7 Ways You Lose When You Buy A Used Plotter

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Used Plotters Are Bad News

Everyone is looking for a “good buy”. But when a friend (or someone you met online) wants you to buy their used plotter, say “goodbye”. It may seem like a “steal”, but a used plotter can be a truckload of headaches. Here are 7 things to consider when looking into a used plotter versus buying a new one.

Old Technology

The first “gotcha” can be a printer that is not compatible with your computer's current operating system. Even if the plotter was free, it’s no good if your computer can’t talk to it.

The fastest way to check compatibility is to google search for the model of printer and specs. You should find a pdf that shows you the operating system compatibility.

Needs Supplies/Repairs

Expired ink will not allow the printer to print. If the used plotter has been sitting for a while, be prepared to fork out a few hundred dollars on a full set of new ink tanks.

Once the ink is fresh, you may discover the print heads are clogged. Older models have multiple print heads, available for purchase… individually.

Now that you have invested in new ink and print heads, the printer can run its normal startup – and discover any problems and repairs that are needed. Since the plotter is old and used, there is certainly no remaining warranty. Parts and labor come out of pocket (and if the printer is a discontinued model, parts may not be easy to find).

Small Capacity Supplies

Since we just talked about ink, lets stick with that for a second. Older plotters had very small ink tanks (28ml, 69ml) and the tanks are usually in the $40 - $60 range.

Paper can also become expensive because many “legacy” (that means old) printers can only hold 150’ rolls.

Poor Stacking

Many old plotter models didn’t have good stacking features. The plans fall onto the floor in a rolled-up mess, or they jam falling into a narrow catch basket, again putting your drawings on the floor.

Inefficient stacking means a staff member has to clean up, sort, and stack.

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Slow Speeds

There is an old joke about watching paint dry… A used plotter may have very slow speeds (depending on what technology was available at the time of manufacture).

For example, the HP Designjet 500 spec sheet says it can print one D-size (24’ x 36”) print every 90 seconds. Check out the video on the right to validate that claim (NOTE: this is not our video - it was found on YouTube and credit goes to user AGARQ01)

(in 4 minutes and 39 seconds we only see 2 – D-Size prints delivered…. And one of them was finished printing at the beginning of the video)

A common solution is to “set it and forget it” (like those old infomercials) during lunch or at the end of the day.

That leads to the next point…

Why Did They Get Rid Of It

There is a reason your friend (or future enemy) got a new plotter. The one you are getting from them… DIDN’T WORK FOR THEM ANY MORE.

Why? (We’ve got our money on any one of the previously mentioned reasons…)

Now It’s Your Problem

As indicated in its name, a Large Format Printer is LARGE. You can’t just set it out for the garbage man to pick up. It requires someone to haul it off to be e-cycled. If you are fortunate, you can find some other sucker to take it off your hands (just don’t let them see this article before you give it to them).

Consider New

Even the most careful and skilled technician can miss errors and things that could be costly to repair.  When it comes to buying a used printer, the safest play is to walk away and go new.  In many cases, the total repair bill (plus supplies) can come close to the price of a new printer.

If you don't know what you are looking for, check out our FREE Plotter Buyers Guide.

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.


  1. Gabriel Flores on at

    A plotter used a pen that’s why they’re great You don’t need ink

    • Ron Rodgers on at

      Do I have to point out that pens use ink? Also, pen plotters are slow, old, and outdated technology. But for real, if you are still using one, please send pictures 🙂

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