What You Need to Know Before Buying a Piece of Used Equipment

Heavy Construction

01 Used Equipment

The number one reason to buy used construction machinery is to save money. When you embark on a new project, it's important to make the whole operation as financially solvent as possible. As with any construction or landscaping fleet, the purpose is to maximize profits and keep overhead and maintenance costs as low as possible. With used general construction equipment, you get to save money on various items that will help make your fleet more efficient.

However, any used heavy equipment you buy must be reliable and fully operable for a long time to come. Otherwise, you could end up with costly downtime and repair costs or, even worse, machinery that only works for a fraction of the time expected. Read on for tips on how to shop for used construction equipment parts the right way.

Reasons to Buy Used Construction Machinery

When you buy used construction equipment, you end up saving money on machinery that would've likely sold for more when it was fresh off the production line, but which probably hasn't changed much in subsequent makes and models. Therefore, you get roughly the same features and quality you'd get with a newer piece of the same equipment, but at a lower price that allows you to maximize profits for your fleet. The benefits of buying used construction equipment parts and machinery include:

02 Hasnt Changed

Limited depreciation. Once a brand new piece of construction machinery has sold, its total depreciation will typically occur within a year and represents a 20 to 40 percent drop from the retail price. Beyond this drop, the machine's value will likely remain the same indefinitely.

Stable value on the resale market. Due to the fact that used heavy industrial equipment typically only depreciates in its first set of hands, its value will have stabilized by the time you buy it secondhand. Therefore, you'll likely be able to recoup your initial investment when you place it back on the resale market, especially if you keep it properly maintained and hold onto the service receipts, which can boost the overall resale value.

Interchangeable functions. In the world of heavy machinery sales, the technological functions of a given line of vehicles are roughly the same from one year to another. As such, the mechanisms of used heavy equipment are likely to be identical to the latest model, but with a lower price attached.

Given how "brand new" often means the same old features at the highest price imaginable, there's a lot to be saved when you find a good deal on used construction equipment.

How to Buy Used Construction Machinery

Whenever you set your sights on a secondhand piece of industrial machinery, it's crucial to check the fluids, examine the records and inspect the body both inside and out for signs or wear, neglect or prior damage — all of which could affect a vehicle's performance going forward. Here’s what to look for:

1. Inspect the Fluids

One of the more telling indicators of just how well a piece of used heavy equipment has been maintained over time — as well as its current performance capabilities and operating condition — is the quality of its fluid. The fluids to inspect in a given piece of used construction equipment include the following:

• Coolant
• Engine oil
• Hydraulic fluid
• Transmission fluid

If the fluid is dirty or the gaskets are not filled to sufficient levels, it's a likely indicator that the machine in question has not been adequately maintained by its prior user. An even greater cause for concern would be abnormalities within the properties of the oil or coolant. Beware of any of the following symptoms:

• Milky colored oil
• Bubble formations within the coolant system
• Oil in the coolant or coolant in the oil

03 Oil Or Coolant

Symptoms such as these are indicators of major engine problems, such as a blown head gasket, which can be very costly to repair. In some cases, the repairs a secondhand industrial vehicle might demand would double the overall cost. For obvious reasons, this wouldn't be a wise way to buy used general construction equipment.

2. Check the Pre-Consumed Operating Hours

When purchasing a used car or truck, it's crucial to take into account the number on the mileage odometer. Likewise, with any used construction equipment for sale, you'll want to consider the number of hours a given piece of machinery has already been put to use. For a piece of machinery that runs on a diesel engine, a high number of pre-consumed operating hours could impact its value in the following ways:

• Less optimal performance
• Increased need for maintenance
• Shorter secondhand lifespan

Of course, the quality of care a machine has received from its prior owner can also factor into its performance over the long run. For example, a poorly maintained machine with only 2,000 prior usage hours could actually prove to be far more burdensome and lead to much higher maintenance costs than a similar but better-maintained machine with 12,000 prior hours.

3. Study the Maintenance Records

In order to verify the reliability of used general construction equipment, ask to see the maintenance records of any machine you intend to purchase. This way, you'll have a more solid idea of how the machine has been treated by prior owners. Things you can learn from such records include:

• Typical fluid-change intervals
• Average frequency of maintenance issues
• Occurrences of major problems, if any

Basically, such records can fill you in on the prior life of the machine. If a given piece of heavy used machinery has received regular fluid changes and maintenance as needed, you could very well have a solid purchase on your hands. Then again, if the machine has been neglected or down for major past repairs, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.

One thing to bear in mind is that maintenance records don't always cover the entire history of a machine. If a machine has changed hands several times, there might be some periods missing from the records if one of the prior owners never kept any files. Therefore, a machine may or may not be better than a spotty set of records might indicate.

4. Examine for Evidence of Wear

On construction machinery, signs of usage and performance history can easily be found along the front, sides, rear and tires. Even though wear is inevitable to some extent on any piece of equipment that has previously been used, the extent and depth of such wear can indicate whether or not the machine in question has been properly maintained or has endured serious damage in prior hands. Evidence to look for along the machine body include:

• Thin, slight cracks along the steel
• Signs of rust and bodily decay
• Dents or repair welds, which would indicate a serious prior accident

If any such evidence is pronounced, it could indicate that the prior owner didn't maintain the vehicle as needed, and you could end up shouldering higher repair costs and less-than-optimal performance from said vehicle should you decide to add it to your fleet. While examining a vehicle, take special note of any signs of wear along the tires and in the undercarriage, both of which are costly areas when it comes to maintenance.

04 Wear And Tear

5. Analyze the Engine Exhaust

In order to get a sense of a vehicle's potential, you need to power the engine and experience the sounds and vibrations it makes. Whether the engine is cold or warm, key insights into its prior handling and upkeep can be gleaned through what you hear, feel and — most importantly — see. For example, the engine's exhaust will indicate the overall health of the internal components. As you watch the exhaust, beware of the following symptoms:

• Black smoke: Indicative of an imbalanced air/fuel mix within the engine, which is typically caused by faulty filtration (i.e. a dirty air filter).
• White smoke: Indicative of fluids mixing, such as coolant or water leaking into the oil, which would be the result of a blown head gasket.
• Blue smoke: Typically due to either a worn-out ring or valve seal, which lets too much oil through and forces the engine to over-burn.

An examination of the engine's exhaust could reveal problems with a machine that might not even have been diagnosed by the prior owner. In the case of a blown head gasket, the high cost in repairs that would ultimately be necessary just to keep the engine running could outweigh the vehicle's overall value.

6. Inspect the Cab

In a backhoe, dozer or similar machine, the condition of the driver area can tell you a lot about how the prior owner cared for the vehicle. After all, if a vehicle has been properly maintained, it has likely been put to regular use, which would necessitate a clean and comfortable driver compartment. Things to check for in this part of an industrial vehicle include:

• Working pedals, sticks and dashboard features
• Functional seat adjustment and steering
• Clean and intact upholstery

If all features appear to be in place, chances are the prior owner cared about comfort and functionality, which go hand-in-hand with a concern for overall performance.

7. Try Before You Buy

When you purchase a used industrial vehicle off a large lot, there should be plenty of room to give it a test drive and check its capabilities. Whether you're buying a tractor, loader or excavator, there should be a pile of rubble nearby you could test load to get an overall feel for the vehicle's performance. As you test the vehicle, keep your eyes and ears peeled for the following:

• Clunking or grinding noises, which could be due to a faulty engine
• Vibrations in the seat or glares in the windshield that could make driving uncomfortable
• Oil or fluid leaks, which are symptoms of a bad head gasket or cooling system

If you're unsure of how to evaluate used heavy equipment, bring a mechanic along to sit with you during the test run.

10 Things to Prioritize When Buying Used Construction Equipment

05 Pile Of Rubble

Any company with used construction equipment for sale should offer great warranties and have hassle-free return policies for all items on hand. Moreover, any such a company will ideally have operated under the same name at the same location for a considerable length of time. Before you settle on a purchase with any given company, demand the following:

1. Ask for references, as well as contact numbers and email addresses. Any seller should be willing to provide this information. If not, move on to another seller.

2. Request information about a company's prior dealings with customer disputes, which even the best sellers have to deal with from time to time. As a prospective customer, you'll feel better assured completing the purchase knowing any issues that could possibly arise will be given fair and proper consideration by the seller.
3. Any piece of used general construction equipment should be tested by the reseller to ensure its operability. If the machine is being shipped to your location rather than purchased on site, verify that the reseller in question has performed this test run.

4. If the seller in question uses a reconditioning facility, ask to see the used machine of interest put to action. By witnessing and/or demonstrating the product in its natural environment, you'll have a better idea of how it will operate should you proceed with the purchase.

5. Note the length of time a used equipment seller has operated at its current location as well as whether they have their own storage facility or if they have products shipped from off site. In the industry of heavy machinery sales, the most reputable companies are those that are long-grounded in optimal settings.

6. Study a seller's return policy for a full understanding of what your options would be if you end up dissatisfied with a purchase. When it comes to investing big bucks in a piece of machinery, one of the most reassuring aspects is knowing you'll have the option of returning it for a full refund.

7. For added reassurance of a money-back return policy, inquire about the company's relationship with its bank and who to contact in case of a dispute.

8. Reputable used equipment companies pride themselves on customer loyalty, which is built on buyer satisfaction. As such, your seller should happily go over the features of your warranty so you can understand your service and maintenance options if issues arise down the line.

9. Inquire as to whether you're dealing with a seller or broker of used general construction equipment. If your point of contact is in fact a broker, they might mark the price up over the resale value to cover their commission.

10. Investigate whether the company selling used construction equipment parts is an entity that has operated under an assortment of monikers over the years. For example, if "Barney's Used Backhoe Lot" was operating under the name "Backhoes & Cargoes" two years beforehand and "The Loader/Tractor Outpost" just a year earlier, it's an indicator the company has potentially changed its identity to — among other things — cheat customers out of service benefits and warranty plans.

These days when you buy used construction machinery, answers to the inquiries contained in the preceding list can usually be found at a company's website. Nonetheless, the above questions are customary, and a reputable seller should have no problem answering each one of them. Therefore, if you encounter any resistance from a seller over said questions, you're probably best off taking your business elsewhere.

Find Used Construction Equipment for Sale From Yancey Bros. Co.

For over 100 years, Yancey has been a leading provider of new and used machinery and parts for customers in the fields of construction, mining, road building and more. From drills and loaders to backhoes and excavators, we sell high-powered machines at reasonable prices to fleets of various sizes both in and around the Austell, Georgia area. To learn more about our current inventory contact us today.