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The Risks of Buying Used CPAP Machines and What To Do Instead

Table of Contents

photo of a very old used CPAP

💡 Key Takeaways

  • Health Risks of Secondhand CPAPs: Using a used CPAP machine risks exposure to harmful germs and may not match your sleep apnea treatment needs.
  • CPAP Pressure Settings: Each person’s CPAP settings are unique. Using another’s device can lead to ineffective treatment.
  • Used vs. Refurbished: Only buy “refurbished” CPAPs from authorized sellers. “Used” machines may not be safe or effective.
  • Legal Concerns: It’s illegal to buy/sell certain CPAP equipment without a prescription. Always use authorized retailers.
  • Affordable Alternatives: If new CPAPs are costly, consider authorized refurbished options, rentals, or financing through trustworthy retailers.

CPAP equipment can be very expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance. This leads some people to look for low-cost solutions. Some even consider buying used CPAP machines.

But is this practice safe or even legal? Can you use someone else’s CPAP machine?

The answer is generally no due to the risks of using a secondhand CPAP. Still, some people may feel it’s their only option. Today, we’ll explain why we think it’s better to go with a CPAP alternative than to borrow or buy a used CPAP machine.

Is It Safe to Use a Used CPAP Machine?

Health officials strongly recommend against using secondhand CPAPs. Borrowing or buying someone else’s CPAP puts you at risk for exposure to new germs and leaves you using a CPAP machine that may not be able to meet your individual sleep apnea treatment needs.

  • Risk of Germs: CPAP machines are often a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and other disease-causing organisms due to the warm temperature and humidity. When you use someone else’s CPAP, you risk introducing new germs that can make you sick.
  • Incorrect CPAP Pressure Settings: CPAP therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. CPAP pressure settings are determined by a sleep apnea specialist, using your sleep apnea severity and physical anatomy. Using someone else’s equipment could leave you with a CPAP device that doesn’t produce the pressure you need.

Should You Buy a Used CPAP Machine?

You should never buy a used CPAP unless it is from a company authorized to sell refurbished CPAP equipment. Buying used CPAP machines from friends, craigslist, or other marketplace sites can lead to health risks, ineffective treatment of sleep apnea, and legal concerns.

Used Versus Refurbished CPAP Machines

If you are considering purchasing a used CPAP machine, it is important to understand the difference between “used” and “refurbished” machines. Although refurbished devices have technically been used, these terms refer to two different things.

  • Used: Used CPAP machines may be cleaned on the outside, but there is no way to know for certain whether they work as intended and that all of the issues caused by the previous owner have been removed.
  • Refurbished: Refurbished CPAP machines are sold by authorized retailers. They have been examined and cleaned both inside and out. Any parts that aren’t working have been replaced. Refurbished products often come with warranties from the seller.

Risks of Buying Used CPAP Machines

There are several reasons why public health experts encourage people to avoid buying a CPAP used. Secondhand CPAP machines come with safety risks, may not work as well, and are often less effective at treating sleep apnea.

  • Health Concerns: CPAP machines used by someone else often harbor germs that can make you sick and most likely will not have the correct pressure settings to effectively treat sleep apnea.
  • Reduced Functionality: CPAP machines are meant to be used for three to five years. Like any medical equipment, these devices develop normal wear and tear that reduces functionality over time. This puts you at risk of not getting the full benefits of CPAP treatment.
  • Old Technology: CPAP manufacturers have introduced many new technologies in recent years, which improve comfort, increase effectiveness, and improve CPAP compliance. Most used CPAPs won’t have many of these features.
  • Lack of Warranty: CPAP manufacturers offer limited-time warranties for all new CPAP machine purchases, usually lasting around two years. By the time you buy the device, you probably won’t be able to get help from the manufacturer if it breaks down.
  • Inaccurate Readings: As CPAP machines age, the device readings become less precise when examining your AHI scores, leak rate, humidity levels, and more. A used auto CPAP machine may become less accurate when determining the air pressure levels needed at any given moment.

Legal Concerns About Buying Used CPAPs

Any medical device sold to treat sleep apnea must be FDA-approved and require a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. It is illegal to buy or sell the following CPAP equipment without providing proof of a CPAP prescription:

  • CPAP Machines
  • Fully Assembled CPAP Masks
  • Fully Assembled CPAP Humidifiers

If you purchase a prescription CPAP device from an authorized retailer, you should always be asked to provide proof of your prescription.

Where Can You Buy a Used CPAP Machine?

Whether you are buying a new or refurbished CPAP machine, you should always use an authorized retailer. These sites will always ask you to submit your prescription for CPAP. Non-authorized sellers cannot confirm the safety or function of their CPAP machines.

Because of legal issues, most online sales platforms have introduced policies that restrict person-to-person sales of used prescription devices, including the sale of used CPAP machines. However, many of these sites do allow you to sell non-prescription CPAP equipment.

Places where you should not purchase a used CPAP machine include:

  • Ebay
  • Amazon
  • Facebook Market
  • Craigslist
  • OfferUp
  • Garage, Yard, or Estate Sales
  • Auction Sites
  • Recycle Sites
  • Neighborhood Swaps

Buying Other Types of Used CPAP Equipment

Keeping track of what used CPAP equipment you can and cannot purchase can be confusing. Remember that just because you can legally purchase used products doesn’t make them safe.

  • Prescription CPAP Equipment: Even though it is safe to purchase refurbished CPAP machines from authorized retailers, it is not safe to buy used CPAP masks or humidifiers from anyone, even if you have a prescription. Authorized retailers should never sell these items used.
  • Non-Prescription CPAP Equipment: It is legal to purchase used CPAP supplies, such as hoses, mask parts, and water reservoirs. However, doing so is not considered safe and should be avoided due to germs and risks of wear and tear.

Here are some examples of CPAP equipment that you can and cannot safely purchase:

You Can Safely Purchase: 

It Is Not Safe to Purchase: 
New CPAP Machines from Authorized RetailersNew or Used CPAP Machines from Non-Authorized Sellers
Refurbished CPAP Machines from Authorized RetailersNew or Used CPAP Masks from Non-Authorized Sellers
New CPAP Masks from Authorized RetailersNew or Used CPAP Humidifiers from Non-Authorized Retailers
New CPAP Humidifiers from Authorized RetailersUsed CPAP Hoses and Tubing
New CPAP Hoses and TubingUsed CPAP Filters
New CPAP FiltersUsed CPAP Mask Cushions and Headgear
New CPAP Mask Cushions and HeadgearUsed CPAP Water Reservoirs

What to Do If You Can’t Afford a New CPAP Machine

CPAP machines can be pretty expensive, even if you have insurance. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your sleep apnea treatment more affordable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Buy a Refurbished CPAP Machine?

Yes, you can purchase refurbished CPAP machines from authorized retailers such as SecondWind CPAP. These companies take old CPAP machines, clean them, and update old parts. Once they’re back in working order, they are sold at a lower price, often with a warranty.

Should You Use Someone Else’s CPAP?

Health experts advise against using another person’s CPAP machine, even if they are family. Using someone else’s CPAP, even temporarily, puts your health at risk due to shared germs. Plus, their CPAP machine is not titrated to suit your sleep apnea needs and could be ineffective.

How Do You Sterilize a Used CPAP Machine?

The best way to sterilize a CPAP machine is by washing your mask, hose, and CPAP water reservoir in mild soap, warm water, and diluted distilled vinegar, then placing those parts in a CPAP sterilizing machine. However, we do not suggest using a used CPAP machine, even after sterilizing it.

Final Thoughts

Buying a used CPAP machine can be tempting, especially if it’s from a friend or family member who has an extra one that they no longer use. Although used CPAP machines may cost less, they have some serious safety risks due to the exchange of germs and unchecked CPAP pressure levels. If you are interested in purchasing a used CPAP machine, make sure that you are buying one from a retailer that has been authorized to sell refurbished CPAP devices.

  • Kenzie Dubs

    Kenzie is a science-based content writer who has a passion for educating the public on the healing powers of sleep! She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology in 2016 and went on to earn a second degree in nuclear medicine shortly after. She has several years of professional experience in healthcare, including emergency medicine, radiology, and general care. Along with her unique background, Kenzie also has personal experience with sleep apnea, including loved ones who have recently begun their own CPAP journeys. With each article, she aims to provide our readers with honest, accurate information that they can use to improve their health and wellness!

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