While buying used medical equipment can be up to 80 percent cheaper than buying it new, the best used medical equipment is not the cheapest, it is the safest. The two biggest safety considerations are ease in decontamination and assurance of performance. For an individual consumer buying a small number of pieces of used medical equipment for personal or household use, the best option is to look for "like new" equipment.
"Like new" equipment is that which is only considered used in the most technical sense, like a car that is driven off the dealer's lot is considered used the moment it turns onto the road. The equipment should ideally be in its original packaging, with an intact seal or box still taped shut. This kind of used medical equipment can often be found through online auction sites. The buyer should check on the seller's return policy, in case the piece is not what it was advertised to be, as well as look for a seller with a high rating and many transactions.
This type of equipment can also be found at estate sales and through local online classifieds. These transactions usually require cash. They do provide the additional assurance of being able to physically inspect the equipment before purchase, however.
Another way to get good used medical equipment is through a company that rents medical equipment. Many of these companies routinely sell used equipment that they no longer offer as a rental option or when a slightly newer equivalent piece has come onto the market. They will be required to meet local or regional licensing requirements in order to rent their equipment, so there is some assurance that the equipment will be appropriately cleaned and in working order. Even bigger pieces of equipment, such as a hospital bed, can be obtained in this way. Usually bigger companies will offer a substantial guarantee on what they sell.
When buying medical equipment beyond the most basic equipment used for in-home care, such as a walker or wheelchair, contact the manufacturer of the equipment before you buy it used. Ask what their standard is for the safety inspection of used products. Companies are usually able to refer consumers to a certified technician in their local area who is specifically trained and can assess the safety of the purchased equipment.