Don't Invest Blindly: 5 Things To Look for When Buying a Used Forklift

September 06, 2022 - Last modified: September 7, 2022 @ 12:05 pm

Used forklift for sale outside a business

If you're considering investing in lifting equipment, you may be debating whether buying a used forklift is a good idea. Many businesses are lured in by the newest, most expensive model, but you should take a moment to consider whether the most costly is what your company needs. Is the price worth it? Is it possible to buy a used forklift and get the same benefits as with a brand-new one? We understand the stress of deciding on a new piece of equipment and want to help simplify your decision.

Should You Buy a Forklift?

Does your business need a forklift? If you have to ask, then odds are your company could benefit from the efficiency and labor forklifts provide.

Uses for Forklifts

For storage and shipping, forklifts are a keystone of the industry. Different industries that benefit from the use of forklifts include:

  • Recycling
  • Warehouses
  • Dockyards
  • Construction

Forklifts can transport bulky, heavy packages or load and unload large containers. In warehouses, forklifts increase efficiency because they can load and unload goods quicker than a person can. Using a forklift allows you to store goods at higher levels or in heavier containers.

According to the United States Department of Labor, only competent and trained forklift operators can operate a powered industrial truck. Your organization must oversee the training and certification of your forklift operators.

OSHA requires you to implement a training program covering safe operation, workplace hazards, safety requirements and the types of vehicles your company utilizes. Not only should you provide lecture and video instruction but also practical instruction. You have to evaluate your employees every three years.

As long as you are willing to ensure that all your employees undergo training and practice safe handling of the forklift, you can legally take advantage of the benefits of buying a used forklift for your company.

Types of Forklifts

There are various types of forklifts available to serve different industries:

  • Pallet jacks: Pallet jacks have a simple design with two forks that move pallets within a warehouse. A pallet jack inserts its forks beneath pallets and raises the forks. For jobs that require an average weight capacity of 5,000 pounds, pallet jacks are ideal.
  • Warehouse forklifts: Warehouse forklifts are the most popular. They stock orders, move materials, stack materials and lift people and equipment. Expect about a 5,000-pound weight capacity. However, heavy-duty models can raise as much as 20,000 pounds.
  • Reach fork truck: A reach fork truck generally only handles loads between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds. The idea behind reach fork trucks is to be able to lift a load and extend the load onto a high shelf. Likewise, it can take a load from a high shelf and remove it.
  • Order pickers: Order pickers rarely lift more than 3,000 pounds. These smaller lift trucks only lift one or two units rather than entire pallets. Generally, you use an order picker to grab a single order in a warehouse.

Forklifts also include various attachments to help expand their capabilities.

Is Buying a Used Forklift Right for You?

You'll most likely come across significant forklift brands when buying a forklift. The major brands have some of the most efficient, high-quality, powerful machines. However, the brand names also have a hefty price tag for their popularity. Most companies have a budget. While a forklift can help increase your profit and productivity, you don't want to make an investment that doesn't pay off in a reasonable amount of time. A new forklift costs tens of thousands of dollars, whereas buying a used forklift might cost you less than half of some of the more expensive models.

The primary purpose of a forklift is to carry heavy items over a short or long distance. Modern technology can make some tasks more efficient or provide new and improved safety systems. A used forklift can perform the same functions as a brand-new truck and come with various safety measures. You do not always need all the bells and whistles if you cannot afford them.

5 Things To Keep in Mind When Buying a Used Forklift

When you choose to pay the used forklift price, you must consider several factors. Since you're purchasing used equipment, it comes with a history that you have no control over. Fortunately, many companies take good care of their investments. There are still a few things to keep in mind as you purchase and receive your machinery.

1. What Type of Forklift Do You Need?

Before buying a used forklift, there are various questions you need to ask. Think about your business's needs and gets answers to the following:

  • How wide are your doorways?
  • How heavy are your loads?
  • How high are your shelves?
  • What type of terrain do you have?

If you have narrow aisles, stand-up forklifts or three-wheel forklifts are ideal. Before deciding on your equipment, measure the narrowest aisle and base your decision on that.

The load capacity is the maximum you can carry on your forklift, so check what your heaviest loads are likely to weigh. Not only do you have to consider the base equipment, but think about the add-ons. Some attachments can reduce the capacity you can carry. When choosing weights, some forklifts are designed for small loads under 3,000 pounds, whereas others can carry over 17,500 pounds.

The type of load you need to carry also affects the capacity. For instance, some forklift capacities carry oblong, long or wide loads, whereas others only carry standard pallets. Think about the size and shapes of your different orders.

Forklifts can come equipped with cushion tires or pneumatic tires. You need cushion tires if you need a forklift for a warehouse that predominately has concrete floors. However, if you need to navigate dirt, gravel or asphalt, you should have pneumatic tires. These allow you to travel indoors and outdoors with no problem. In addition, your industry may determine if you need an electric forklift or one that runs on fuel. Electric forklifts can save you money in fuel costs, and if you work in the food industry, you might have to use electric-powered trucks.

2. How Much Life Does the Battery Have Left?

A used forklift will most likely have a used battery. Sometimes, your dealer provides you with a new battery, but if this is not the case, you need to find out how long the battery will last. When you maintain a forklift battery, lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries can live for a long time. Lead-acid batteries can last between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles, whereas lithium-ion batteries last between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles.

Most forklift user manuals can give you a reasonable estimate of your model's battery life. Ask your dealer how many shifts the machine was used for and for how many years. Most batteries last about five years if only used in single-shift operations. However, the lifespan may be less if the battery is used in double shifts. If you have a lead-acid battery, there should be no acid corrosion.

3. Is the Engine in Good Condition?

Always inspect the engine after buying a used forklift. First, fire up the forklift to let it run. After running for a few minutes, turn it off and open the engine compartment. The hoses should have no cracks or leaks and the oil level should be appropriate. Low oil levels indicate leaks. All of the belts should be tight and lubricated and have no cracks. If you have an electric forklift, check the battery condition, and if you have a propane forklift, check the tank's integrity.

4. Does the Service Record Have Any Red Flags?

Buying a used forklift should always include a service record from the dealer. The service record needs to be thorough to give you an idea of the equipment's history. Not only will it tell you how well it has been maintained, but it can highlight any recurring issues or red flags that you need to watch out for.

In the long run, poor maintenance history costs you more money. Timely maintenance keeps machinery running efficiently. When a forklift breaks down, it can cost you thousands of dollars in downtime, not to mention extra money in repairs that could have been avoided with regular maintenance.

In addition to increasing your lift truck's longevity, it keeps your forklift OSHA compliant. There are guidelines set regarding the maintenance of forklifts. The most common maintenance repairs include:

  • Steering issues: Your new machinery's safety depends on its ability to steer correctly. When steering the vehicle, strange noises can indicate a problem with the hydraulics or it can mean rust on the steering mechanism. The steering fluid could also be low or expired. Change your fluid if it has a thick consistency. Steering problems could also be caused by misaligned tires, worn gears or loose pressure valves.
  • Mast issues: If the mast feels jerky when lowering or rising, doesn't lift or lower properly, or reacts slowly, it might indicate a problem with the mast itself. The hydraulic oil could be low or the lift chains could have issues. Check the lift chains for any cracks or welding marks. If you see welding marks, the chain was most likely repaired at one point. Likewise, look for any missing and corroded pins.
  • Starting issues: Electric and internal combustion lift trucks have different starting problems. If you have an internal combustion forklift, you could have a fuel or oil leak, or the fuel may be too old. If your fuel and oil levels are normal, try the battery. Batteries need to stay charged. If you have low coolant or the radiator is blocked, it can cause your forklift to overheat and not start up correctly. Radiators with corrosion need to be replaced.

Not only do you need to check the service record, but you should always thoroughly inspect your equipment when it arrives.

5. Is the Model Discontinued?

When buying a used forklift, think about its age. Even if you buy used, you can still find newer models at relatively affordable prices. Of course, the older the model, the more likely you will see a price drop. While this is alluring to some buyers, it doesn't always make for the ideal forklift. Be careful of discontinued models. When a model becomes discontinued, finding replacement parts becomes more complex.

Likewise, the repair costs could be much higher than what you'd pay for a newer model. While you may not need a model with all the bells and whistles, you want to ensure that it has the safety systems required to keep your employees and operators safe.

How Do You Find a Reputable Dealer?

You should not trust every dealer you find. For instance, if you look for a lift truck on eBay, how can you verify that the seller has your interests in mind? Be careful of sellers trying to scam you out of your hard-earned profits. If a deal seems too good to be true, judge that it probably is.

Look for forklift dealers with a solid reputation among other businesses. Check for reviews and testimonials that you can verify. Most companies will only vouch for a forklift dealer if they provide quality equipment. You can count on other companies to have your back. Dealers that have been in the business for a while and have a good track record are a lot more trustworthy than someone you met on social media claiming to have forklifts for a reasonable price.

At Forklift Inventory, we work with various dealers to create an inventory of high-quality trucks. Do not trust a dealer who does not give you upfront, transparent pricing.

How Can Forklift Inventory Assist You in Buying a Used Forklift?

At Forklift Inventory, we offer a wide range of equipment types, conditions, brands, and engine types so you can find exactly what your business needs. When buying a used forklift, you can rest easy knowing you're getting high-quality equipment that you can trust. We want to help you make an educated decision before investing.

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*Savings claims are based on used forklift prices when compared to new inventory prices. Savings is not guaranteed and is subject to change.