How to Evaluate Used Equipment Before Buying: Learning the History

There are some ”Big-As-F” Reasons to Buy Used Equipment, which is why we’ve been outlining Quick Tips for Buying Used Equipment. The most important step in buying any older machinery is to learn as much as you can about the equipment, its history, and the seller. Recently, we covered important considerations for Inspecting the Machine. Today, we’ll continue to look at How to Evaluate Used Equipment Before Buying by discussing what goes into Learning the History!!

Not only should you know the current state of a piece of pre-owned equipment, but you should also learn how the machine has been used and treated in the past. This evaluation is important, because it can help you predict the equipment’s functionality, repair likelihood, and how many more working years the machine really has left. Here are some tips for learning the history of used equipment:

  • Get a general sense of machine use. Through ownership records, telematics, and simply asking around, figure out how hard the machine has been worked and in what environments. When making inquiries, if the owner or dealer was not the primary worker operating the machine, be sure to speak with at least one employee who has consistently operated the equipment.
    • What has the equipment been used for? Make sure you not only know about usual tasks, but any odd-jobs or abnormal uses to which the machine has been assigned.
    • Where has the equipment been operated? Has it been forced to run in difficult conditions, such as rocky terrain?
    • What are the equipment’s total hours of use? How often has the machine been used for specific tasks? How often has it been operated at specific sites?
    • How has the equipment performed overall? How well has it performed when used for individual tasks and/or in specific conditions?
  • Review maintenance and repair records. You’ll want to know any parts of the machine that have been damaged, who has worked on it, and what they did. Specifically, you’ll want to know if any part or system has consistently broken down and if repairs have been full restorations or quick-fix duct tape patchwork.
    • Maintenance records help you confirm equipment details ranging from how often fluids were changed to major problems with the machine.
    • Credentialed, master-level technicians, who are certified and maintain their expertise with on-going education and training, are the ideal mechanics to have signed off on past repairs.
    • A brand-certified repair center as the site of past repairs should help guarantee that the equipment has been restored to meet manufacturer requirements and that official replacement parts were installed.
  • Access equipment telematics, which can give you exact measurements and records of machine use and performance, confirming much of the above information and providing new data to consider. Engine hours, idle time, and gallons of fuel guzzled, from first machine-use to the present, can give you a clear picture of what kind of equipment you are getting.

As a final – and perhaps obvious – note about learning the history of used equipment: You’ll want to confirm the age of the machine. You likely don’t want to buy a 30-year-old machine when the average operating life for similar pieces of equipment is 15 years. Plus, you want to be sure replacement parts will be available for those inevitably-needed repairs. In addition to inspecting the machine and learning the history, it’s also best when evaluating used equipment to research the seller – we’ll talk about that next time!! Until then, you can meet all your new and used equipment needs at!!

What aspect of a machine’s history do you think is most important when buying used equipment?? Let us know in the comments below!!


Ethan Smith HeadshotAbout the Author

Ethan Smith

Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.

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