The Used Cisco Buyer’s Guide

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As a networking hardware user or network admin, you may not even know how to get started in looking at buying used Cisco. I’ve compiled this resource to shed some light on the second hand market for Cisco hardware.

Who are the main players in the used cisco market?

    • Cisco Authorized VARs Cisco’s authorized channel partners have access to Cisco’s pool of refurbished Cisco gear. If you’re currently buying new hardware from a partner then you can also buy certified Cisco refurb gear from these same resellers.

      This pool is limited to what Cisco currently has available (typically much less than the open market) and discounts aren’t always that great, but the product is certified by Cisco.

      Cisco Authorized Refurbished equipment (aka “Cisco reman”) is immediately eligible for maintenance and includes all of the typical licensing. Packaging is similar to new Cisco except that it will include stickers signifying that the hardware has been factory refurbished.

    • Independent Cisco Resellers AKA brokers, dealers or remarketers.These resellers are not authorized to sell new Cisco, but instead sell equipment that they’ve acquired via lease returns, liquidations or end-user trade-ins.Inventories can far exceed what you’ll find in Cisco’s pool and pricing is much, much lower than new in most cases (up to 90% off new).Used Cisco from independent resellers will include a warranty (from the reseller), but typically has to be recertified by Cisco and licenses need to be acquired in most cases to legally use the equipment and place it under maintenance. Packaging is normally equivalent to new quality, but is sent in plain brown boxes and anti-static bags rather than Cisco labeled packaging.Buyer’s choose independent resellers of used Cisco for benefits such as immediate availability and of course the massive discounts.

      Our firm, Vibrant Technologies, fits in this category. (Request a quote)

    • Auction Sellers, User to User and Scrap resellers Individual Cisco users bring their wares directly to market via auction sites or forums such as eBay, Craigslist and Yahoo Auctions.There is a growing amount of Cisco equipment on these sites, but most of the listers seem to be resellers, not users. You’ll also find a lot of scrap resellers who can’t test the equipment and in other cases – outright scammers. Prices are all over the board.Quality, trust and support are serious concerns here. You want to be sure you don’t get bad equipment or completely scammed. Packaging can really leave something to be desired. We’ve seen actual popcorn (buttery!) used in place of packing peanuts and deli meat bags used to pack memory. Not to mention that the boxes are so thin that it’s amazing more products don’t get damaged.

How soon do Cisco Routers and Switches become available Used?

2-3 Months after a product has been released new, you can typically find it used.

This may come as a surprise to some who assume you can only find 2nd or 3rd generation hardware used.

Due to bankruptcies, mistaken purchases, or demo units, it is possible to find the latest and greatest as well as EOL equipment.

Is Used Cisco the same as Gray Market Cisco?

No, Gray Market product is equipment that has been purchased new from another country in order to be sold in a region where the manufacturer charges more for it. Used Cisco hardware is just previously used equipment given a second life.

If a used Cisco reseller offers you “new Cisco” it is likely gray market product. In some cases, product is available in new/sealed/retail condition from resellers or at auction, because the end-user never got around to opening the item. These products should be referred to as “unused” instead of “new” since ownership has transferred.


Both Used Cisco and “Grey market” hardware is legal to buy and sell in the United States, as upheld in the recent Kirtsaeng v Wiley US Supreme Court decision. The First Sale Doctrine basically allows that if you bought it, you own it – and you have the right to resell it.

Laws may vary by country. For example, the European Union generally restricts the resale of products (used or new) that were originally intended for anywhere outside the EU. In order to resell a branded product in that region, it must be from that region, not imported.

For Vibrant, this limits our exports to Europe, but otherwise we don’t face many other restrictions internationally beyond the usual import tariffs.

What condition of equipment should I expect from Used Cisco hardware?

Just because you’re purchasing used equipment, you shouldn’t have to settle for low quality. Cisco reman and used Cisco gear acquired from legitimate brokers is typically in similar condition to what is currently in your datacenter. Occasionally dealers will offer further discounts on “ugly-duckling” equipment that functions, but has some scratches or dings. You should be informed of any imperfections upfront.

At Vibrant, we like to think of your networking equipment as basic plumbing. It’s not that hard to get it right, and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. We help companies save money on their infrastructure, so they can invest in what really matters – people and applications that drive ROI for your business.

How are prices set on the used market?

The used Cisco market is an open market where equipment is traded as a second-hand commodity. Prices rise and fall based on perceived availability and demand in the marketplace. The best way to compare prices is to do so against other resellers because comparing against list is completely arbitrary.

Depending on the model or feature, discounts can range from 30 to 90% off list. See “List Prices and Discounts for Used IT Hardware.”

When is the best time to buy?

Give yourself time to check out all of your options, but also know that used resellers can typically ship overnight if you’re in a pinch. End of month, end of quarter and end of year are great times to buy as sales reps aim to meet their quotas.

How do I confirm that I’m working with a quality reseller?

        1. Do your due diligence. Check references, confirm years in business,etc…
        2. Check associations. Find out if they’re members of industry associations like UNEDA or ASCDI or if they’re in the BBB.
        3. Get a warranty. Any quality reseller should offer warranties. End-user clients often get 90day to one year warranties on used Cisco (from the reseller). Make sure you get at least 90days.
        4. Ask Questions. Find out if the reseller has Cisco certified techs and ask about recertification, licensing and manufacturer/reseller pre-sales and post-sales support policies.
        5. Get Credit Terms (if you can). Corporations of any decent size should be able to negotiate payment terms of up to 30 days.This basically gives you the opportunity to try before you buy. If the equipment doesn’t meet your standards, you can return it without trying to recover your payment.

Who buys Used Cisco?

Fortune 500s and SMBs alike. Individuals, resellers, government agencies and manufacturers, too.

I’ve personally had countless conversations where somebody says they would never buy used, but then we talk about certain scenarios and they see a fit. Test environments, disaster recovery, training labs, trade shows, etc… Once they see the quality, support and savings, we normally flow into a production scenario from there.

And even those who don’t buy used Cisco end up finding value in having a Used Cisco reseller like Vibrant to sell their excess or decommissioned equipment to. We can offer you cash to save on your next investment and usually beat any trade-in offers from the manufacturer or VAR.

Please contact us if you have Networking, Storage or Server hardware to sell.

Should you consider used Cisco?

You have to decide for yourself, but it is definitely worth getting a quote or two so that you can make an informed decision. Some users start with training or demo hardware and then move to development or production units as they gain confidence in refurb quality and savings.

For more information, please email or call 952-653-1700.

(this article was originally published at Network World’s Cisco Subnet and has been updated for 2013)

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