Buying heavy equipment is a huge investment for your business — and a long-term commitment since most construction equipment will last for around 10,000 operating hours. Used machinery, like an excavator or a loader, is more affordable because you don’t lose as much due to depreciation from buying new. However, it’s riskier because the equipment has had a previous owner and will have normal wear and tear. It’s up to you to decide what kind of degradation is too much.
When you’re searching for used heavy machinery, it’s worth spending time upfront so you don’t spend your money later. Here are four of our best tips for purchasing used construction equipment.
Tip #1: Inspect the machinery thoroughly
After you find the right equipment dealer, the first thing you want to do when you find a used piece of heavy equipment you may want to buy is to give it a good look. You need to make sure it’s been maintained well, and there are several key indicators to look for. A thorough inspection will give you an idea of the real investment you’re making. If you aren’t familiar with a piece of equipment, you can bring an expert to help you with the inspection.
First, check out the operating hours. Construction equipment tracks operating hours like cars track mileage, so check how many hours the clock shows it’s been used. Make sure this number lines up with the age of the used machine; otherwise, it may have been overused. You can compare it with other models of the same year to see if it’s about right. The number of operating hours can also help you see what maintenance and replacements will be coming down the road after you purchase it so you can add that into your budget.
Then, check the fluid levels. You’ll look at the transmission fluid, the hydraulic fluid, the engine oil, and the coolant. It should be clean and at the correct levels, which means the machine was likely taken care of. If the fluids are dirty or low, it’s a sign that the machine wasn’t well maintained.
You can ask for a sample of the oil from the seller — check for water in the oil. Also look for bubbling in the coolant. These issues might mean serious conditions will develop soon. Finally, check the exhaust. Look for blue, black, or white smoke coming out. All of these indicate problems. And ensure the machine starts easily and quickly, as well as runs smoothly without vibrations or clanking.
Tip #2: Look for major signs of damage
Unlike new equipment, wear and tear is normal on any piece of machinery. But keep an eye out for anything that looks like more than standard use. Look for rust or other damage in the undercarriage, and search for structural damage, like dents, cracks, or patches that have been welded. Any signs of welding may indicate that the structure is weakened.
Also, see if anything has been recently repaired. The previous owner may have tried to spiff it up before it sells to make more money without fixing the problem properly. Be sure to look at the cab to make sure it’s in good condition, that everything works, and that the interior is clean and comfortable. Make sure the brakes work well, and inspect the tires or tracks because they are expensive to replace so you’ll want to know what to expect.
Tip #3: Check the maintenance records
If the inspection goes well, you’ll want to get a complete overview of the machine’s maintenance history and specs. Check if it still has a warranty. These records will tell you how often service was done on the equipment. Make sure the fluids and filters are changed frequently and that any new parts added to the machine were made by the original manufacturer.
Compare its history to the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule to make sure they line up. The records will tell you how well the previous owner took care of the construction machinery. Additionally, you’ll also know what kind of maintenance is coming up that you’ll be responsible for.
Tip #4: Take it for a test drive
Test driving a potential equipment purchase is the last step after you get the maintenance records and it seems like a machine you’d like to buy. You or an operator can come and test it out, trying every control. Test how well it travels at all speeds and over different terrains, if possible.
While driving the machinery, listen for grinding, clanking, or anything that sounds off. Pay attention to whether or not it vibrates or shakes excessively. These types of issues may be tempting to ignore, but you will pay the price in the long run if there’s a serious problem. Making sure the equipment operates well is essential to your safety and the safety of your staff — an improperly operating piece of heavy machinery can put everyone in danger.
How to lease used construction equipment
If buying used machinery isn’t in the cards for your company right now, consider leasing. A lease on construction equipment works much the same as a lease on a car — and you can even have the option to buy the machinery at the end of the lease. You make a fixed monthly payment on the equipment and use it on your job sites as needed. Our agents at Cultiva Financial are ready to get you started with equipment leasing, so submit your simple application today.