should i buy a used air conditioner

Should I Buy a Used Air Conditioner?

  • July 1, 2020
  • By MR COOL

If you need to get your HVAC system replaced, you might want to buy a used air conditioner to save money. You could probably find a cheap one on the internet, or you might know someone selling one. Even after giving it an inspection and making sure it’s clean, you might be surprised by the frequent repairs and loud noises that come with this old unit.

When you factor the miscellaneous costs, the lower energy efficiency and the headaches a used cooling system brings, it’s usually better to get a new one. On the other hand, if you search hard enough, you might be able to find a great deal on a long-lasting refurbished air conditioner. Use this guide to figure out whether you should buy someone’s old AC equipment or get a brand-new unit.

What Are the Pros of Buying Used Air Conditioners?

After researching refurbished air conditioners, you may decide that buying a used one is a good idea. You could find a like-new unit that the previous owner only used a couple of times. Even an AC system from a friend or family member could probably cool your house over the summer. Here are some of the benefits of getting an old AC unit.

1. A Used Air Conditioner Costs Less Money Upfront

Saving money is the motivation for buying a used air conditioner. While a brand-new unit costs hundreds of dollars, a refurbished one is only a fraction of that price. You might also be able to negotiate a lower rate if you’re buying it from a person instead of a website.

Compare the price of a secondhand air conditioner to a brand-new cooling system to find out if it’s worth the investment. You will be paying less for an older one, but keep in mind that you’ll also have to add in the cost of installation and other factors. With all these fees you might not have considered, you could almost break even with what you would’ve paid for a brand-new unit.

2. You Might Get a Good Deal on a Used Air Conditioner

Finding a new, long-lasting air conditioner at a secondhand price is like winning the lottery. Most people who own air conditioning units that work want to hold onto them, but you’ll sometimes find used cooling systems that are like new. Try to find a decent seller who has inspected and properly maintained the air conditioner.

Before you make a deal with a company or an individual, check the reviews of the product online. If you’re buying from a secondhand air conditioner distributor, online reviews will tell you if they are a reliable company. The reviews online may also give you information about the specifications of the air conditioner or how to get replacement parts.

Along with researching the company and the specific product, you should also compare this older model to the latest one. By putting in this research, you may find out that it’s a better investment to get a more reliable, energy-efficient air conditioner.

3. You Can Get a Cheaper Option for a Temporary Living Situation

A used air conditioner is an effective short-term plan for cooling your property. If you’re planning on selling your house in the next couple of months, you could switch out your failed AC unit with a refurbished cooling system to last you through the summer until you move. You might also consider one if you’re renting out an apartment or staying at college.

4. You Can Reuse a Refurbished Air Conditioner Instead of Buying a New One

A used AC unit usually has the reputation of being dirty or broken, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you’ll find a system up for sale because it wasn’t the right size for the living space. The family might have tried it out a couple of times but realized that it wouldn’t have worked. Try to find a used air conditioner that an HVAC technician inspected to verify its like-new condition.

What Are the Cons of Buying a Used Air Conditioner?

Most of the time, buying used AC units ends up costing more money than you think. Even if you can find a reliable used cooling system, you will probably have to pay money to have it inspected and cleaned, so you’re often better off buying a new one. Consider these drawbacks to purchasing a used AC system to decide for yourself how you should cool your house.

1. Used Air Conditioners Don’t Come With a Warranty

Brand-new units include warranties, tax incentives and rebates so you can make some money back after your purchase. The warranty period for your old AC unit may have already expired, so you’ll have to pay for replacement parts as they break over the years.

Even when a unit is still within the standard coverage period, many warranties apply only to the original installer. Make sure you check the fine print.

Ask the seller about any existing protection plans on the AC equipment and find out what they cover. You can also contact the manufacturer about the possibility of extending or adding a protection plan. If you’re trying to save money with a used air conditioner, you won’t be saving much between paying for the warranty and replacement costs of the old parts.

2. A Used Air Conditioner Might Have Mechanical Issues You Don’t See

Dents or debris are visible on your air conditioner, but it’s a lot harder to see the problems inside the machine. You might have to hire an HVAC technician to inspect it before you buy it. The seller will probably give you the paperwork for any repairs done in the last couple of years, but you can’t know for sure until you’ve had it checked.

You should also keep in mind that if it’s an older AC unit, the manufacturer might not be making it anymore, which means you won’t be able to find replacement parts. Think about all the phone calls and searches online you would have to make to find new evaporator coils or air filters to work with your AC. The maintenance cost of a used air conditioner is likely more than the price for a new one.

3. Older Air Conditioning Units Are Less Efficient

The average lifespan of AC units is between 15 and 20 years, but the essential components may lose their efficiency after about a decade. The more you use your air conditioner, the less efficient it becomes. Here is how you can increase the energy efficiency of your cooling system:

  • Install a programmable thermostat to control the temperature.
  • Use a ceiling fan to help regulate airflow.
  • Insulate the attic, crawl space and ductwork.
  • Don’t use appliances to heat your house.
  • Use window treatments to prevent solar heat.
  • Run a fan when taking a shower and cooking.
  • Seal air leaks and insulate to prevent drafts.
  • Buy a new air conditioner instead of a used one.

A brand-new AC unit uses 30% to 50% less energy than cooling products that were made 50 years ago. If you buy a used air conditioner, it’s going to need more energy to produce cool air. You’ll be saving money on your utility bill each month with a reliable, energy-efficient AC system.

4. A Used Air Conditioner Comes With Hidden Fees

While used cooling systems may cost less money upfront, the price doesn’t include installation and other miscellaneous costs. Here are some extra costs you’ll have to pay with your refurbished cooling unit:

  • Ductwork: If you buy a used central air conditioning system, you may have to install ductwork throughout the house. A contractor will have to inspect your house for the best place to put the ducts, cut holes into the floor and buy all the materials. You will also have to get the ducts cleaned throughout the life of your used air conditioner.
  • Square footage: HVAC technicians or contractors usually charge for their services by the length and width of your home. The more square footage you have, the more you will have to pay to have your AC unit installed. Even if they charge by the hour, a larger house will take them more time to inspect.
  • Types of air conditioning: A used window air conditioner will cost less money than central air conditioning because it’s smaller and more flexible. However, you could save money on central air conditioning with a new ductless mini-split system.
  • Labor: If you hire an HVAC technician to install the cooling system for you, you can expect to pay a labor fee for their services. We offer several DIY air conditioning systems so you can avoid this labor fee.
  • Miscellaneous expenses: There’s more to installing the cooling system than the selling price. If the seller is out of your local area, you also need to consider shipping fees. You also might want to increase your system’s energy efficiency by surrounding it with insulation. If your air conditioner needs electricity rewired, you will have to hire an electrician or an HVAC technician who has the proper training to handle high-voltage connections.

5. A Used Air Conditioner Is More Likely to Need Repairs

When you buy a used AC system, you don’t know how reliable it’ll be until you plug it in and use it over the summer. The product from a third-party seller or distributor may come with some surprises, like broken parts or loud noises. Here are some ways you can prolong the life of your air conditioner and try to avoid some repairs:

  • Check your air filters at least once a month: The filter in your AC system acts as an air purifier while keeping dirt away from the evaporator coil and other sensitive parts. Dirty coils break down faster, which makes the unit work harder to provide a comfortable temperature for your home. Clean your air filters and replace them as needed to keep your AC running smoothly.
  • Check the refrigerant: Low refrigerant levels, which are common in old AC cooling systems, can reduce the quality of your air conditioner and will use more energy to cool the air. Changing or refilling the refrigerant lines can only be done by an HVAC technician, and it may cost you more than you’re willing to spend. On the other hand, our DIY cooling systems come with refrigerant already installed, so you don’t have to touch those harmful chemicals.
  • Consider the noise levels: A used air conditioner is typically louder than a brand-new one. Hearing a whining AC unit all day is annoying and has adverse health effects, especially on your sleep. The noise levels could also tell of underlying issues or faulty parts that will need replacements. If possible, turn on the AC before you buy it and listen for any sounds of trouble, like rattling or grinding, that could tell you which parts might be broken.
  • Clean and inspect your air conditioner: After leaving it in the attic or a hole in the wall all winter, a used AC unit is going to have dust and debris inside of it. In the spring, before the hot summer comes, inspect your cooling system for damaged or dirty parts. You should also check it before you pack it away for the fall.
  • Schedule an annual maintenance appointment: If you’re not an expert in HVAC care, you should call a professional technician to take a look at your AC unit before and after the summer. After tuning up the parts of your cooling system, they can help you determine how long it’s going to last.

6. A Used Air Conditioner Is Dirty

An old AC unit could have signs of wear and tear or contain dirt or debris. The exterior blemishes can lower its visual appeal and make the rest of your house look dirty. Allergen buildup within the machine causes health issues in your family and guests.

Your air conditioner should be able to cool down the air, but dirty cooling systems often can’t get down to the right temperature. Clogged filters prevent the airflow and could even cause difficulty breathing for those with allergies or asthma. Dirty evaporator coils trap dirt and debris, and they can be expensive to clean. You might be able to ask the seller to clean out the air conditioner before you bring it home, but you still don’t know what allergens or harmful debris are inside of it.

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13 thoughts on “Should I Buy a Used Air Conditioner?”

  1. It’s so helpful to know that you can get a really great used AC unit for several hundred dollars cheaper than new units. My brother is having some issues with keeping his home cool this year. He needs to find a local contractor that can help him install a new unit that will be more efficient.

  2. That’s a good point that the air conditioner won’t work as well the older it gets. I could see that being a downside to buying a used air conditioner. I should probably just get a new one installed if I need a new one when mine breaks down.

  3. I liked how you mentioned that you should check the reviews of an air conditioner company before buying an AC from them. My wife and I are wanting to prepare for the summer and we were wondering how we could get a better AC for cheap. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should look at reviews before deciding on a used air conditioner.

  4. I liked how you mentioned that you should look for a used AC that has been inspected by an HVAC technician. My brother is wanting to prepare his home for the summer and he was wondering how he could find a used AC that works and is cheap. I’ll be sure to tell him that he should find a used AC that’s been inspected by an HVAC technician.

  5. I liked how you mentioned that you should check reviews online before deciding on an AC to buy. My wife and I are wanting to prepare for the summer and we were wondering how we could decide on an AC to buy. I’ll tell her that we should look at online reviews before deciding on an AC.

  6. My new house has an old AC unit in it. I’d like to get something that can keep different rooms cool while also saving me money. Sounds like a ductless mini-split system is perfect for me. Now I just need to find an HVAC technician to install it once I get it.

    1. It’s possible that a DIY multi-zone mini-split could be perfect for you, because you don’t need an HVAC technician to install the system for you. If you are interested in having someone install it for you, you may be able to check our “Where to Purchase” page to see if there are any MRCOOL retailers that offer installation services near you.

  7. I like what you said about how used air conditioners are generally smaller in size. I need to get a contractor who can swap out my filters. I don’t think they have been changed in years.

  8. MrCool’s “Should I Buy a Used Air Conditioner?” is a must-read for anyone considering purchasing a second-hand air conditioner. The article offers helpful tips for evaluating the condition of a used AC and the potential risks involved.

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