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The Big Five: What To Look For When Purchasing Used Heavy Equipment


May 27, 2014 - 4 years ago

By Supply Post

It might seem more appealing to purchase heavy equipment new from the manufacturer, but not every fleet manager can justify the higher cost. Plus, not every business needs the latest and greatest equipment to get the job done. As buyers look for ways to purchase quality machines while saving money, the market for used heavy equipment continues to grow.

However, it can be nerve-racking putting your trust into a used machine, especially if you don’t know what to look for. To minimize risk, it’s important to carefully review the equipment prior to purchase. It doesn’t have to be done in person. A good online marketplace will provide detailed and guaranteed inspection reports. The five areas that should be inspected and incorporated into a report include:

1. Mechanical (engine, transmission, power train, hydraulics)

It’s important to be aware of any potential mechanical issues upfront to save yourself from unwanted future repair costs. When the engine is turned on, look out for leaks, blowby or smoke. Always check the steering and brakes to make sure they function properly. Buyers should also be sure the machine operates properly both forward and in reverse. Unusual noises can mean there is a problem with the engine or another vital part of the equipment. Additionally oil analysis results can provide a good indicator of the mechanical condition.

2. Structure

Heavy use and abuse cause structural issues that will affect the performance of a machine over time. Buyers should ensure the equipment is structurally sound before purchasing. The main frame and articulation joints of the machine should be in good shape and free of excessive wear. All of the machine’s hardware should be present and firmly intact without any patches, modifications or a lot of visible corrosion.

3. Cosmetic

While repairing cosmetic issues is not as expensive as mechanical and structural repairs, ideally you will not want a machine with more than the average amount of wear and tear. The cab interior should have seats in good condition and glass should be free of cracks. Ideally, paint should not be faded or chipped and sheet metal or fiberglass should not be dented, damaged or missing.

4. Features or options

Before making a purchase, every buyer should consider how well the existing features of a machine are suited for the tasks and the operators who will be using the equipment. For instance, with trucks, buyers should be aware of how many employees can drive an automatic transmission vehicle versus one with a manual transmission. Buyers will want to understand if different attachments can be used on the equipment so that it can be used for different purposes.

5. Tires/Wheels, Drums

Wear and damage of the equipment’s tires and drums should not be overlooked. Buyers can check drums’ scrapers for proper adjustment and look for wear on the cleats of padfoot rollers. Drum seats should not leak and the rubber pads on the internal drum frame should be intact.

It is critical that buyers spend the time at onsite auctions inspecting the equipment in detail as the responsibility falls on them to make sure they are buying quality equipment. This can be difficult because space and time can sometimes be too limited to see the equipment from all angles and test certain parts and features. Buyers can also easily miss something that a skilled inspector with ample time would catch. Thus, buyers may base their purchase on what they see and what is told to them, rather than actual tests.

Online auctions allow buyers to learn more about the equipment compared to physical auctions. They also eliminate the time and expense necessary to travel to an auction. The ideal online marketplace will provide detailed and guaranteed inspection reports that protect the buyer if the machine is not in the condition reported.

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid making an uninformed purchase and getting stuck with a machine that doesn’t perform as you hoped. By making sure the five inspection areas above are covered and choosing the type of auction that best fits your needs, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the equipment and the money you’ve invested.


By Paul Hendrix, Equipment Pricing Analyst, IronPlanet

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