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July 24, 2012
Innovation is alive and well in the precision Ag equipment industry. That's why new products are streaming into the market every day. When new hardware makes it into the hands of new customers, old devices are often sold to willing buyers. What happens to that replaced equipment? Enter ebay.com,
usedprecisionag.com or the on-line swap meet, AKA, newagtalk.com, among others.
Not surprisingly these sites provide a segment of the population who were raised to love the auction sale an electronic medium to take this innate interest to the next level. Buyers pay a significantly reduced price for, in most cases, tools that still will do what they need them to do. What's wrong with that?
To understand the potential pitfalls let's look at the deciding factors many people use when purchasing new systems. The first factor is always functionality. Does it do what I need it to do? The second often is, who can help me install it and make it work? Most important, who do I call when it doesn't work?
Can you still get tech support on dated equipment?
The margin on new equipment often pays for ongoing tech support that is regularly required. With used equipment there is usually no warranty and no margin for a supporting dealer. So local dealers, who usually get the calls on used equipment they did not sell, often prioritize these issues lower than those from paying customers.
There is nothing more frustrating for a farmer than to be in the field ready to go and stuck on the headland because the electronics are not functional and there is nobody to call for help.
So, is used equipment really a deal?
Understand that your precision Ag dealer is really valuable to you because of their knowledge and skill (or at least that is why they should be valuable). Buying used equipment eliminates the main method most of these firms use to earn revenue.
In order for precision dealers to remain in business they must begin to charge for service. This service is mainly provided via phone. Therein lies the trouble.
It is understood that when a local equipment dealer's service tech arrives on the farm, a bill will follow. However, most farmer customers don't feel the same about service over the phone. To me, service is service. If the problem is solved it does not matter in what form the answer came. Are you willing to pay for service over the phone?
The push back on paying for technology service is not entirely the farmer's fault. Precision dealers in general do a poor job of tracking phone calls and therefore have given this service away. These calls often occur in season while doing other jobs making tracking nearly impossible. One way to handle these calls would be with an annual service plan similar to the retainer you pay your attorney.
When considering a used purchase, be sure to have a plan for support. Talk to your local dealer and expect to pay for their expertise. Perhaps they can offer a warranty or service contract for that used equipment. Then use this expertise to the fullest. Run the parts list and prices you are finding by them to be sure you both know what to expect.
In the end, no matter how much you saved with that purchase, having trouble with equipment is never worth it
John McGuire is a technology veteran with over 15 years of experience in many of the businesses that serve production agriculture. He owns and operates a successful technology consulting firm, Simplified Technology Services, LLC. based in Northwest Ohio. He’s built his business with a proactive, customer-oriented philosophy and serves clients across the country with technology and related data needs. John earned a chemistry degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, specializing in Geographic Information Systems. Contact him at [email protected].
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