Buying a good used forklift is not rocket science, but there are some definite pitfalls to avoid.
Purchasing a forklift is a serious capital investment. There are arguments to be made for lease, purchasing newfangled, or buying used. If your occupation position has led you to a “ used ” decision, there are some things to know before you buy. Here’s an overview of points to consider.

  1. Capacity and suitability. This is overlooked more often than you might imagine. Customers often tell me about the “awesome deal” they got on a used forklift, but when they put their new Baby to the test, they find it isn’t rated for the loads they carry or equipped for their handling needs. The lift can run like a top and have all functions in perfect operating condition, but no deal is a good deal if it’s not a good fit.  No matter how amazing the deal on that size 13 Nike shoes, they won’t fit your size 9 feet… So it’s not a good deal at all! That diesel forklift may be in perfect condition, but it’s not suitable for that food plant while that cushion-tire unit would be useless in your gravel lumberyard. Or the safety features your site requires are absent. So consider all the requirements of your site before you go looking for good deals. Read more about good deals later in the article.
  2. Mechanical operability. So you started it up and it seems to run fine. Good to go, right? Not so fast! When you are test-driving your prospective hotrod, make sure you put it through the paces properly. Start with a cold start, preferably first thing in the morning. Check for leaks beneath before you start. When you fire it up, listen for slow or long cranking. Pay attention to any smoke from the exhaust. Next, drive forward slowly and listen for any noises or vibrations, then check the brake operation. Do the same in reverse. Do some circles at full turn, then power up while holding against the brake. Pay attention to any unusual noise or motion. Next, try all hydraulic functions to the full extent of the range. Watch for “racking” at the last few inches of travel (especially tilting). Note any leaks or rubbing hoses as well.  Shut down the unit and open the hood. Visually check all the fluid levels, belt conditions, etc. If mechanical skills are not your strength, be sure to have a trained service provider perform these inspections. If you have a forklift jack, raise the backend and check for loose steer wheels or noisy bearings when you rotate them. If you find concerns during any of these checks, have a qualified forklift service provider check them out. They may not be a reason to avoid the purchase but can help you determine an appropriate price.  If you need help finding a good service provider in your area contact us and we can try to match you up with one locally.
  3. Service History. Ask for a record of the service history. If there has been a long gap between services consider that the internal components may have hidden wear from contaminated fluids, lack of lubrication, or deteriorated coolant. Brake fluid that hasn’t been flushed within the last 2 years likely has a large amount of absorbed water, which leads to premature brake component failures. If the last inspection was before the latest presidential elections, you can expect some expensive repairs to surface!  Consider having an experienced technician do service and inspection. If you need help finding filters and parts click here.
  4. Local availability of parts or services. This is a big surprise to many owners. They do their due diligence in making sure the unit will fit their application but get a shock when the first service is due. Some brands do not have readily available parts, especially in smaller urban areas. So consider buying something with local service support, or keeping an inventory of spare parts and filters on hand. If you need help finding a service provider in your area, contact us and we will try to match you with a local provider.
  5. Price. Ok, you are probably thinking this should have been #1. But it’s at the end for a good reason. Price is of no importance until you know you are dealing with a solid forklift that meets your specific needs. Now that you have all that figured out, price is the question. Do I buy locally, get quotes through 123Forklift, or ask at the coffee shop? One way is to ask a trusted local equipment provider for their opinion. However, that may be out of the question if you are purchasing from a competitor or private individual. In that case, a good option is to check with an online forklift-specific company like 123forklift. They will generally be able to give you a good picture of the market. Make sure you get a good idea of what’s available before you spill the cash. Check them out here.

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