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dragline crane

There are a few things in life that are guaranteed… like death, taxes, and buying something used that you will later regret. Whether it’s a used car or a Craigslist flat screen TV, it’s always good to be a bit cautious about used goods.

Construction and hoisting equipment are no different. In fact, since the dollar signs on heavy-duty equipment is much higher than that of any other used good, each purchase is a big risk. But, on the flip side, the asking price of new cranes (as opposed to used cranes) is even higher, so each successful purchase is a big gain.

In order to navigate the sometimes tricky, often confusing waters of the used equipment market, here are seven tips for your convenience:

1. Operating hours

Contrary to popular belief, the age of a machine barely matters if it’s been maintained well. Even regular vehicles are built to last for a very long time (e.g., a Toyota Camry that runs for 500,000 miles before breaking down). Industrial machines and vehicles are built to withstand a lot of abuse, so don’t let age discourage you.

Instead, find out how many operating hours your machine has logged. While this isn’t an exact science, it’s more than possible to call up old owners and ask them how often they were using the equipment in question on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

2. Equipment history

And then, on top of that, ask them if the machine was ever seized. If it was seized, chances are that a previous owner wasn’t taking very good care of it. If the machine operator was ever involved in or responsible for an on-site accident, that’s a big red flag. No matter how good it looks on the surface, something faulty is probably afoot.

3. Buyer / seller history

One more historical record to pay attention to is the list of buyers and sellers. While this certainly shouldn’t make or break the purchase of a promising piece of equipment, it can help you narrow down your options. Machines that have been traded from one suspicious seller to another disreputable contractor may have been handled poorly every step of the way.

4. Leaking fluids under the machine

When it comes to the machine itself, we all know the basics of what to look for (e.g., turn it on, use it/drive it around, etc.). But not all of us know to look in the hard-to-see places.

Like under the machine, for instance. If a piece of equipment is gushing lubricant or fuel, chances are residual stains can still be found on the bottom. It’s a great way to forensically determine whether a used machine is as good as its asking price.

Similarly, look and see if there’s any coolant in the oil (or oil in the coolant).

5. Conspicuous welding

Any conspicuous, post-OEM welding is a sign of a bad machine. No matter how good the welder, it was probably done by hand and not in a factory setting. Manual welds are almost never as good as the automated equivalent, so pay attention to them. The more you see, the more risk a piece of equipment carries and the less likely that your purchase will be worthwhile.

6. Strange noises

It’s strange, but plenty of people will buy a used car even if it hiccups and coughs every inch of the way home. Some people mistakenly believe that strange noises aren’t necessarily an indication of wear and tear. Let me ease your mind. These people are wrong.

If it coughs, hiccups, burps or farts, don’t buy it. Simple as that.

7. Loose brakes

Lastly, make sure to take your used machine for a test spin that lasts longer than a minute at under five miles an hour. Crank her up to her top speed and drive her around the lot for five minutes, at least. Take the time to test out all the moving parts, listen for strange noises, and brake in different situations and conditions. Brakes are absolutely crucial to any industrial machine, and are overlooked at your own peril.

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