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Strapped for cash and looking for a used CPAP machine? – Where to look and what to check for

By Jason Wooden, PhD | March 14, 2020

While CPAP is one of the most effective treatments for sleep apnea, the average price for a CPAP machine is $850 which can be unaffordable if you don’t have medical insurance coverage or your insurance has a high deductible.  There are many places to look for used CPAP machines but they all come with downsides.

Are you filling stuck?

Living with sleep apnea is frustrating enough, but it’s a real downer if you can’t get your hands on a life changing CPAP machine.

Today, sleep apnea is a treatable condition and CPAP has become the gold standard for treating it.

In fact, people are often amazed by the overnight improvement they see.  (I know I was blown away by how much better I felt when I woke up the next day!)

And, let’s not forget that untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk for other health issues, including depression, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and diabetes.

That’s a lot at stake which makes it important to do something sooner rather than later.

Since a CPAP machine can cost you anywhere between $500 – $3000, it’s understandable why you would be interested in a used CPAP machine.

That’s hard to do if don’t have medical insurance to pay for it…

Or maybe, your deductible is sky high and you’re strapped for cash…

Either way, you left feeling stuck.

Well, there’re lots of places where you can look for cheaper CPAP setups.

There’re also serious risks you could be taking with both your health and pocket book.

So, let’s take an honest look at some of the downsides that come with a used CPAP machine, where you can look if you decide this makes sense for you, and some options to get a new CPAP machine on the cheap.

road sign that says risk ahead

The risks you take with a used CPAP machine

Like anything else, there are pros and cons for getting a used CPAP machine.  The obvious advantage is getting a CPAP setup on the cheap.

However, there are some serious downsides you should keep in mind.

In a study, researchers studied sales by private individuals of second hand CPAP machines.

They found that most of the online listings did not have any information about who had used the machine, why it was being sold, and how many hours it had been used.

Many did not include information about the machine’s condition or important accessories like the mask.

Many sellers did not list the settings which is important since a CPAP machine is supposed to be set at the air pressure settings best for a patient.

These are all things you would really like to know.

You may be thinking a used machine with a few question marks is better than nothing, but you should be aware of the risks you take with a used CPAP machine:

Germs from previous owners – These machines are a warm and moist environment which can be a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, mold, and other critters

Machine may not work properly – there’s no way to know for sure unless it’s been tested and certified

Machine is at end of life expectancy – They’re designed to work for a given lifespan which is why it’s important to know the hours of use

Wrong pressure settings for you – you may not be able to readjust to air pressure settings that work best for you

Replacement parts or accessories may not be available – the older the model, the harder it can be to find what you need to keep it working correctly

Lack of warranty – original warranty may be voided or expired

Where to look for a used CPAP machine: person to person sales

If you decide to get used CPAP machine, the cheapest way may be to buy it directly from someone.

There a variety to places to look in person and online.  In some cases, you may find a lightly used or out of the box new machine that someone has changed their mind on.

It’s important to keep in mind with all of these options there’s no guarantee that the machine has been properly sterilized and will work properly for you.

1) Garage sales

You may be able to get a great bargain, but how long has it been sitting there collecting dust?

2) Online person to person sites (Craigslist, eBay)

3) Someone you know

You’re still taking a risk with your health and the machine not being properly set for you.

picture of online store website on computer screen

Where to look for a used CPAP machine: Online sellers

Below you’ll find online sellers who offer reconditioned used CPAP machines.  In some cases, they may have lightly used or new open box units for sell.

The reconditioning process for most involve cleaning, calibrating, and testing.

A couple tips:

  • Stick to trusted websites
  • Inquire about their cleaning & reconditioning process
  • before ordering
  • Make sure replacement parts and accessories are still available
  • Ask about the warranty
  • Ask about customer support after purchase

1) 1800CPAP.COM

Reconditioning:  certified refurbished

Seller states refurbishment includes cleaning and sanitization, and 11-point inspection, restoration back to back to factory settings, and that all preowned machines are under 5,000 hours.

All refurbished machines receive a NEW water chamber, CPAP hose, filters, replaceable seals, and travel case.

Guarantee:  90 day standard warranty, can extend warranty up to 1 year

Support:  Seller also offers a home sleep testing kit to test for sleep apnea. Results are interpreted by a board certified sleep physician.  More

Website

2) SecondwindCPAP

Reconditioning:  internally and externally cleaned and tested

Guarantee:  6 month money back guarantee for mechanical defects

Support:  Seller states they are the only online retailer that provides support before, during, and after sale.

Website

3) Repap.com

Reconditioning:  decontamination, refinishing, and recalibration

Guarantee:  limited 90 day warranty

Support:  inquire with seller

Website

4) DirectHomeMedical

Reconditioning:  cleaned, disinfected, and rigorously tested

Details of usage hours and warranties are provided along with pricing

Guarantee:  vary depending on inventory

Support:  inquire with seller

Website

5) CPAP Liquidators

Reconditioning:  inspected and factory-refurbished

Guarantee:  many machines come with 6-month factory warranties

Support:  24/7 licensed respiratory therapist available by phone

Website

man talking to doctor remotely on smart phone

How to get a sleep apnea diagnosis on the cheap

Did you know that many online sellers will require a doctor’s prescription even for used CPAP machines?  That’s because CPAP machines are medical devices which by law require a prescription.

However, there are other reasons to get a diagnosis.

Until you’ve been tested in a sleep study, you won’t know what you’re up against and which options may be best for you. 

(You can get a quick overview of how sleep disorders are diagnosed here.)

All of this makes it important to get tested and have your results reviewed by a sleep specialist.

Even if you’re strapped for cash, there are some things you can do for free or on the cheap to help get diagnosed:

Free questionnaire:

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you can start with these simple sleep apnea tests at the American Sleep Apnea Association.

ASAA sleep apnea tests

Free screenings:

Dental Sleep Solutions offers free sleep screenings and consultations for anyone interested in learning more about snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.

Free Sleep Screening or Consultation

Participate in a clinical study:

You may be able to get a free overnight sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram) while taking part in a sleep-related clinical trial that’s looking for participants.

ClinicalTrials.gov – This is a government database of clinical studies.  Try entering search terms such as “sleep study” or “polysomnogram”, look for a study near you that’s recruiting, and contact them about your interest in being a participant.

MyClinicalTrial.com – This is a non-government website where you can register to participate in clinical trials.

CenterWatch Volunteer Sign up – Another place you can sign up to be notified when clinical trials are posted that match the medical condition(s) you specify.  For conditions, try entering “sleep disorders” and “sleep apnea”.

piggy bank on the beach in the sunshine

How to get a new CPAP machine on the cheap

You may think that a used CPAP machine is your only choice, but there actually a couple options worth a try depending on your situation:

man eating bad food which can make sleep apnea worse

What else you can do on the cheap for sleep apnea

While you’re looking for a used CPAP machine, there other things you can and should do to help improve your symptoms.  Many of them you can do for free or at minimal cost.

Sleep hygiene: 

This is what you do during the day and at bedtime that affect sleep.  It includes things like your bedtime routine and sleep environment.

Poor sleep hygiene can make it harder to improve your sleep, even with a sleep apnea treatment.

Make sure you’re doing the right things with this checklist 

Lifestyle changes:

Avoid substances like alcohol that may relax your throat muscles too much or smoking which can have harmful effects on the lungs.  Both can aggravate sleep apnea symptoms.

Sleep position:

Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, sleeping on your side instead of your back may help keep your throat more open and improve symptoms.  Some people even claim that sleeping upright in a recliner helps.

Learn more about sleep position remedies

Lose weight:

About half of people with sleep apnea are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can help improve symptoms.

Diet:

Eating healthier can help with weight loss, lower carb diets such as the Mediterranean diet may help

Exercise:

Besides helping with weight loss, exercise is known to promote deeper sleep and there’s evidence it can help reduce sleep apnea breathing disruptions.

Sources:

1. “CPAP Machines and CPAP Masks”, American Sleep Association website

2. Unauthorized Online Sales of Secondhand Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Devices, JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1559-1561.

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