Maybe you’re shopping for the latest technologies—the newest developments in CAD/CAM to produce life-like renderings, a laser to engrave your rings, or a casting machine engineered to maximize fills. Or maybe you want to upgrade your old work-horse flex-shaft system, or just simply purchase a new pair of pliers.

Regardless of the equipment’s sophistication or the size of the investment, you want to make sure that what you’re buying will meet your needs.

Tool and Equipment Checkpoints:
Taking the Guesswork Out of Your Next Investment

To help take the guesswork out of this process, below are some typical questions that you should always ask before investing your money. Once you have the answers, you’ll be better prepared to make the right choices, and ensure that your investment produces ample returns.

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Equipment’s Capabilities/Operation

  • What do you want the equipment to do?
  • What advantages will the equipment give to your company (e.g., increased productivity, improved quality, etc.)?
  • What are the standard features?
  • How do they compare with those of similar technologies?
  • How often will you use the equipment?
  • How many man-hours will the equipment save?
  • How durable is the equipment?
  • What accessories are available that will enhance the performance of the equipment?
  • Is this the latest version of the equipment?
  • Does the distributor know of any upgrades or new and improved features on the horizon? (In other words, you don’t want to buy equipment that’s about to be discontinued.)
  • What is not wonderful about this equipment? (This question makes more salespeople pause, and often leads to a good honest discussion of what the machine can and cannot do.)
  • How long will it take to learn how to operate the equipment? Are instructions available?
  • Are there safety hazards to consider when using this equipment? What are the safety requirements?

Equipment’s Costs

  • What does it cost to operate and maintain?
  • What is included with the equipment? (You are trying to find out if there are hidden costs, and if there are any accessories required to operate the equipment that are not included in the price. Be aware that some equipment may be advertised at very low prices, especially compared with the competition; however, when all the hidden costs are revealed, the price may exceed the competition’s.)
  • What else would you need to use the equipment?
  • What are your payment options?
  • Is there a lease/purchase available?
  • What are the shipping costs?
  • Can you get a quote for the equipment, accessories, and spare parts in writing?
  • Can you get a discount? (It never hurts to ask.)
  • Will the product give a return on investment?

Installation Requirements

  • What are the utility requirements?
  • Is your shop properly equipped for any necessary facility requirements (such as electrical, plumbing, etc.)?
  • How will the equipment be installed?
  • What is the footprint of the equipment?
  • Do you have enough space to accommodate the equipment?
  • Can the equipment be disassembled to fit through doorways?
  • Can the equipment be easily reassembled?

Choosing the Appropriate Distributor

  • How long has the distributor been in business? How long has the distributor been selling this equipment?
  • Does the distributor speak your language?
  • Who will stand behind the equipment? Is the distributor a reliable vendor who has a long history of doing business? Is the manufacturer a solid and dependable company?
  • What is the salesperson’s name? (It’s very important to write down the name of the person to whom you’re speaking, especially if you’ve discussed any special terms.)
  • Has the salesperson used the equipment or seen it in action? (This will give you an idea if you’re talking to the right person. If they answer no, don’t be afraid to ask to be connected to someone who has experience using the equipment you are investigating.)
  • Does the distributor provide training?
  • Can the distributor provide a copy of instructions? If so, ask for them; instructions can provide specific information that you need to make an educated purchase?
  • Can you view product samples made with this equipment?
  • What is the distributor’s return policy?


  • If the equipment needs repair, what do you do? (If it is a large machine this is an especially important question, as you will want to be sure someone knowledgeable will be able to service it in your facility. Ask about the specific costs for that service during and after the warranty period.)
  • Would you be able to maintain this equipment yourself?
  • How often should maintenance be performed?
  • What should you have on hand to maintain the equipment?
  • Is the equipment made in the U.S.? If not, how easy is it to get spare parts and how quickly can you get them?
  • Does the distributor stock replacement and repair parts?
  • Are there parts you should keep on hand?
  • What will happen if you do not maintain the equipment?
  • What do you do if you are having a problem with the equipment?
  • What type of service can you expect from the distributor after the sale?
  • Does the distributor have a maintenance technician or technical staff that has hands-on experience with the equipment?
  • Does the distributor offer on-site service?
  • Does the distributor offer maintenance contracts?
  • Does the distributor have free tech support? Is there any time limit to it?
  • When is tech support available?
  • What is the e-mail address and phone/fax number of tech support?
  • What is the warranty?
  • What is the warranty on replacement parts?