5 Tips on How to Choose a Reliable Surplus Electrical Vendor

Price is usually one of the main deciding factors that people look for when buying anything. However, we all know that not all vendors are created equally – so to speak. Opting for a vendor because of their cheaper price points may become expensive in the long run. There are better ways to choose a surplus vendor. This article will provide 5 tips on choosing a reliable surplus electrical vendor so you can ensure quality service.

Consider asking yourself the questions provided under each tip. Remember to always be cautious, awareness is key to your buying power.

1. Vendor’s Transparent Business Process

Businesses that are upfront and honest about their business process are more than likely trustworthy. Vendors that have nothing to hide will be happy to disclose how they obtain their equipment and what testing capabilities they have. The questions below are simple and straightforward and any reputable vendor will understand that you’re just doing your due diligence. You should be wary of vendors who shy away from answering these transparency questions:

  • How do they obtain their equipment?
  • What is their testing capability?
  • What are their warranty terms?
  • Are they a factory-authorized distributor?
  • Do they sell used or aftermarket equipment?
  • Can you obtain a copy of their W-9?
  • Do they have a copy of their insurance certificate?

2. Vendor’s Reputation and Establishment

Most businesses have a mailing address and all have an EIN (Employer Identification Number). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns an EIN to legal businesses in the United States. An EIN is an identification that shows the business is legally operating in the U.S. and are traceable by the government as a precautionary measure. All legitimate businesses in the U.S. are required to have an EIN number so that the IRS can make sure these businesses are not doing anything illegal and harmful to the people. Businesses with a mailing address and EIN number are more trustworthy because they are more likely to be in compliance with the law.

Businesses that establishes with agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), allow you to see their business ratings and their customer reviews. Take your time to read through the ratings and decide for yourself if the vendor is up to your standards. It is common practice for legitimate businesses to show their company on these agencies for authority and credibility reasons.

Businesses that maintain certifications yield more reliable products. For example, businesses with an InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA) certification have four levels of competency. These levels of competency within the electrical testing industry are based on the ANSI/NETA ETT Standard for Certification of Electrical Testing Technicians. The levels of classification are defined in terms of the skills and knowledge required in a given method(s) to perform specified electrical testing and maintenance activities. So look out for certifications and their completion date to see if they’re up to date on continuing education. You can rest assured that these businesses are more reliable and credible than most.

Here are sample questions you could ponder to get started:

  • Does the business have a mailing address?
  • Does the business have an EIN number?
  • Is the business established with known agencies (e.g., Better Business Bureau)?
  • Does the business maintain certifications (e.g., NETA, PEARL)?

A vendor’s business reputation and establishment correlates to their credibility and reliability. Legitimate businesses should have the basics down, such as mailing address, EIN, certifications, etc. The questions you ask will help you determine if the vendor you’re buying from is reliable and deserving of your business. Being more aware of what to look for in a vendor is one step closer to getting your job/project off the ground. Simple cautionary questions will save you a ton of headache in the future from scam and fraud. It might take a little investigation but it is worth your peace of mind.

3. Vendor’s Uniform QC Documentation

Surplus vendors that offer electrical supplies/materials are required to maintain uniformity throughout the QC documentation. This means they must have traceable and serialized inventory. Code compliance in labeling signifies reliability in their supplies. If your item requires testing, make sure to ask for available test reports. You should look for electrical vendors with a standard testing process because it is especially necessary in this industry. Below are a few questions you could ask yourself:

  • Do they have traceable, serialized inventory?
  • Do they have code-compliant labeling (NEC 110.21(A)(2))?
  • Do they have available test reports?
  • Do they have a standard testing process?

4. Vendor’s Ability to Serve as a Technical Resource

Nowadays there are many breakers and equipment that are obsolete but are still being used. Manufacturers usually do not carry obsolete equipment. Therefore the vendor you partner with should know about the equipment they carry to help you with your technical questions. However, keep in mind that technical resource does not mean engineering resource – you would need an electrical engineer for these type of info.

  • Do they offer application support for a variety of manufacturers and vintages?

5. Vendor’s In-House Testing Capability

Look for a surplus vendor who is serious about safety and reliability because they will make a significant investment in testing apparatus and personnel. You can be assured that your item will definitely be safe.

  • Do they have their own testing capabilities?

Putting it All Together

Let’s take an example and put some of these questions together. Let’s say you need Circuit Breakers for your project or job…

Code compliant labeling – NEC 110.21(A)(2) states: 

Reconditioned equipment shall be marked with the name, trademark, or other descriptive marking by which the organization responsible for reconditioning the electrical equipment can be identified, along with the date of the reconditioning.

You will need a surplus vendor with appropriate testing procedures that:

  • Follow NETA Guidelines
  • Utilize Primary Injection Testing
  • Utilize Contact Resistance Testing
  • Follow Manufacturer TCC (when distributed)

You will need a surplus vendor that have application support for the specific circuit breakers you need:

  • Understanding of electrical attributes such as Amperage, Voltage, Poles, and Interrupting Current (AIC)
  • Familiarity with electrical accessories such as mounting hardware, shunt trips, aux switches, UVRs, etc.
  • Can explain common breaker functions such as thermal magnetic trips, LSIG, ground fault, etc.


If a prospective surplus vendor trips or hesitates over these questions or requirements, then you probably don’t want to buy from them. Do your due diligence to find a legitimate surplus vendor that will take care of you and your project needs. Choosing a reliable surplus electrical vendor will definitely be beneficial in achieving your standards. Other factors to consider is friendliness and great customer service – they will most likely be more understanding of your business’ values and will have your best interest.

Looking for a reputable and reliable electrical surplus vendor? Check us out at relectric.com or contact us at 800.497.6255. We stand by our excellent quality surplus products at highly competitive prices as well as our friendly customer service team. Contact us today to discuss your job/project requirements. Still wondering if surplus electrical equipment is the way to go? Check out this brief post on the advantages and disadvantages of buying surplus electrical equipment.