Guide to Buying Used Equipment for Your CrossFit Gym

Gym equipment is one of the more costly expenses you’ll run into with your gym, so can you really save more money with used equipment? We think so.

Sam Karoll
August 24, 2022
Guide to Buying Used Equipment for Your CrossFit Gym
Gym equipment is one of the more costly expenses you’ll run into with your gym, so can you really save more money with used equipment? We think so.

You’re getting ready to fill your gym up with equipment, but you’re at a crossroad: do you rent all-new equipment from a company and pay a premium every single month, or do you buy your own equipment?

There’s a few caveats to look for, such as whether or not rental companies will let your maintenance technician work on their equipment or if they have to send their own repairmen out. The latter could mean long waiting periods between machines being used.

There are also return policies, security deposits, and conditional inspections of the equipment at the end of the lease to consider. We say that it’s better to buy your own equipment, even if it’s not the most up-to-date stock you could get your hands on. Let’s get your gym equipped for its first day.

Where to Find Second Hand Gym Equipment

You’re launching a CrossFit gym. You don’t need to have four rows of the exact same treadmill—you need equipment, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not trying to look like the next Planet Fitness, are you?

Secondhand equipment gets the job done, but only if you can find out where to get it from. These are a few places you can look:

  • Facebook Marketplace: This is one of the few reasons many people even use Facebook anymore: the marketplace. People sell their stuff like it’s 2008-era Craigslist, and you can initiate with Messenger right away. Just be aware of choosing beggars who change meeting times and prices. It unfortunately happens from time to time.
  • Craigslist: Craigslist is still alive and well (somehow). You can often find people trying to sell gym equipment here, although you may have to travel a bit. In our experience, Craigslist sellers tend to be more serious than Facebook Marketplace sellers, so at least there’s that.
  • Rental Companies: Don’t mind some older, used stock? Find gym equipment rental companies. Chances are they have some older stock that they need to get rid of. They’ll often hold auctions on last year’s models or whatever’s being outmoded, but if you can get to them first and you offer to haul it out, you can find some amazing deals. Find a gym equipment rental company and call them up; it’s that simple.
  • Foreclosures: Auctions are a great place to buy gym equipment. We hate to say it, but gyms have a high turnover rate—it’s possible that there’s a gym within one hundred miles of your location that’s closing sometime soon. Look for foreclosures where the inventory is being auctioned off, find the auction date, and try to score some excellent deals. Just be ready to haul it all away shortly after.
  • Floor Models: This may not yield a lot of results all at once, but if you go into stores and speak with management, they may have treadmill floor models that they’re looking to get rid off. These can’t be sold at MSRP, plus it’s taking up their space, which positions you to grab a great deal on gently used equipment.
  • Freecycle: This is another online forum-based website, and there’s a ton of them that are all local. People will often give away fitness equipment if they no longer need it. This could be due to a death in the family or because of a long distance move; whatever the case is, they’re trying to get rid of stuff, not sell it. If it’s in good enough condition, take them up on it.

If there’s any other way you can think to find free furniture, then go for it. As long as the equipment isn’t dusty and extremely squeaky, it should be good enough to go into your gym. Just clean it up a bit first and you’ll be right as rain.

What to Look Out for in Old Gym Equipment

Now that we know where to find gym equipment, it’s time to find out whether or not you’re getting a good deal. There are a lot of things you have to look out for before you seal the deal and sink money into your investment. Let’s go over them.

Excessive Wear and Tear

Ever run into something that was obviously well-loved, but broken down as a result? Sometimes you can just use a machine until it’s basically falling apart at the seams. Excessive wear and tear will result in grips peeling off of cardio machines, tons of chips and missing finish from dumbbells, and thin treads that are about to give out any minute.

Wear and tear will show itself pretty easily just from a first glance. If an owner isn’t making an effort to hide wear and tear, then it’s a good indicator that they’re not masking any underlying issues. Still, be sure to inspect it and make sure wear and tear is all there is to be concerned about.

Cracks or Visible Signs of Damage

Cracks in the casing are a sign that the equipment was dropped, banged up, or just generally not taken care of. Accidents happen, but you want to be sure that it didn’t damage any internal components.

Ask to pop open the machine and inspect the interior. Bring your own tool kit so that you can do it quickly (your time and the seller’s time are both valuable). When you check for signs of damage, here are a few things you can do.

  • Turn on LCD Screens: For a spin bike or treadmill with an LCD panel, fire it up and carefully, closely inspect the glass. Are there cracks, weak points, or discoloration? Does it look burned in? Look for every potential problem that you might run into and be 100% aware of what you’re buying before you put money down for it.
  • Use the Machine: Ask to test run the machine for a few minutes. Any major issues will present themselves immediately. Check for rickety construction, listen for creaking and loud squeaky sounds, and make sure that it feels right. You’ve used exercise machines before, so you’ll be able to figure out if the one you’re testing is of decent quality or not.
  • Plastic Dust: When you grind certain parts of a machine for long enough, you can find dust from the plastic components that begins to pool around the gaps in between where sections of the equipment meet. This is most common with treadmills. This is just a way to see damage over time.

Check All Safety Features

There are only so many safety features on gym equipment. Make sure the emergency stop key works on a treadmill, that the sidewalls of a treadmill aren’t about to pop off, and that there’s no exposed wiring on the LCD panel on spin bikes.

Look for known safety features to make sure they work, but just do a general safety check. Are there broken sections of plastic or loud whirring sounds that could lead to a problem? Is the tread on a treadmill about to snap because of how thin it is?

Use common sense and inspect these pieces for basic safety issues. The last thing you want to do is bring a safety hazard into your gym.

Find Out if the Warranty is Still Intact (and Transferable)

While this is unlikely, it’s important. If the equipment owner still has the warranty information (even if it’s inactive), it’s a good indicator that they take care of their belongings.

If they still have an active warranty, that’s even better. It indicates that the equipment in question was lightly used, and you may be able to contact the manufacturer to get additional parts in the event that something breaks.

That brings us to one important detail, though: transferability. A warranty usually includes personal information, such as the card number associated with the purchase, home address details, and sometimes even more sensitive information. That’s not something that any (sane) person will hand over to you just because you’re buying their fitness equipment.

If it’s transferable, make it part of the purchase deal. Otherwise it’ll get forgotten. The warranty can be useful especially for out-of-date models where the manufacturer doesn’t sell the parts on their own anymore.

Focus on Quality Brands When Available

You walk up to a random house after talking on Craigslist, go into the garage, and the equipment you see has a random name on it that you don’t recognize. As someone who’s well-versed in the fitness space, what does this tell you?

Likely that it’s a cheap knockoff brand. Do your research, of course, and perhaps you’ll be proven wrong, but beware of these mystery brands before you make the commitment to purchase.

Do your best to spot quality brand names. This will obviously mean a higher price tag, but it’s better than buying used junk that gives out on you in a short amount of time. Name brands also typically make machines with more capabilities than no-name brands that aren’t trying to make a name in the industry.

Should You Rent Gym Equipment Instead?

Renting gym equipment from a company has its benefits, although it does increase your monthly expenses. Here’s what you need to know about exploring this option instead.

  • Not Your Problem: Guess what happens when there’s a major problem with a machine? Your maintenance may be able to look at it, but the problem isn’t yours. You call the rental company, maybe they’ll send their guy out instead if your maintenance isn’t permitted to work on it, and then it’s done.
  • But Repairs Might be Slow: On the flip side, those repair calls may take more time than you’d like, which can be a bit of a bummer. They have other clients, and no doubt they’ve worked out “acceptable” repair windows in their contract with you already. You could be down a few machines in the meantime.
  • Monthly Cost vs. Upfront Cost: You know what’s better than spending $50,000 on new equipment? Still having 95%+ of that while also having a gym full of equipment. It’s great to buy equipment, but then not only is it your problem, it’s a lot of money upfront that you could use to help your business survive while you market and gain clients.
  • Used: You’re not going to get all-new equipment most of the time. They’ll use older equipment for as long as is deemed acceptable, or depending on the tier package you pick with them. Either way, don’t expect to get the newest and flashiest equipment unless you pay a monthly premium for it.

Should You Buy New Gym Equipment Instead?

New gym equipment is excellent. You’re not inheriting problems, you know all the warranties are fresh, and the aesthetics are generally much better than having mismatched machines.

But it’s expensive. Stocking a gym with all-new equipment could cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 depending on your gym’s size, and that could still leave some room for improvement.

While it’s surely great to have new equipment, it’s not what you should be focusing on towards the early days of your gym. Instead, focus on managing members and building up your community. New flashy equipment isn’t why people are stopping in, even if it is easy on the eyes.

Buy the Best Equipment You Can

Work with what you have for a budget. If you’re renting a big place and your lease costs are on the higher side, you can save a considerable amount of money by not renting new equipment. Most of the time clients don’t care what brand of machine you have in your gym, so long as it works and meets their specific needs.

Get the best equipment you can, and focus on building classes to bring in a lot of revenue in the beginning of your CrossFit affiliate gym business. You can upgrade machines later, and not having a monthly cost to pay a gym equipment rental company is always nice.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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