Top tips for buying pre-loved machines


Buying machine equipment is a big investment at any time. As companies emerge from the lockdown and attempt to get back to pre-pandemic work levels, Finning UK & Ireland, exclusive distributor for Caterpillar®equipment, reports an immediate surge in demand for used Cat® machines. Here, Scott David, used equipment machine inspector at Finning, provides a few pointers to help firms understand what to look out for to reduce the risks associated with buying a used machine. 

1Look for visible component wear

One of the first and most important things to check is the condition of all easily visible wearing components such as the Undercarriage, tyres, and ground engaging tools (GET). These can give a good early indication of the overall condition of the machine. This is especially important with tracked machines as undercarriage can represent a large proportion of the value of a used machine, or a large cost if worn components are missed. Just because an undercarriage looks good from a distance doesn’t mean it is, be sure to check the condition of each component

2Look out for leaking hydraulic components

Weeping hydraulic cylinders can collect dust and dirt. Check the machine for leaking hydraulic hoses and any damp areas around valve blocks, pumps and motors these can result in costly maintenance and repair, not to mention machine downtime and loss of work on site

3When is the machine is due its next major overhaul?

Every Cat® machine has an estimated life expectancy. Check the machine hours to work out how much time the machine has before it’s ready for a rebuild. From this you can work out, based on your estimated usage, how long the machine will be productive for you and what your future maintenance costs could be. It’s also worth checking is the machine has already had any components rebuilt.

4Look at the colour of the fluid in the machine

If the oils are dark or black, the machine is probably due a service and oil change. It could also be an indication of a more costly problem though, such as an engine failure. If the oil smells burnt to of fuel, this could indicate overheating or fuel dilution. Discolouration of oil is a good indicator of overheating, contamination or wear in hydraulic systems and transmissions, again smell the oil, does it smell burnt? 

5Operate all hydraulics through complete cycles

Check if any of the machine’s key services are slow or laboured, as this could indicate a fault, clogged filters or other hydraulic issue. Whilst operating the services check for wear in bearings and linkages; as the bucket, blade, etc. touches the ground and the weight comes off the pins, is there excessive movement in the linkages? This could mean worn or collapsed bearings and wear in the linkage bores. 

6Review the maintenance history

Just as you check the service history if you’re buying a new car, equipment owners should keep a record of the maintenance work that has been carried out on the machine during its lifetime. Checking these documents can give you a pretty good idea as to whether the machine is clean and a tidy prospect.

7How clean is the cab?

A dirty cab may not be reflective of the overall condition of the machine, but it will give you an idea as to how the previous owner has looked after it. If available check the display on the machines for any logged or active fault codes which could point to current or previous issues. 

8Check out the bodywork

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but the state of the bodywork will show if the machine has been used and abused in the true sense of the word. Machine operators, in the main, take immense pride in their equipment. So, if it’s been driven hard on the outside, then it’s likely to have some potentially costly damage on the inside too.

Finning has an extensive stock of used machine equipment including mini to extra-large excavators, back hoes, material handlers, off-highway and articulated dump trucks, pavers and compactors. All used equipment is tried and tested and some have the option of a Finning warranty, taking all the risk out of purchasing a pre-loved machine. 

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