19 Question Checklist For Buying Used Machinery

April 22, 2021

Spending 15 minutes reviewing these questions when you are buying your equipment can help you make the right decision and save money

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When you buy your next used equipment, you will want to maximize the value you will get from your machine. This means buying at the right price, buying a good quality machine, and minimizing your risks associated with the transaction.

We've created a checklist of 19 questions that you can ask yourself before you make your decision. These questions will take you less than 15 minutes to answer, and they could save you thousands of dollars and time down the road.

This question checklist is applicable if you are buying construction equipment (excavators, dozers, etc), farm equipment (tractors, combine harvesters, applicators, sprayers, etc) or used trucks.

19 Question Checklist For Buying Used Equipment

#1 What can you tell me about the machine's history?

See what the seller is able to tell you. Someone well versed and comfortable with the machine's condition will be able to provide in-depth information with a confident tone. Sometimes the seller may not know much about the history — that's fine, but it also is a signal that more of the research burden is on you to get comfortable with the transaction.

Be comfortable asking follow up questions, and feel free to poke around. You are the one spending your hard earned money. Gauge if the answers are satisfactory.

#2 Has the machine underwent any major repairs or overhauls?

Major unplanned service can be a sign of prior damage or a lemon. Issues can often be fixed, but sometimes underlying issues can only be bandaged and then reappear later. Figure out if there were any major repairs or overhauls out of the normal maintenance scope.

If the machine did undergo major work, then understand if the underlying issue has been resolved or if it could potentially recur in the future. Once you take ownership the future work will be your costs and your responsibility.

#3 Do you own the machine? Can you provide proof of ownership?

Usually the seller will own the machine, however sometimes the seller may be an agent or representative assisting the owner in selling it. It's important to confirm ownership — although it is rare, sometimes con artists may try to sell machinery reported stolen.

If the seller is not the owner, you may want to ask to speak with the owner as the discussion progresses. Owners will have more information about the used equipment.

#4 How long have you been in business?

An experienced and seasoned seller will often be able to help you navigate the sales process quicker.

#5 Can you provide me with customer referrals?

Do your research and speak with referrals. They will help you understand their experience during the sale process, as well as afterward. Also, look at public reviews such as those available at Equipment Radar.

#6 How does this machine compare to newer models?

Buying used trucks or construction equipment or farm equipment can save you a lot of money relative to buying new. Understand the difference in features, performance and technology between the model you're interested in buying and newer models.

If there are technology features on newer models that are not on the machinery you're looking at, see if aftermarket solutions exist to add to the machine. For instance, older models may not have GPS, however, you can easily buy a GPS solution for most machines today.

#7 Is the machine under warranty? Will you offer a warranty?

Check to see if the machine is under warranty. If it is, take note of the manufacturer requirements in order to keep the warranty in good standing.

If the seller is offering a warranty on the machine, make sure the warranty is in writing and explicitly explains the terms and conditions that must be met. The warranty length and any specific requirements (such as using particular fluids or filters, or regular service) should be in writing. Warranties are legal documents — make sure you keep a copy with your papers.

#8 How many hours / miles does the equipment have?

Check the meter or odometer and take note of the usage. Compare the usage relative to the age of the equipment — does the average annual use make sense? It will tell you if the machine sat in a barn or garage, or if it was busy most of the time.

Take note if the meter looks odd or the numbers do not make sense. Although it is rare, sometimes the meter can be changed with software or mechanical devices.

#9 What papers are available? Are there full and detailed service and maintenance logs?

Diligent owners keep detailed notes and records of the machine's service and maintenance. Take note of how the notes are organized, as well as the level of detail.

#10 Have you performed a recent inspection? What were the results?

Ask for the results of the inspection, if any. Take note of items that were flagged and see if they were addressed.

#11 What is the required scheduled maintenance over the next 1-2 years?

Look at the manufacturer specifications for planned maintenance and make a list of the service that needs to be done. Some machines may be closer to more costly maintenance work than others. This is a hidden cost that you should factor into your equation.

#12 Does the machine have all the specifications to meet your needs? If not can you modify it to meet your needs?

The range of applications you will use the machine for may be different than the applications for which the prior owner(s) used the machine. If the machine needs modifications, parts or attachments, then make a list of them as well as the cost. These items should be tallied into your cost as well.

#13 Do you offer service and maintenance for this machine? If not, is there a dealer near you who can?

You might be able to locate your dream machine, but to keep it running you will need someone nearby with the ability to repair and service it. Make sure that you have planned ahead and know where to locate a dealer or service person who can locate parts and fix any issues down the road.

#14 Can I take it for a test drive?

Get in the seat and take it for a test drive. Feel comfortable pushing it and testing all of the features and controls. Sometimes you will find issues that neither you nor the seller knew were issues beforehand.

#15 Why are you selling?

It's always good to understand a seller's reason for selling. Make sure the story and rationale make sense.

#16 Is the manufacturer still in business? Are parts easy to find?

For some older models it might be tough to locate parts if the manufacturer no longer is in business. Factor these costs into your analysis.

#17 What are transportation costs to get to my desired location? Can the seller include or provide transportation?

You might be able to find cheaper deals in other regions, but hauling and moving equipment can be expensive. Sometimes sellers may include transportation as a perk to get the deal closed.

#18 How long have you had this equipment listed?

Figure out how long the equipment has been available. Also, see if the price has changed while it has been listed. Sometimes sellers become more flexible as time passes.

#19 Is the sale price open to negotiation?

Understand if the seller is open to alternative offers — it never hurts to ask.

Resources

Tips to maximize engine life
How to negotiate with a seller (for houses, but many concepts apply here too)

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