Top tips for buying a used forklift

Mark Ward -
Your Focus
- 13 Dec 2007 ( #340 )
5 min read
Mark Ward is the UK commercial asset manager of Barloworld Handling. He has been with the company since 1998 and a Forkliftaction.com member since 2002.
The majority of second-hand forklifts are operated by small to medium-sized businesses that either cannot afford or don't need to buy new. Often, it is left to busy managers to purchase a truck and they are not always experienced in purchasing industrial machinery. By following a few basic rules, however, buyers can avoid the pitfalls and improve their chances of making a great investment.

1. What truck? - First, find out what specification of lift truck would best suit your particular handling needs.
For example, what is the maximum weight (in tons) the truck will need to lift, what lift height is required and are there any height/width restrictions? Choose a power type, but remember, engine powered trucks are normally only used outdoors. If replacing an old and worn-out truck, do not assume a newer version is what you need. Think about what your operational needs are today and tomorrow. If you are unsure, a reputable supplier can assist in surveying your site to recommend solutions.

2. Supplier - Only approach main dealers who have a solid reputation and offer a wide selection of reliable products. A main dealer will have a variety of stock from warehouse equipment to counterbalance trucks, offering the best choice to suit your handling needs.

3. Age and condition - Selecting the newest may not always be the best.
Buyers often make the mistake of leaning towards younger trucks, but the number of operating hours and condition of the truck are much more important than age. For example, would you prefer a truck that has been battered 40 hours a week in a salt mine for the past three years or a five-year-old truck that has been sitting quietly in the corner of a warehouse doing light duties for 14 hours a week? Always check the hour meter for hours worked and the rating plate for year of manufacture.

4. Service history and quality - Most of the trucks sold by main dealers are from their rental fleets, serviced by them from new. This is an advantage because rental trucks remain in the ownership of the dealer until they can sell them at the end of the contract period, so it's very much in the dealer's interests to look after them. An ex-rental truck, therefore, can prove to be a bargain with many more productive years to give. Ask if the dealer has a record of the truck's service history as this will verify the hours worked and application conditions.

5. Cheap at first, expensive in the long run - A cheap truck might cost you more in the long run. Ideally ask to view the truck and see it in operation before you buy, check the condition of the forks, seat, mast, chain, tyres and load back rest for damage and wear. If you are buying an electric truck, check the condition of the battery and that it accepts a full charge as these can be expensive to replace. Finally, if a truck is cheap, ask yourself why. It is usually worth paying a little bit more for the right truck and good service as this will save you a lot more money and tears later on.

6. Legal - Make sure the truck is legal
In the UK, under Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), all items of lifting equipment are subject to an annual Thorough Examination (like an MOT test for a car) to detect any safety related deterioration. Make sure your truck comes with an up-to-date certificate. There are other legal obligations that apply to specific trucks such as falling object protection and roll-over protection; ask your dealer to provide advice on this.

A rating plate should also be fitted that clearly shows the safe working load at relevant load centres and lift heights, reflecting the actual specification of the truck, upright height, attachment type, fork length, year, E/CE mark etc. Also be aware of other registration requirements in your own country.

7. Spares - Check that spares will be available for a number of years and that parts are not overpriced.

8. Service backup - Ensure the supplier can offer good service backup, ongoing maintenance and fast repair in the event of breakdown.
Buyers often fail to put in place a proper maintenance program for the equipment they buy. Not only could this affect the company if there's ever an accident, but it will increase the rate of breakdown and repair costs, reduce the resell value of the truck and reduce its working life, meaning you have to spend more again to replace it. A service contract should be arranged to provide periodic maintenance and be sure to check that the supplier can respond quickly to any breakdown or it might cost your business significantly through downtime and lost sales.

9. Warranty - Ask what warranty is offered and what it covers - eg. parts and labour, duration and are there any hidden charges?

10. Like-for-like quote - When reviewing prices, be careful to compare like for like and ask for a written detailed quotation.
Decide whether you want to purchase or hire the truck and set yourself a budget. If long-term rental is available, it can often be advantageous since payments are spread and the provider can normally add routine maintenance to the monthly fee.
  • Industry experts with specific information are invited to share their insights in this column. If you would like to participate - or know someone suitable - contact us at www.forkliftaction.com
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For more unique stories and expert insights: read our industry blogs
Blog articles provide perspectives and opinions and therefore may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. Forkliftaction Media accepts no responsibility for errors or omissions. If you feel that significant facts are overlooked, or have a different viewpoint on a topic addressed, we invite you to open a conversation in our Discussion Forums.

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