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Used Construction Machine Buying Tips

Buying a used piece of heavy machinery can be an intimidating experience, especially if you don't have a ton of knowledge about the machine you are interested in.

Here are a few buying tips and resources you should consider before you plop down a wad of cash at an auction or into your friendly neighbor's hands.

As with all purchases big and small, you need to research what you're planning to invest in to become as educated a consumer as possible.

Ritchie Brothers Equipment Auction

If there's a machine you are targeting, here are some things you need to consider before you pull the trigger.

  1. Before even going to the auction, do as much research on the machine as possible. The internet is a great place to gather information. There you can get a general price range for the machine, learn about some good features and common problems with the make and model, see what other owners have written about the machine, and find out how likely and expensive it will be to replace important parts such as cylinders, final drives, and main pumps. There are some good sites to get that information from which we will reference later.
  2. If possible, check to see if the equipment was seized. Seized equipment was probably not cared for properly and will usually need more work than it is worth.
  3. Once you are at the auction and can get a close up look at the machine, look for signs of welding which indicates something broke or became weak and needed quick repair. This would definitely be a red flag.
  4. If the seller of the machine is at the auction, engage in some friendly conversation if possible. You would be surprised what kind of information you can get from sellers. Sometimes a gut feeling about the people involved can go a long way in making a decision about a possible purchase.
  5. Find out what type of company the machine comes from. Did it come from a quarry? Was it used in a recycling yard? It's not always possible, but get the hours of the machine if you can. Was it exposed to the elements? If possible, check the engine while it is running. Look for fluid leaks, smoke, strange smells, and listen for unusual noises.
  6. Try to find out what year the machine was made. If it is fairly new, the factory warranty might still be valid, which could save you further expense in the long run.

Using the internet is a great way to get a lot of the information you need before considering a purchase, either at auction or elsewhere. There are many places you can get the information you need such as

That site contains a treasure trove of information on machines including auctions where machines are available for purchase, selling prices, and an extensive data base for part numbers.

A good site for getting detailed machine information including weight and dimensions is

Other sites to get information on machines include vendors who deal with used and new aftermarket parts on a regular basis such as

"We get dozens of calls each week from people who are considering a machine they want to buy. They want to know if, from our perspective, it's worth their investment," says Parts Specialist Anthony Murty at ConEquip Parts.

"One of the first things I do is check the dismantled machines page to find out how many machines the person is interested in shows up on the list," says Murty.

If the make and model of the used machine you are interested in buying doesn't show up on dismantled lists across the country, that likely means there are not a lot of used parts available. The dealer may be your only option, and that can make the parts very expensive, if they're even available anymore.

Machines such as the Hitachi EX350H, EX400-1, John Deere 444A, 490, 170, Kobelco SK60, SK250LC, K903 hardly have any machines being torn down across the country.

You should also attempt to get part numbers for expensive main parts found on the machine you are researching. The main pump is a good starting point. Run that part number on a site like MachineryTrader and see how many places show to have the part. If no vendor shows to have the part, that's not a good sign.

You may be tempted to make a move on a good running machine simply because the asking price is so incredibly low. The reason for the amazing deal is likely because it is virtually impossible to get parts for the model anymore.

It's a good strategy to stick with popular makes as well. CAT, John Deere, Komatsu, Kobelco and Volvo are five of the more popular machines you will find parts for. Terex, Sky Trak, Timbco, Timberjack, and Trojan, are only five of the dozens of makes out there with few options when it comes to buying used or aftermarket parts.

Avoid convincing yourself a machine that does not have a lot of parts resources is worth the investment because you think you'll be able to come up with solutions when problems arise. When it comes to buying used construction equipment, the old adage "you get what you pay for" is as true as ever.

Are you looking at a used machine that needs parts?