April 6, 2021
Buying a used excavator is easier when you follow our short checklist and ask specific questions
Buying used construction equipment can save you a lot of money relative to buying new equipment. Similar to used cars, used excavator prices decrease with time, wear and tear. You can find good value if you know what to look for and follow our simple inspection checklist.
Used machinery prices fluctuate given the season and economic environment. Also, the material costs such as steel can impact the prices. Typically new excavators lose 20-40% of their value after the first year, which makes buying used excavators potentially much cheaper than buying a new excavator.
We have complied a list of questions that you should ask yourself, as well as a 13 point inspection checklist. Following this simple guide can help you improve your chances of hitting a home run on your next purchase.
Look at the level of wear and tear. Check for scalloping. Take note of the integrity of the welds (check for fissures). Check for rust and excessive wear. Not all rust damage can be repaired or refurbished, so if an item is rusty try to understand if it can be fixed.
Are teeth loose, missing or worn out? Also check for missing bolts. Bucket teeth are in the middle of all the action get worn down over time. Heavy use often results in teeth with a rounded half-moon shape — the teeth are still operational, but they loose their efficiency.
Look for spillage, rewelds and major dents.
Check hoses for breaks and scratches. Also inspect cylinders to make sure they are in working order.
Check the condition
Do a visual inspection of the exterior, and look for visible wear and tear. Check fluids and make sure they look like they have been maintained properly.
Check these components to make sure they all perform as expected.
Look at condition and any sort of wear and tear that will need to be addressed.
Does the hour meter work properly and reflect an accurate number? In the past hour meters could be manipulated.
What's the overall condition? Has it received TLC by its prior owners?
Use your ears to check for abnormal sounds that might indicate hidden issues.
Good documentation is a sign of a diligent owner. Check for original paperwork and detailed service records.
Often fluids can tell you the internal condition of the engine and other parts. Inspect transmission, engine oil, coolant and hydraulic liquids. Look for sediment buildup, note viscosity, check for leaks or worn out pieces. Dirty fluids can be a sign of problems down the road.
Just like buying a car, it helps to have an operator present to take the excavator for a test run. This enables you get a feel for how well it will handle, and also a chance to check for any issues that are not noticeable when the machine is idle.
Make sure you check the controls and full range of movements while the machine is running. Vary the operating speed and check the performance at full throttle. Test the range of movements and see if the machine is struggling to respond or keep up.
Hydraulics can be expensive to replace and repair. Listen for abnormal noises, and get a feel for their ability to keep up with the controls.
Observe the engine exhaust when the machine is running. The color of the smoke can give you hints on what is going on inside the engine:
When you purchase your machine you should think about the upfront acquisition cost, your operating cost, your maintenance cost and likelihood of downtime costs. A very cheap excavator could cost more than a mid-priced excavator if it has high repair and downtime costs.
Additional costs can include maintenance, fuel, insurance, transportation, oil, filters, hydraulics, etc. Maintenance and upkeep are required for all machines, so it helps to get an idea of what these costs will be before you purchase the equipment.
Downtime can be a major hidden cost. Mechanical failures that cause downtime reduce productivity, increase idle manhours and make customers upset. Further, mechanical failures have many uncertainties. Certain parts can take days or weeks to be fulfilled, and you may not be able to get a replacement machine to continue work near-term.
We hope these items help you with your next used excavator purchase. You can improve your odds of getting a great deal by doing your research and inspecting the item for sale ahead of time.
Inspecting a used excavator
Inspecting the undercarriage