Second-hand air compressors: What to consider?

A second-hand air compressor is tempting…But is it a good idea? We explain what to look for and why.

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

January 18, 2024

Is a second-hand air compressor worth it?

Wondering whether to invest in a second-hand air compressor? Good. Because this means you’re asking yourself questions instead of blindly throwing your cash down. Any kind of electro-mechanical equipment, including second-hand air compressors, is going to come with certain costs and risks. You need to weigh them up to make a carefully considered, properly informed decision.

A cheap second-hand air compressor?

The main reason people consider buying a second-hand air compressor? The cost. It’s cheaper. At least the price tag is cheaper when it’s on the shelf. But, if you’re thinking of a used model, you need to look at the Total Cost of Ownership. Now, more than ever before. 

The Total Cost of Ownership looks at every cost related to running and maintaining your air compressor. The theory is that when you look at the Total Cost of Ownership, a second-hand air compressor could end up costing you four times as much as a new model. We’ve never seen the maths on that one, but we think it could be possible. In fact, if you make a few poor decisions, it could end up costing you even more than that. Take a more cautious, informed approach and you’re far more likely to end up with a used model that meets your needs and saves you a bit of cash at the same time. 

When you’re looking at the Total Cost of Ownership for an air compressor, the biggest cost is energy. How much energy will your new or second-hand air compressor use to provide you with the compressed air you need. An older model is going to burn through a lot more energy than the latest state-of-the-art model. And with the costs of energy being so painfully high at the moment, the amount you save on the purchase price could quickly be gobbled up. 

This is in a best-case scenario where the second-hand air compressor is delivering peak performance. The reality is that if it’s been around the block a few times, a used model is probably not as efficient as it once was. It may not be producing the same quality of compressed air as it once did. It may not be producing it as efficiently. If the quality of the output is less relevant—you’re using the compressed air to power tools in a garage, not a dental surgery—you’ll have a lot less to worry about. Otherwise though…

Spare parts for second-hand air compressors

Another potentially bank-breaking factor in your Total Cost of Ownership is spare parts. We don’t mean to suggest that a second-hand air compressor will require repairs and spare parts on a daily basis. But you will eventually need new parts. What will they cost? No … Really … This is a homework question: find out what they’ll actually cost. Because if your second-hand air compressor is a very common model, you’ll possibly be paying less for the spare parts than you would be paying for a relatively rare brand-new model. At the same time, you might discover that spare parts for a used model are impossible to find. Or that you have to rely on inferior off-brand parts. Especially when it comes to filters. It’s a potential issue. Of course, it’s not one that will come up with the latest models. 

Second-hand air compressors and safety

At this point, we should quickly point out the importance of buying a fully refurbished model. We would simply not recommend doing it any other way. You’ll often find second-hand air compressors come with a warranty. While it doesn’t guarantee complete safety, it means the vendor has checked it and is prepared to put their name on the line. 

A refurbished unit also helps you to sleep better at night. A few of the biggest safety concerns will already have been checked before you’re made responsible. All the wiring will have been checked and replaced as necessary. Any leaks fixed. Any damaged parts repaired. No savings on a second-hand air compressor are worth the risk of damage to your installation or injury to your workers.

What to look for in a second-hand air compressor

As well as the Total Cost of Ownership and safety considerations, there are a few things worth checking for yourself: 

  • Look for wiring that looks questionable, worn-out or damaged in any way. Also check for signs of earlier short circuiting – black burn marks – around wiring connections. Bad wiring is a deal-breaker in our book. We hope you feel the same way. 

  • Rust. It’s never good, but this is one area where you’re able to make a judgement call based on your needs. 

  • Signs of damage. Dinted, warped or cracked casing. Any signs of leaks. Are they indicative of possible internal damage?

  • Repairs. They will almost always stand out if they’ve been done poorly. You should also be able to ask what repairs a second-hand model has undergone and get an honest answer. If you’re told a second-hand air compressor belonged to a little old lady who used it once a week before church, it might be time to try a different vendor. 

  • It’s always good to see a second-hand unit being kept in a clean environment and protected from dust and dirt.

So: is it worth buying a second-hand air compressor? At the end of the day, you need to make the decision yourself. We are happy to answer questions using our expertise and experience. Get in touch with us today. 

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