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Used construction equipment

Buyers Zone

August 7,2008

Interested in saving money on a backhoe or loader? Sometimes, buying used mining, construction or heavy equipment is a smart way to go and makes sense. Other times, you'd be better off going home empty handed. Here are a few ways you can make sure you get a good deal on used construction equipment.

Try used construction equipment yourself
We should not have to say it, but some buyers still make this mistake: don't buy a piece of used equipment without trying it yourself. Don't let your interest in a good deal get the better of your common sense. Even if the seller seems trustworthy, even if it's a brand or model that has a stellar reliability record, even if you take a look at the vehicle and it looks good, there is no substitute for a thorough test drive. Not a bad idea to bring an experienced operator along with you.

A five minute jaunt around the parking lot isn't going to provide a decent assessment. Dig, dump, lift, scrape, and push – whatever the equipment is designed to do, put it to work and through its paces.

Look carefully...
Go over the used equipment you're investigating slowly and carefully. New paint jobs are relatively cheap and can cover up a lot of problems. Look for evidence of rust patching or cover-up – poke suspect areas with a tool to be sure. Check underneath the vehicle for evidence of leaks. Inspect hoses and valves before and after the test drive, so you easily spot fresh leaks.

... but use all your senses
When you're testing out used construction equipment, don't go by your eyes alone. Listen to the engine and the hydraulics as you're testing it out – is the machine straining more than it should? After it's been running for a while, are there any smells of burning oil or electrical problems? Do the controls feel as responsive as they should?

Review Maintenance Records

Most users keep a history of all the maintenance repairs performed to the equipment. Many log hours against the actual components and requesting these would be very prudent and helpful for your assessment. Engine hours may differ from hours on hoist cylinders or tracks for example so understanding the life of components will help you determine fair market value.

If possible, buy from established companies or dealers
You are much more likely to have problems if you buy used construction equipment from individuals or a business that does not focus on construction or mining. Construction equipment companies have several advantages when it comes to used equipment:

  • They have a reputation in the industry
  • They know that if you're buying used equipment now, you're likely to need more equipment in the future and making sure you are a return client is important to them
  • They have regular P.M. schedules and equipment is likely to be better maintained then if purchased from a small unknown company.
  • They're better able to inspect and repair any potential problems with the equipment as they have the staff on hand to maintain the equipment

With these tips in mind, you should be able to find a used piece of construction equipment that can still get the job done.