What You Need To Know: Buying Pre-Owned

Buying pre-owned equipment has become a popular option in the construction industry. For some businesses, the cost of buying and maintaining used machines can be significantly less than the overall expense of purchasing new equipment.

What you need to know before buying pre-owned heavy equipment


But when buying anything that’s been previously used by another owner, it’s important to know exactly what you need to evaluate before making the commitment. Let’s look at five things you need to know when inspecting pre-owned construction equipment:

  1. Maintenance Records
    One of the best ways to evaluate a machine is to review its maintenance records. This gives you an idea of how frequently the equipment has been used, repaired, and if anything serious has happened to the equipment.
    Understand that sometimes records don’t always make it from one owner to the next, so if there’s an absence of records don’t immediately assume no maintenance has been done.
  2. Fluids
    Be sure to check the status of all fluids, including engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and hydraulic fluid. The status of fluids generally indicates the status of the machine and how well it’s been maintained.
    Use caution when you find a machine with low or dirty fluids, as that can be a sign that the previous owner did not keep up with regular maintenance. Also, be sure to check that there’s no leaking fluids under the machine and no coolant in the oil or vice versa, as this may be a sign of engine trouble.
  3. Operating Hours
    Similar to checking the mileage on a used car, check the operating hours on a used construction machine. While it’s not the only factor to consider when evaluating the condition, it’s a good place to start.
    Keep in mind that maintenance is what’s most important—a well-maintained machine with 15,000 hours might be a better investment than a machine with only 1,500 operating hours but no maintenance.
  4. Signs of Wear and Tear
    All used machines will have some scratches and dings. When it comes to wear and tear on a piece of equipment, checking for any signs of hairline cracks, rust, or any other damage that could lead to serious problems in the future is crucial.
    Also, make sure you always check the condition of the tires or the undercarriage on tracked vehicles. These parts are some of the most expensive to repair and replace. Looking at their condition can give you a better idea of how much the machine has been used and how much you’ll be able to get out of it.
  5. Exhaust Smoke
    The best way to evaluate an engine is to turn it on. Pay particular attention to how the machine runs when the engine is cold, as this reveals a lot about how well it’s been maintained.

The color of the exhaust smoke can tell a lot about the machine:

  • Blue smoke indicates the air/fuel mixture has too much fuel. This could be a result of damaged injectors or a dirty air filter.
  • White smoke could mean the fuel is burning incorrectly. Check to see if the engine has a faulty head gasket or compression issue.
  • Blue smoke can also mean the engine is burning oil, which is typically caused by a worn ring or seal but could also be a simple issue of an engine oil overfill.

As a final tip, when starting your hunt for a pre-owned vehicle, try to limit your search to the most popular models of the most popular brands. Purchasing a well-known brand ensures that it will be a lot easier to find parts and manuals as needed.

With pre-owned equipment, maintenance is inevitable. Be sure that the parts you need will be easy to find and available at a reasonable cost—this could make the difference between having the equipment for years versus just a season. For more expert advice on buying or maintaining pre-owned construction equipment, contact the experts at McClung-Logan today or check out our inventory of pre-owned equipment.

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