Used Lighting: Account for Mix of Pros, Cons When Deciding To Buy New, Used

Few churches are set up to buy everything at that new price tag, but we all have a desire to do what is best for our church, to where used gear becomes a consideration to get the best value.

As a church lighting designer, it's important to keep up with technology and design trends.

In order to properly leverage the look and feel that your church needs, you must understand how to stay relevant in your realm of authority. Spend some time checking what everyone else is doing, what they're using, what the new gear that is coming out this year looks like and what it does, and how you could implement each of those things at your church.

What do you do when you don't have the resources that the other guys have or you can't afford the light you want? That's when you look to buying used gear!

I for one am a huge advocate of used gear. I buy it often, and I love it.

Let's face it, few churches are set up to buy everything at that new price tag, but we all have a desire to do what is best for our church. If we are going to be 100 percent honest with ourselves, not many people are going to notice the difference in what that brand-new MAC Encore moving head light by Martin can do, versus a bit older MAC III, also from Martin, at a fraction of the cost.

What are the pros and cons of buying used gear? Let's break some of it down, to help you make an educated decision.

Let's start with some advantages to buying used gear:

You're getting it much cheaper than you would be with brand new gear, so this gives you a couple of options. A.) you're going to save your church some money, which is always a plus, and B.) you might be able to buy a higher quantity light that is also used, and really give your stage that big look that it has always needed.

Used gear typically comes with a 48-hour warranty, if you buy from a reputable dealer, such as GearSource.com or UsedLighting.com, so you aren't really taking a risk, as long as you've done your research and bought the appropriate light for the function you are trying to achieve (which has to be done when buying new fixtures as well).

Contrary to popular belief, maintaining and repairing older lighting gear is not that difficult. You just need to be ready to spend some time getting to know the ins and outs of your new (to you) lighting fixtures. And when it does come time to repair those lights, you will need to get in good with the guys over at LightParts in Austin, Texas. They have helped me so many times over the years, that I can't even begin to count them.

Alright, now let's touch on a couple of disadvantages when opting to buy used gear:

It is older and therefore does have a shorter remaining lifespan, versus that of new gear. This is something you really need to consider and talk to your leadership about, to find out if you're going to be a church that spends more, but less often, or one that spends less in each instance, but more frequently. What I'm not saying is that you’ll be replacing lights if they are used every single year, as I am still running some fixtures we bought used more than 10 years ago, and they are running just as strong as ever. They are, though, coming to their end of their life cycle, and maybe I could have gotten 15 years out of a brand-new version of the fixture. Just something to consider.

Power draw. Newer lights typically need less power; this statement by no means is 100 percent true, but it is a good general rule of thumb. As technology continues to get better and better, many arc source lamps are being replaced by LED fixtures, which require significantly less power.

We are beginning to reach a phase in stage lighting, though, where LED fixtures really are finding their place in the used market, meaning you may be able to swing your budget over to the used lighting realm, and still get that low power light that may fit your church's needs better.

Depending on the manufacturer, many new LED lights come with 2-3 year warranties now. This is a pretty significant consideration. Do you buy a light that you may need to continually invest money and time in, to keep it working, or do you pay as much three to four times on the light in the beginning, and just make a phone call to handle a warranty-covered repair?

It is truly my belief that as LED technology takes over the lighting world, manufacturers are offering these long warranties because the lights rarely break, making it a fairly (but not guaranteed) safe bet that buying a used LED fixture will last you for years and years to come, with very minimal repairs involved.

These are just a few of my thoughts when it comes to purchasing lights for your church. Most of the time the used gear thoughts outweigh the new gear ones for me and my church. I run lighting for a church in the round, so the amount of gear I use is by no means minimal.

In fact, if you count the static LED fixtures and the moving lights together, my rig consists of approximately 300 intelligent lights. Out of those, I would say that roughly half of them are used with a current plan in place to switch, to around an 80 percent used rig.

Over the years, I have been blessed with employees and volunteers who really have a knack for helping me keep all this gear working. Like I said, having friends to lean on, to help with repairs is a crucial factor. I hope this helps you make some purchase decisions for your future lighting plans!

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