16 Insider Tips For Buying Used Heavy Equipment

From dozers and wheel loaders to skid steers and backhoes, use the following heavy equipment advice and checklists to feel more confident making your big purchase.

Heavy Equipment Buying Tips
You’ve done all of your research, decided on the best type of heavy machinery for the job, and even have a few possible brands in mind. But there’s just so many listings for used heavy equipment that the search feels overwhelming.

My Little Salesman has over 50 years of experience listing new and used heavy equipment for sale, and we know exactly what to look for in heavy equipment sales. Follow these 16 tips to find the right piece of used heavy equipment for sale – at an affordable price – by a passionate and reputable seller who cares.

Heavy Equipment Inspection Checklist (7 Tips)

  • The Engine – Always pay attention to the color of the smoke coming from the exhaust.
    • Black smoke – Too much fuel in the mix, possibly from bad fuel injectors or an unchanged air filter.
    • White smoke – The head gasket or compression may be causing water to mix with fuel.
    • Blue smoke – Oil is getting into the fuel mix, usually either from a worn-down ring or seal, or incorrect oil levels.
  • The Undercarriage – All cylinders, loaders, arms and hoses should be free of leaks.
  • Welds – Any welding whatsoever means that a part of the heavy machinery has broken down. Since the welded area is a weak point, any welds on the loader arms or buckets are instant deal-breakers. Other areas can sometimes be acceptable depending on the extent of the damage.
  • Other External Damage – Any cracks, dents or rusted areas could mean future repairs.
  • Tires or Tracks – Tires should be properly inflated, and tracks should not be cracked or worn.
  • Brakes & Drivetrain – If you hear any whining noises or feel the brakes grinding when slowing down or coming to a stop, be very cautious. Some brake discs are much more expensive to replace than others (to the point where it’s not worth buying).
  • Pins & Bushings – Loose or missing pins will cause attachments to operate incorrectly or much less efficiently, and can also indicate that the heavy machinery has been mishandled.

In addition to the above items, the U.S. government's GSA department has a good overall checklist that different agencies use when procuring heavy equipment for the government. Print out their checklist along with this advice and you will be ahead of the game making your big purchase.

Heavy Equipment Inspection Checklist

Checking the Paperwork on Used Heavy Equipment for Sale (2 Tips)

  • Operating Logs – The best used equipment for sale will have either the number of miles or hours logged by the operator. While this is not mandatory, always be wary of professional companies that do not keep accurate operational logs.
    • If possible, try to visually match the condition of the interior with the number of miles or hours that have been logged. Look at the pedals, levers, and seats for any clues.
  • Maintenance Logs – The most reliable sellers will be able to provide time-stamped records demonstrating consistent fluid changes, small repairs, and any major problems.
    • You can use this information to verify that they have been using the heavy machinery as advertised.
    • Any sudden gaps could indicate neglect and should be questioned.

Note: It’s still possible to find terrific heavy equipment for sale without any operating or maintenance logs, so don’t let the absence of both automatically turn you away from an otherwise good deal.

Equipment Log Checklist

Checking the Reputation of a Used Heavy Equipment Seller (4 Tips)

If the seller is a company:
  • Check Public Records – A reputable heavy equipment sales company will have a large presence, including a positive rating by the Better Business Bureau. Online reviews are also a great way to summarize the character and integrity of a potential heavy machinery seller.
  • Verify Ownership – It may seem obvious, but always make sure the equipment is owned by the seller. If the business is not sure, you can check by using the Product Identification Number.

If the seller is an individual:
  • Verify Ownership – Make sure the seller has an original invoice for the heavy equipment sales that has their name on it.
  • Title Check – Make sure the heavy equipment for sale has been entirely paid off and can be legally sold.

Buying Heavy Machinery Internet Research

Should You Rent Heavy Equipment Before You Buy? (3 Tips)

Renting can be a great way of trying out used heavy equipment for sale before buying. However, always remember:
  • Rental equipment can have a lot of inexperienced drivers, and therefore a lot of damage, so be very cautious before buying (and always see the maintenance records).
  • Check the reputation and work history of the rental company itself (just as you would with any other heavy equipment sales transaction).
  • Sometimes you can save more money by negotiating a discounted long-term rental rate instead of buying.

Buying Used Heavy Equipment?

Now that you’ve been armed with a heavy equipment inspections checklist and know how to check out your seller, you should look over our heavy machinery listings and put your skills to the test. You’ll quickly find that buying used heavy equipment is easy (and affordable) at My Little Salesman!
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About Kyler Richman
Kyler is a reporter and staff writer at My Little Salesman.
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