Page Reviewed / Updated - November 16, 2010
When insurance will not cover home or durable medical equipment (DME) and an individual has to pay out-of-pocket, purchasing the item used may reduce the cost by as much as 50%. However, buyers of pre-owned / refurbished equipment should proceed with caution to make sure they don’t purchase an item that, in the end, does not meet their needs.
When purchasing an item new, often there are salespersons involved that help guide the individual through the purchasing process. When buying used, one must take that responsibility upon oneself. Before purchasing used equipment, individuals should think through the following questions.
Many assisted living and mobility aids need to be fitted for an aging or disabled person. While some items can accommodate for a range of heights and weights, other items are very specific to the individual and might even be customized. Often one can find sizing information on an item manufacturer’s or DME supplier’s websites. Another option is to ask the seller about the height and weight of the person for whom the item was originally purchased. It is also possible to have a professional fitting done for certain items. However, the cost of the fitting, when added to the purchase price, might equal the cost of purchasing the item new. Occasionally, free or reduced rate professional fittings are offered by State Assistive Technology Projects or local independent living centers.
With items such as wheelchairs and walkers, it is obvious if they are not functioning properly. However, with some electronic items, for example oxygen concentrators, it is not always obvious to the user if the item is calibrated correctly. Before purchasing an item, make sure to consider if it can be tested for accuracy and the cost to do so.
It is helpful to try to identify the availability of replacement parts for an item when purchasing it used. For example, you might find an inexpensive pre-owned power wheelchair, but it might be a unique or older model for which there are no replacement batteries available. One should search online for replacement parts prior to purchase or call a repair shop and ask them about the item.
While not applicable to all items, with some items, nebulizers for example, a buyer will want to make sure it has been sterilized or can be sterilized prior to purchase. Alternatively, if it has not been, or cannot be sterilized, one should think about how difficult it is to clean the item oneself. Would it be challenging to disassemble, clean and reassemble the item?
Ask the seller about their return policy and if they charge a re-stocking fee. Consider the options if the item doesn’t work out and cannot be returned. For instance, it might be possible to re-sell it oneself and re-coup some of the purchase price.
There are many websites where one can find used home and durable medical equipment. Craigslist, Ebay, UsedHME, Refurbished Equipment Marketplace and Disabled Dealer all have classified ads for used equipment.
Disabled Dealer Magazine has local print editions for Virginia and West Virginia. Free copies of their magazine can be ordered from their website.
Many Independent Living Centers maintain a list of items for sale in their local area as well as on their websites. Find a local Independent Living Center. In addition, most State Assistive Technology Projects maintain programs to help facilitate the purchase of used equipment.