Buying test equipment is a task worth taking seriously. Whether you are looking for your first PAT Tester, replacing an old Multifunction Tester or trying to add Thermal Imaging to your toolbox, you want to get something that does everything you need and makes your life easier … but doesn’t break the bank. Here is the most wallet friendly advice for buying test equipment.
1. Find out what you need
This is the most important (and obvious) thing when deciding on what piece of equipment you need. Nowadays, the offering is so rich and segmented that you can almost certainly find a product with the exact set of features you require.
For example, a high-end PAT tester like the Seaward Apollo 600 will probably do anything you would ever need from a PAT Tester and then some – after all it can take pictures, scan barcodes, it has an integrated risk assessment calculator and wirelessly connects to a pocket portable printer so you can print labels on the spot.
But if you don’t carry out a large volume of PAT tests, most of those bells and whistles will get so rarely used that probably a solution like the Martindale HPAT600 would get the job done just as well, for a third of the price.
2. Know the market
Doing some research before opening the wallet is something we should all do more. Even if this takes some time it will be worth it in the end, since you will have a clear view on what products are available, which shops are the most trust worthy and when is the right time to make a purchase. There is a special kind of satisfaction involved in discovering a manufacturer has just started offering a product with a feature you always wanted and never thought would be possible.
3. Get expert advice
If you are lucky enough to have a really experienced friend who can advise you, do not hesitate to ask him. Alternatively, you can raise a question on specialist internet forums or discussion groups, but people there expect you to do some research yourself before asking for help. So, instead of just asking “What is the best Thermal Camera” something like “I need feature X and my budget is Y, I have been looking at FLIR Model A and Fluke Model B, what do you recommend ?” would be more appropriate.
Finally, probably the best source of expert advice are well established distributors that deal with most equipment available on the market on a daily basis, have access to all the reliability statistics, employ highly qualified and experienced staff and are looking to establish long-term business relationships with their customers. Benefitting from their expertise is easy: just look for the phone number (usually listed on top of the page) and give them a call telling them what you are looking for.
4. Go for quality equipment, from reputable manufacturers
Buying test equipment should be regarded as an investment – the easier it makes your work and the less maintenance it requires over time, the quicker it will return the initial cost. Our 30+ years of experience selling test equipment has proven time and time again that it’s almost always cheaper to not buy cheap. As much as we love the repair side of our business, opting for proven quality equipment from reputable manufacturers that includes all safety and protection measures is cheaper in the long run. It means you don’t need to worry about it breaking down when you need it most, spending money on repairs or on hiring another unit just so you get your job done in time.
5. Keep a list of equipment you want and buy when it’s discounted / on sale
Buying under pressure is probably the worst spending habit. We all know the feeling when something breaks down when you need it most and you need to replace it right away. You won’t have the time to research the latest models or look for a good deal, because the only thing that will matter will be to get something that works right away.
To prevent this, all you need to do is to have a list of equipment you know you need to acquire / replace in the near future and keep an eye out for discounts or sales. Just subscribe to your favourite shop’s newsletter and take advantage whenever you see a good deal – you can even recover some of the cost by selling the old used equipment on an auction site.
6. Product bundles
The toolbox is full of equipment. Newer or older, cheaper or more high-end, each bought at one point for a certain purpose. But rather than getting everything separately, you will spend much less in the long run if you take advantage of the product bundles offered by various manufacturers or specialist shops / websites. For example, we are currently offering the Martindale VIPDLOK138 safe isolation test kit for £ 163; if you were to buy each component of the kit separately it will cost you close to £300, and as an electrician you will need most of the components in the kit anyway.
7. Used / ex-demo / showroom equipment
Used test equipment can be a good opportunity to strike a good deal. Surely, it is essential to buy from a reputable seller that inspects and recalibrates used units and offers some warranty and support, but even a flawless unit that has only been taken out of the box for a client demo can be found discounted.
8. Get your old equipment back in shape
If you have a piece of equipment that you don’t use too often, repairing and recalibrating it could be a better solution than buying a new one. Some specialised shops have highly-qualified service departments that can get your unit back in shape, so you can squeeze a few more years out of it before it will need replacing. One common failure for old equipment is the rechargeable units don’t hold a charge anymore; installing new cells, giving the unit an overall inspection and calibrating it will cost you much less than the latest model. However, if the unit gets daily use & abuse, it’s a much smarter choice to get that brand new model after all.
It might be that you only need a specific unit for a specific test maybe twice a year. There is no sense in paying the full price for that unit up-front when you can easily hire it for just a fraction and still get the job done. Most important test equipment distributors & retailers offer this service and they will have a wide range of models available for hire.
10. Establish a relationship with a good supplier
Probably the most beneficial thing you could do is to build a relationship with an established supplier and stick with them. Chances are you will have access to special repeat customer discounts, you won’t have to spend that much time looking for the best deal and the shopping experience will be much smoother. It’s no secret that sellers care for their best customers and sometimes go out of their way to keep them satisfied, so developing reciprocal trust can only benefit your wallet.