3 must-read tips for buying used equipment

I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors around town.  “Lisa got that Reformer for a steal! She only paid like $600!”  

Kinda makes you want to buy used equipment, too, huh?

The reality is that these kinds of deals aren’t terribly common, and they get bragged about so much because they are so shockingly good.  Often, equipment at that price comes along when you aren’t actively looking, and usually needs some significant TLC.

But, even if you can’t get a shiny, new-looking Reformer for a ridiculous amount off retail most of the time, that doesn’t mean buying used Pilates equipment isn’t a great way to build or expand your studio on a budget.  

In this blog post I’m going to give you my three tips that are often overlooked when buying used equipment.

Be patient

While the Pilates community is growing every day, used equipment is still a relatively small market, scattered across a variety of marketplaces.  This means that finding a piece of used equipment that fits your teaching style and budget will take time.  

Plan to spend at least one or two months looking.  Check craigslist, Facebook marketplace, local Facebook Pilates forums, and sometimes even your neighborhood community apps regularly.  At least every 3 days.  

The best deals will come from people who don’t really know what they have, and want a quick sell.  But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay a fair price for equipment that was well loved and cared for by another Pilates professional.

Try the equipment before you buy it

It is imperative that you have a session on the equipment you want to buy before you buy it.  While being flexible in the brand and model of equipment you are looking for increases your chance of an expedient and fair purchase, it can all be negated if you end up hating the equipment because it doesn’t work how you want it to.

If you normally work on a Stott Reformer, try various Balanced Body, Gratz, and Peak equipment before deciding you can live with one of them. There are major and minor differences that totally change how your session goes.

From using leather straps instead of ropes, to the feel of the carriage on the rails, to adjusting the footbar and springbar, to installing and removing tower mats, to the weight and variety of springs, any of these factors or procedures can quickly become arduous and annoying.

Avoid regretting your purchase by honestly evaluating how your session on that particular model goes before you consider buying one.

Be ready to buy when you show up

Because buying used can save so much money, in the right circumstances, well-priced and cared-for equipment sells fast.  This is why it’s important to act with expediency when you’re inquiring about an apparatus for sale.

First, as soon as you see an interesting ad, you should reach out to the seller and ask about it.  Is it still for sale? Can you go test it out?

Second, if you set up a trial, make preparations to purchase and transport the equipment on the spot.  Often, buyers think they can try out a piece of equipment and then make arrangements for sale and transport later, and then they lose out to someone else willing to deal right away.

Gather up a strong friend (never assume the seller will help you load), a pickup truck, and the preferred method of payment so that if you like the equipment you can take it home right away.

Even if you decide not to take the equipment home, it’s worth the extra preparation to make sure you don’t lose out on a good deal on the perfect equipment for you.

Want more in-depth help?

If you still have questions, especially about pricing, shipping, and inspecting a potential purchase, you can check out my in-depth PDF and audio guide on buying used Pilates equipment.  It’s only $20 and can save you a ton of stress and regret in the future.

Check out the Buyer’s Guide, here.

Don’t worry, sellers, I’ve got advice for you too!  I know you want to maximize your sale price. I will walk you through writing an ad, pricing your equipment, and posting it in your very own PDF and audio guide.  Just $20 now can help earn you hundreds more in your sale.

Check out the Seller’s Guide, here.

Happy Reforming!

How and when to find a local upholsterer

Ripped, torn, or cut vinyl on your Pilates equipment may not be a safety issue, but it sure ages the equipment.  For some brands and models of equipment, replacing the upholstery and foam doesn’t require and upholstery skills at all!  But for other brands, models, and even parts of a typical setup, custom upholstery is the only option besides buying a whole new piece of equipment.

As a maintenance tech, I’ve done one full custom reupholstery job of Gratz equipment.  It was a lot of work, even though I had the right tools and am quite handy! By the end of the weekend the pads of my fingers were tender to the touch because they were pulled away from my fingernails so much, stretching the vinyl tight over the contours of the equipment.

SInce then I only refer my clients to local upholsterers for those kinds of jobs.

Upholstery is tough.  

Not only is it hard on your body, but if you don’t get it quite right it shows pretty darn quickly!  

Not being able to pull the vinyl tight enough can stretched out areas where clients kneel or sit.  

Not using a high enough grade of vinyl can cause it to discolor, wear down, or rip prematurely.

So what do I recommend instead?

Your local automotive upholsterer!

There are often several mobile automotive upholsterers in your area, who are capable of coming to you and working on your equipment on-site.  

These professionals are often able to source vinyl for you if you don’t want to order by the yard, or pre-stitched, from the manufacturer.   (Just remember, high-quality vinyl is a MUST, so it doesn’t stretch from kneeling, or degrade from skin oils or daily cleaners.)

They can sew when needed.

And, they can do it quickly!

Still nervous about trusting someone from outside the Pilates industry?  Go look at your car seat. Look at all those curves! Automotive upholsterers work with complicated geometry all day long.  The relative squareness of Pilates equipment is so much less tricky than that.

If you can’t find a mobile upholsterer, you can also take pieces of your equipment to the upholsterer.  Usually, this means that particular piece of equipment might be out of commission for a day or more, but if you do one piece at a time you can minimize the impact on your studio.

Remember, when looking for an upholsterer be sure to check their reviews on a website like Yelp and talk to them in-person or over the phone.  They’ll often need some photos of the equipment to get an idea of what they’d be working on before giving you a quote.

Common components of your Pilates studio that need to be custom re-upholstered include:

  • All sitting boxes
  • All Gratz and Pilates Designs (by Basil) equipment
  • Mat conversions
  • Raised mats
  • Moonboxes

As always, if you have any questions feel free to send them to me at hello@fitreformer.com.  I’m happy to help.

Happy Reforming!