelievably low prices.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to take a look at our eBay store. If you’re interested in buying pre-owned lab equipment, it’s a great place to begin.