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Inspection Tips to Follow When Buying Used Heavy Equipment

Inspection Tips to Follow When Buying Used Heavy Equipment

Shopping for quality used heavy construction equipment can be a time-consuming process, but it is also an activity that it well worth the time spent, netting you thousands of dollars in savings verse the price of new equipment. To get the best quality, price and buying experience, inspections should be an important part of that plan: Inspect the seller, inspect the machine’s history and finally inspect the machine.

Inspecting the Seller
The internet has made shopping for used construction equipment easier than ever. There are thousands of online resources available to you, day and night, to help track down the equipment you are looking for. However, many of those resources do not do a good job of telling you about the company or individual listing a piece of equipment. And more often than not, who you are buying equipment from is one of the most important factors to consider to make sure you’re getting exactly what you expect. That’s why it’s important to do a little digging around to find out exactly who you are buying from.

What to look for?

  • What kind of reputation does the dealership/seller have? Ask around to find out if others have had a positive buying experience.
  • Who owns the equipment? Ask if the seller owns the machine outright. If not, make sure to have them walk you through the purchase, so you don’t run into unforeseen issues in the future.
  • Is the seller accurately representing the current condition in their sales listing? If you’ve never purchased a piece of equipment from this seller, you’re going to want to check out the machine for yourself or have someone you trust do it. If the listing isn’t representative of the machine, you may want to walk away. Trust is built on honesty.
  • Is the list price fair? Make sure to do a little research and see what similar machines have sold for in your area. You, of course, don’t want to pay too much. You also want to make sure you’re not paying too little, either. Everyone loves a deal, but you have to keep in mind that if the deal seems too good, there may be something wrong with the machine or with the seller.
  • Is the seller part of the Independent Equipment Dealers Association (IEDA)? Members of the IEDA have taken an oath to provide the best and most honest heavy equipment purchase process to their customers. They can also help you search for equipment all over the world.

Inspect the machine’s history
Before investing in a used piece of construction equipment, you need to make sure there are no liens against it and that it’s not stolen. If you’re working with the right used equipment dealer, this part of the process should be easy because they will already have completed all the necessary steps.

What to look for?

  • Check the title. Ownership can’t be transferred from the seller to the buyer if a machine is not paid-in-full. The title will likely list the name of the bank or financial institution if there is a lien on the machine. If there is and you purchase it anyway, you may have to forfeit ownership to the lender. A reputable dealer will be able to provide you with documentation that proves there are no liens. Otherwise, you’ll want employ a lien search service. Your bank or an internet search should be able to help you identify an organization that can help with that.
  • Make sure the machine isn’t stolen. Where you shop for equipment is extremely helpful. If you’re not working with someone you trust and decide to move forward with the purchase, you better write down the machine’s serial number or PIN (product identification number) and call the police department or check with a service like the National Equipment Register’s IRONcheck.

Inspect the machine
Giving a piece of used heavy equipment a thorough inspection is the final step in the process. Why not first, you ask? Because, if you’re if don’t trust the seller and/or can’t track the history of a machine, then inspecting it could be a waste of your time and financial resources.

While, there are some universal things to look for, there will also be common wear areas that are specific to the machine type. We’ll cover the general points in this post, but if you want specific machine information, head over to IEDA’s inspection report’s page to download what you need.

What to look for (generally)?
•    Do a visual inspection. Look for welds, cracks, rust, fluid leaks, as well as grease around seals and bushings. Depending on the age and hours of a machine this may or may not be a cause for concern. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with buying.
•    Check out the condition of common wear items like tires or undercarriage. Through the everyday demands of the job, construction equipment is going to have downtime. You just need to decide how much life some of these common wear items have left, so you can plan for replacing them in the future.
•    Check the fluids. The condition of the engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and hydraulic fluid will provide insight about how well the machine has been maintained. Make sure it’s all clean, and look for other clues of potential issues like water in the engine oil.
•    Run/demo the machine. If you’re an experienced operator, chances are you know how a machine should handle and sound. While it is running, listen for any unusual sounds and pay attention to how the machine performs in common tasks. Is it laboring during what should be an easy job?
•    Pay attention to the exhaust. When starting the machine cold, the color of the exhaust can tell you a lot about the health of a machine. Black smoke means the air/fluid mixture is too rich in the fuel. White smoke could mean the fuel is burning incorrectly. Blue smoke can indicate the engine is burning oil.

Good investment
Buying used equipment is great way to get the best return on your investment. Now that you know what to look for when inspecting a used piece of equipment, you are ready to find the right machine for your fleet.


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