4 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy a Used POS System

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Websites like eBay, Craigslist, and LetGo have changed the way we shop. Instead of heading straight for an electronics store, furniture showroom, or even a vehicle dealership, many buyers check online listings first to see if they can find what they want, gently used, at a bargain price.

However, a point of sale (POS) system for your business is something you should never buy this way. While a used POS system may look like a bargain on the surface, here are four things you’re actually buying when you click “add to cart.”

1. An Old Operating System

Like any computer system, a POS system uses a specific operating system (OS) to function. Whether it’s Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, or a proprietary operating system, if the POS solution you’re considering isn’t running on the latest version, you may put your business in jeopardy.

With an outdated OS, you’re running the risk of security vulnerabilities that would put your company at risk for data breaches — something no small business can afford. Security breaches that result from those cyber attacks can result in data loss, liability, fines, and bad publicity — which means utilizing a used POS system could, potentially, put you out of business.

Older versions of an operating system are usually slower and more prone to downtime and failure. You also run the risk of end of life support in which the POS vendor will stop selling and sustaining the product and leaving you to fend for yourself when something goes wrong — and it will go wrong, eventually, and probably at the worst possible time.

Using a POS system running on an outdated OS also may limit what you can do with the system. You may want omnichannel capabilities, task automation like inventory management, employee management, and daily reports. An outdated OS won’t support the POS software’s latest and greatest features like these, which means you’ll be stuck doing things the old fashioned way.

In some cases, it may be possible to upgrade to a new OS that will support the latest POS software applications, but it won’t be free. You’ll have to pay for the upgrade, and that can quickly negate the money you save by buying a used POS system.

See Also: How the Point of Sale (POS) Industry Works

2. Outdated POS Software Applications

If you purchase a complete point of sale system with pre-installed software second hand, the POS software you’re buying might not have any value to you at all. The software set up on the system may only apply to the previous business.

For instance, a retail point of sale system with an elaborate inventory matrix and layaway options is a very different software application than a restaurant POS system with a kitchen display system integration and split check functionality.

On the rare occasion that you may buy a used POS system with software that works for your business “as is,” remember, old POS software may not be PCI compliant by today’s standards. This factor could compromise your ability to securely accept credit cards — which increases your odds for becoming a victim of a cyber attack.

Also, you’ll need to transfer ownership of the software account (and that typically includes a transfer fee) or pay for a new software license to ensure you’re using the software legally and to enable you to manage and update the software moving forward.

Furthermore, and this is a biggie, you’ll also need to reprogram the POS software for your specific inventory items or menu. Reprogramming point of sale software can be more difficult and time-consuming than starting with a clean slate.

Lastly, you’ll need to invest time and resources into training your team on how to use the software. Keep in mind that when you purchase a new POS system, that licenses, programming, and training usually amount to the most significant part of the initial bill — so either way, expect to invest in these areas even if you buy a second hand POS system.

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3. Worn and Outdated Hardware

POS hardware manufacturers upgrade their products frequently to keep up with complex and power-hungry software applications. The demands from their customers for ergonomics and ease of use, and the competitive race to keep up with industry trends make enhancing their product offering an ongoing effort.

If you’ve ever shopped at a legacy department store like Macy’s or JC Penney, did you happen to notice the old school POS system that looks like it could pass for a vintage Apple Mac computer? While vintage style is always in vogue when it comes to fashion or decor, it’s a big faux pas when it comes to technology. New POS hardware has a sleek, modern aesthetic and is often designed to conserve counter space. What kind of message will a clunky, used POS system send about your brand?

Moreover, the older POS hardware is, the harder it will be for you to find replacement parts or to get help from a support desk since service techs are likely trained to focus on the latest devices.
It will also become increasingly hard for you to find the right hardware drivers that enable a connection between the POS system and peripheral devices such as receipt printers, barcode scanners, touch screens or cash drawers that automatically open.

Lastly, while most POS hardware manufacturers offer standard warranties on new purchases, once the warranty period expires, repair costs will come out of pocket. If you buy a used POS system you may inherit the remainder of the current warranty, and that’s about it. Most manufacturers don’t offer a warranty extension, and if they do, don’t expect it to be cheap.

With new hardware, you can send defective components back to the manufacturer for repair or replacement. With hand-me-down equipment, you may have to live with what you have.

4. Limited Payment Processing Capabilities

A pivotal point to think about if you’re still considering buying a used POS system is which payment processor you can use with the system. If you’re a seasoned business owner, you’re no stranger to shopping around for the best credit card processing fees — and you know how much they can fluctuate from one provider to the next. A few extra cents that some merchant service providers charge per transaction can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.

Not all point of sale systems integrate with every major payment processor, and more often than not, the POS system is tied to one or two select providers. If you don’t bother to do the proper research, you may unknowingly be making an expensive long-term commitment with a merchant account provider.

You may also find used POS systems for sale that are not EMV compliant. Since U.S. merchants began accepting chip cards with the EMV liability shift in 2015, many merchants have upgraded their operations and are trying to make a quick buck off the old unit.

What to Do If You Have an Old POS System

However, if you are one of those merchants looking to make a quick buck on your old POS system to help offset the cost of a new one, there are a few avenues you can explore.

Donate the Old POS System

Look for local charities that accept donations of electronic equipment. Your contribution could be tax deductible.

Write it Off

And speaking of tax deductible, talk to your accountant to see if you can write off your old POS system as an obsolete fixed asset.


Check with local recycling centers in your area. They will usually accept electronics to ensure they are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Point of Sale Buyback Program

Some local POS resellers may offer trade-in or buyback programs that will give you credit towards the purchase of a new point of sale system.

Sell it by Piecemeal

Although the entire POS system as a whole may not be valuable, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell off the parts. Peripherals like a thermal printer, barcode scanner, or cash drawer may still have value as individual items on the resale market.

To Sum Up

Let’s be honest. The initial cost of a new POS system will set you back a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per unit once everything is said and done. Likewise, a used POS system will cost you just about the same — plus the countless hours of phone calls, corporate red tape, and restrictions you’ll have to cut through to get the old POS system to work with your business. Wouldn’t it be easier to buy a new POS system and save yourself the hassle of dealing with some else’s hand-me-downs? We certainly think so.

About the Author

Mike Monocello

A former VAR and ISV, Mike Monocello is the co-founder of McM Media, publisher of DevPro Journal and XaaS Journal, and a regular contributor to PointofSale.com.   Mike is also the owner and publisher of SCAN: The Data Capture Report and a regular contributor to RSPA Connect magazine and part of the RSPA’s education faculty.