We are in the process of buying a CNC. We currently have a Morbidelli U13 (circa 1989!). We want something that will do shelf holes, dowel holes, groove and cut angled tops and bottoms. We would also like the option of making fluted columns and arch window valances, plus anything else we currently buy out of our shop. Now the big question is, should we spend $100,000 - $140,000 on a new one, or buy a used one for $30,000? Are there used ones that are still in good shape and can do the work we want for $30,000? What should we be looking for or avoiding in a used machine?
From contributor J:
The biggest difference in a new or nearly new machine will be in the options and performance in your controller. The old cheaper machines would need a lot of updates to the software to get current, and/or a whole new controller. If the machine is well maintained mechanically, you may be able to put it right into production, but without new software and controller, it will not perform at a level equal to its price tag. Look at the true price difference between a new machine and an up to spec used machine that can perform at the same level. I purchased a new machine after looking at this decision, but as a seasoned CNC shop, will look at this formula again for adding another machine to the mix in the next few months. I will lean toward the used side with new controller this time, if we find the right buy.
There are good used machines out there. I have bought a few, but they are hard to find on short notice. Oh, and if your skill level with controllers and maintenance is not top notch, buy new and forget the used stuff.
I often hear people talking about bringing software and controllers up to current specs. This is a point I feel is open to discussion. If you are planning on networking a used router to an existing shop-wide network of more modern technology, then this can be an issue. If it is going to be a stand alone machine, then there is probably nothing at all wrong with the older technology. From the sounds of what you are planning to do with the machine, I think this might be the case for you. If the older software cut parts several years ago, it will still cut parts now. If the controller is still properly moving the machine and you don't need to have it match into a shop wide system, why spend time and money replacing it? The bottom line here is accurately cutting parts. For small run applications you most likely wouldn't take advantage of the higher efficiency a newer control might bring.
That said, the applications the questioner listed are ideal to purchase a used machine. Standard cabinet panels, fluted columns, valances, etc. are ideal candidates for used router and point-to-points with parametric compatible controls. For the components listed above, software is often not mission critical (especially if you gain mastery over parametrics!). As components become more complex (furniture components, detailed contoured signs, etc), software plays a much more critical role. At that point I would still not rule out the right used machinery purchase, but it can get a lot trickier.
My advice is, do your homework... Gather as much information as possible, involve as many knowledgeable people within your organization, involve machine distributors, achieve a comfort level you are satisfied with for whichever purchase you make.