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Choosing the Right GPS Survey Equipment

Advantages and Disadvantages of New vs Used GPS RTK Equipment

Making the right equipment choice is paramount in ensuring that you can make money while surveying, and get the data your customers can rely on. In today’s article, instead of focusing on all survey equipment, we are going to hone in on RTK systems. Specifically, we are going to take a look at new and used RTK GPS equipment.


Understanding GPS RTK Technology

New GPS RTK Equipment

Used GPS RTK Equipment

Factors to Consider When Choosing New and Used




In the world of surveying, precision and accuracy are paramount. The tools and technologies surveyors use directly impact the quality and efficiency of their work. One of the most common pieces of equipment in a surveyor’s tool bag is GPS RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) equipment, which has revolutionized the field by providing high-precision positioning without the need for line of sight. With this article, we want to provide you with the information required to make an informed decision, and make the purchase that will work best with your needs.

Hemisphere S631 being used for construction surveying. 

Understanding GPS RTK Technology

GPS RTK technology is a sophisticated method of achieving centimeter-level accuracy in positioning. Unlike standard GPS, which can have errors of several meters, RTK uses a network of fixed base stations or a single stationary base to correct signal errors at a roving unit in real-time. This results in highly accurate, reliable and repeatable measurements, making RTK an invaluable tool for surveyors.

The advantages of RTK over traditional surveying methods, such as total stations, are numerous. RTK systems offer faster data acquisition, improved accuracy, and greater efficiency. They are particularly beneficial in large or difficult-to-access areas where traditional methods may be cumbersome or less effective.

New GPS RTK Equipment

Advantages of Buying New Equipment

1. Latest Technology and Features

New GPS RTK systems come equipped with the latest technological advancements, ensuring surveyors have access to the most up-to-date features and capabilities. This can include improved signal processing, enhanced connectivity options, and more robust software integrations.

These new signals and software updates can make all the difference if you are someone who is often surveying under canopy and near trees. If you are someone looking to get the best possible performance, you may want to seriously consider new GPS RTK equipment.

2. Warranty and Support

Purchasing new equipment typically includes a manufacturer’s warranty and access to customer support. This provides peace of mind, knowing that any issues that arise can be promptly addressed by the manufacturer, minimizing downtime and potential disruptions to projects. 

3. Reliability and Accuracy

New equipment is generally more reliable and accurate, having not been subjected to the wear and tear that used equipment might have experienced. This reliability is crucial for surveyors who rely on precise data for their work and want to avoid unwanted downtime while in the field.

A Hemisphere S631 used for costal erosion monitoring. 

Disadvantages of Buying New Equipment

1. Higher Cost

 The most significant drawback of new RTK equipment is the higher initial cost. High-end RTK systems can be quite expensive, which might be a barrier for smaller firms or individual surveyors with limited budgets. 

2. Locked into Software

Increasingly, GNSS manufacturers are moving towards a model where their hardware is tied into a specific software package. Manufacturers like Trimble and Topcon do not allow other software developers to use their hardware in their equipment. Hemisphere’s RTK technology is the exception to that rule, with their hardware compatible with several different software packages including MicroSurvey’s FieldGenius.     

Used GPS RTK Equipment

Advantages of Buying Used Equipment

1. Cost Savings

One of the most compelling reasons to consider used equipment is the cost savings. Used RTK systems can be significantly cheaper than their new counterparts, making high-quality technology more accessible. Here at Bench-Mark, we have a variety of different used options, all of which can be found on our Pre-Owned Equipment Page

2. Proven Performance History

Used equipment often comes with a track record of performance. Previous owners can provide insights into its reliability and any quirks, helping buyers get the most out of their equipment. Unlike new technology, someone has already ironed out all of the teething issues.  

3. Availability of Well-Maintained Options

Many surveyors and companies take excellent care of their equipment, offering well-maintained used options that still perform at a high level. Many survey dealers will provide you with detailed information on the history of the equipment. Here at Bench-Mark, we rate all of our used equipment using our Used Equipment Condition Guide.  

used equipment condition for survey equipment

Disadvantages of Buying Used Equipment

1. Limited Warranty and Support

Used equipment typically does not come with a manufacturer’s warranty, and support options may be limited. This can pose a risk if the equipment encounters issues that require professional repair or replacement.

2. Outdated Technology

Used RTK systems may lack the latest features and advancements found in new equipment. While they can still perform well, they might not offer the same level of efficiency or accuracy as newer models. The initial cost savings, may be quickly lost due to lost productivity. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between New and Used

When deciding between new and used GPS RTK equipment, surveyors should consider several factors to ensure they make the best choice for their specific needs.

1. Budget Constraints

Assessing the available budget is crucial. New equipment represents a significant investment, while used options can provide substantial savings. However, it’s important to balance initial cost savings against lost productivity. For instance, the tilt sensor can make a huge difference in the number of points you can collect in a day.

2. Project Requirements and Specifications

 The nature and scope of the projects undertaken can influence the decision. Complex projects that demand the highest accuracy and reliability in difficult environments might benefit more from new equipment, while less demanding projects could be well-served by used systems.

3. Long-Term vs. Short-Term Needs

Consider whether the equipment is needed for long-term use or a specific short-term project. Long-term investments might justify the cost of new equipment, whereas short-term needs could be met more economically with used equipment.

4. Availability of Technical Support and Training

Access to technical support and training can impact the effectiveness of the equipment. New purchases often come with comprehensive support and training packages, while used equipment buyers might need to seek these services independently. Here at Bench-Mark we provide our, live zoom training, and live phone support for free with every RTK system.

5. Resale Value and Upgrade Paths

The potential resale value and ease of upgrading should also be considered. New equipment typically has a higher resale value, and manufacturers often offer trade-in programs for upgrades. Used equipment may have lower resale value and fewer upgrade options. Trade-Ins are something we offer here at Bench-Mark.


Choosing the right survey equipment is a critical decision for surveyors, directly impacting the quality and efficiency of their work. Both new and used GPS RTK equipment have their respective advantages and disadvantages. New equipment offers the latest technology, reliability, and support but comes at a higher cost. Used equipment provides cost savings and proven performance but may have limited support and outdated technology.

Surveyors must assess their individual needs, project requirements, and budget constraints to make an informed decision. By carefully weighing the pros and cons of each option, they can select the equipment that best suits their specific needs, ensuring successful project outcomes and long-term satisfaction.


What is GPS RTK technology and how does it benefit surveyors?

GPS RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) technology provides centimeter-level accuracy in positioning by using a network of fixed base stations or a single stationary base to correct signal errors in real-time. This high precision and reliability make RTK invaluable for surveyors, allowing for faster data acquisition, improved accuracy, and greater efficiency, particularly in large or hard-to-access areas.

What are the main advantages of purchasing new GPS RTK equipment?

The main advantages of buying new GPS RTK equipment include access to the latest technology and features, manufacturer’s warranty and customer support, and greater reliability and accuracy. New equipment is less likely to have wear and tear, ensuring high precision and reducing downtime during surveying projects.

What are the potential drawbacks of buying new GPS RTK equipment?

The primary drawbacks of purchasing new GPS RTK equipment are the higher initial cost and potential restrictions due to software compatibility. New RTK systems can be expensive, which might be a barrier for smaller firms or individual surveyors. Additionally, some manufacturers lock their hardware into specific software packages, limiting flexibility.

Why might a surveyor consider buying used GPS RTK equipment?

Surveyors might consider buying used GPS RTK equipment due to significant cost savings, proven performance history, and availability of well-maintained options. Used equipment can make high-quality technology more accessible, and previous owners can provide insights into the equipment’s reliability, helping buyers maximize their investment.

What factors should be considered when choosing between new and used GPS RTK equipment?

When choosing between new and used GPS RTK equipment, surveyors should consider budget constraints, project requirements and specifications, long-term versus short-term needs, availability of technical support and training, and resale value and upgrade paths. Balancing these factors helps in making an informed decision that aligns with specific needs and ensures efficient and successful project outcomes.

Bench Mark Equipment & Supplies is your team to trust with all your surveying equipment. We have been providing high-quality surveying equipment to land surveyors, engineers, construction, airborne and resource professionals since 2002. This helps establish ourselves as the go-to team in Calgary, Canada, and the USA. Plus, we provide a wide selection of equipment, including global navigation satellite systems, RTK GPS equipment, GNSS receivers, and more. We strive to provide the highest level of customer care and service for everyone. To speak to one of our team today, call us at 403-286-0333 or email us at [email protected].

About the Author

Nolan has been working in the surveying field since 2017, starting as a part-time student at Bench-Mark while attending the University of Calgary. He now works in technical support and sales helping customers find the right product for them.

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