To cut investment costs, producers often choose to purchase some used pieces of equipment for their fleets. But does it pay to consider buying a used GPS system to save a few dollars?
“First, (producers) need to ask, ‘What am I going to do with that system?’” says Ryan Molitar, marketing supervisor for Raven Industries, a GPS systems provider. Producers who need cutting-edge technology may not find a used system to satisfy their needs. But for those who don’t want all the high-end options, a used system may do the job at a lower cost.
“Technology moves fast,” adds Molitar. “GPS systems have advanced so much in the last two or three years.” That means systems even a couple of years old may not provide all the features farmers have come to expect from GPS.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
If a producer is considering buying an older system, Molitar recommends contacting the appropriate dealer or manufacturer to see if all the available firmware (proprietary software) updates have been installed in it. Some manufacturers make firmware updates available free through Internet website downloads, while others provide them through a dealer.
Discussing the capabilities of an older system with a dealer or manufacturer’s rep will also give a prospective buyer a better indication of what he can expect from it. “We can let them know what performance they’ll get,” adds Molitar.
Sid Siefken of Trimble Navigation, another GPS provider, says the availability of firmware updates will depend on what model of used GPS a farmer is considering. Some current models have been on the market for a few years, and earlier versions can easily be upgraded, making them competitive with new ones. But don’t expect to find much — if anything — available for discontinued units.
“If you see an EZ-Guide 500 (a Trimble offering) that has been used, it’s upgradeable via firmware,” says Siefken. “So you can do that. But as with any other piece of equipment you buy on the secondary market, you need to be sure of what you’re buying.” That means ensuring all the features are working properly before writing the cheque.
And, Siefken adds, in some cases considering a used system can make a lot of sense, particularly if it matches what a producer is familiar with using. “If a guy already has an EZ-Guide Plus, he likes it and knows how to run it, and he wants a second one for another tractor or sprayer, sometimes it makes sense to buy the same thing.”
Doing that allows a producer to run the same system in all his equipment, without taking the time to familiarize himself with a completely new model.
WHERE TO BUY
Although a producer may find used GPS systems for sale privately or at auction sales, Siefken says buying a used model from a dealer may be the best alternative. “Sometimes you can limit your risk (buying from a dealer),” he says. “They know what they have; they probably had an opportunity to do the firmware upgrades, they know the quality of the product going out and you’ve got a dealer that can stand behind you if you have questions. If you buy off the Internet, that’s a little more risky.”
A sampling of prairie dealers, however, reveals not all are willing to take GPS units on trade. Instead, sales reps at some dealerships say their business keeps an informal list of customers who have upgraded their systems and now have older units they want to get rid of. Whenever possible, those dealerships will at least be able to match anyone interested in a used model with a local producer who has one to sell.
Greg Gerry of Precision Ag Services in Griffin, Sask., an Outback Guidance retailer, says that manufacturer recently offered an incentive program encouraging trade ins of its S-2 models.
According to Gerry, Outback is now selling those S-2 trade-ins reconditioned and incorporated into an Sts system, which includes S-2 features and a seven-inch, touch-screen monitor. Outback Guidance dealers can supply one of the reconditioned Sts systems for $1,595, which is $500 cheaper than the regular list price on a completely new Sts.
Producers can opt for buying a used system in that way, however, the reconditioned version of the Sts won’t come with the same warranty as a new one, cautions Gerry.
COMPARE COST OF NEW VS. USED
Although used GPS systems may offer producers a chance to begin using the technology at a relatively low cost, prices on new GPS systems have fallen considerably. Siefken says economies of scale and other advantages now allow GPS manufacturers to offer models at pretty competitive prices, at least compared to systems sold a few years ago. That holds true for most electronic products these days. And the cost of new systems is likely to remain relatively low. “I think you’ll see some pretty stable pricing (in the future),” he adds.
But whether a producer chooses to buy a new or used system, Siefken says starting off with one that is upgradeable will be the key to maintaining its long-term value. As a grower’s experience with GPS increases, they are likely to want to increase the role it plays in the farming operation. “The key for the farmer is to make sure you’re on an upgradeable path,” he says.
But for hobby farmers or growers with very small acreages who want only a very basic system, considering a model that has gone out of production may allow them to get the benefit of a lower level of GPS technology on a tiny budget. Those outdated models can often be picked up for only $100 or $200, which makes for a pretty low-cost investment.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.
Email him at [email protected]