10 Things to Look at When Buying Used Industrial Equipment

When you need a piece of equipment and you have budget and time constraints, buying used can be a smart decision. If you buy new equipment, you'll be paying top dollar, and you'll often need to wait for the machine to be built. Used equipment can work with your cash flow and reduce downtime.

But used equipment is sold "as is" — unless the seller specifically guarantees that a piece has been inspected and/or refurbished, you can't be sure that the equipment is in working condition. There are several things to consider when you're looking for a used machine to have confidence you're making a good investment.

1. Is the seller reputable?

Buying from an honest, ethical seller is the first step. You can eliminate a lot of headaches later if you do your homework on the company or broker you're considering buying from.

There are several ways to research a seller. Look at public company records to see how long the company has been in business and what their financials look like. If the company is in trouble, you'll want to ask why. Check out the company's reviews for complaints. Look for a strong number of customer testimonials that offer specific information about the buying experience and quality of the equipment. Check the Better Business Bureau's records to see if the company has had customer complaints registered. Find out how the company responds to problems that arise and how they deal with them, and ask about guarantees.

2. What is included?

There's nothing to prevent a seller from offering pieces of equipment individually. If you're buying process machinery, be sure that everything you need to run the process is included (or be willing to find the other elements elsewhere).

3. How old is the equipment and what are its operating hours?

Different types of machinery will have different lifespans. As a piece of equipment nears the end of its lifespan, it will need more frequent repair work that may not make financial sense. You'll also want to ask about operating hours. Just like a car with high mileage won't last as long as a car with lower mileage, machinery that has more operating hours will need more repairs (assuming equal maintenance history).

4. What do the maintenance records show?

You not only want to ensure the machine has been properly maintained, but you also need to know the equipment's history. Has it performed well or has it had unusual problems or an abnormally high number of problems? Has it been updated or modified? Look for anything out of the norm that would alert you to issues.

5. Can you see it in person?

Ideally, you want to see the piece of equipment before you commit to purchase it. You can do this inspection yourself, or you can hire an expert independent inspector (or even a manufacturer's representative) to handle it for you.

6. Test run the equipment.

You'll want to know if the equipment has been test run recently. A good seller will have professional mechanics and electricians operate the machinery to ensure it's working properly before offering it for sale. Preferably, you (or your representative) will be able to watch the machine in operation in person.

7. What are the signs of wear?

You should expect some signs of wear since you're dealing with used equipment, but you want to look for anything out of the ordinary. Cracks and rust can result in serious problems later on. They can also indicate that the machine was damaged at some point in the past.

8. What do the fluids look like?

When you're inspecting the equipment, you'll want to look at the engine oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid, coolant, and other fluids. If anything looks dirty or has run low, the machine may not have been properly maintained.

9. What does the engine exhaust look like?

If the equipment has an engine, you’ll want to check the engine exhaust. Exhaust can give you important clues about the state of the machinery. If the exhaust is black, then there could be a serious problem with faulty injectors (or the machine could simply have dirty air filters). If the machine is emitting white smoke, then there could be a problem with the headgasket or compression. Blue smoke can indicate a worn seal.

10. Can software licenses be transferred?

If your equipment has accompanying software, be sure that the license is transferrable and check expiration dates. If you need to buy a software license separately, you'll want to factor in that cost.

11. Is the title clear?

Does the seller actually own the equipment? If the seller has not paid for the machinery in full, the equipment can't be transferred to a new owner. The balance will need to be paid, and then the title can be transferred to you.

Buying used equipment can be a complicated process, but it's made much easier if you're buying from a reputable seller that inspects and guarantees the machinery. If you have questions about what to look for in a piece of equipment, please feel free to give us a call at 864.249.0943!

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