Eight Tips When Evaluating a High-Hour Used Machine

Mon June 10, 2019 - National Edition #12
Jared Haughton – SPECIAL TO CEG


There’s a lot more to consider when looking for a piece of used equipment than the number of hours — and a higher-hour machine may actually be the better option for you.
There’s a lot more to consider when looking for a piece of used equipment than the number of hours — and a higher-hour machine may actually be the better option for you.
There’s a lot more to consider when looking for a piece of used equipment than the number of hours — and a higher-hour machine may actually be the better option for you. Always verify the brand and inspect the casing (sidewall) and the tread for peeling, cuts and debris. If the plates were welded to the pins to keep them from falling out, the pins are the wrong size. Check the frog and teeth for signs of wear. A low-hour machine is not always a better choice than one with higher hours.

When looking for a used piece of equipment, you may ask yourself if it's smarter to invest in one with low hours. But the answer to that question isn't always black and white.

For one, many people might assume too quickly that a wheel loader with 2,000 hours is in better shape than one with 8,000 hours — but that's not necessarily the case. Maybe the owner of the 8,000-hour machine was meticulous about preventive maintenance, and the 2,000-hour owner wasn't. Or perhaps the lower-hour machine was used at a mine and put through more abuse, whereas the 8,000-hour machine has a lot of idle hours on it. And what if the owner of the 8,000-hour loader recently replaced the transmission?

There's a lot more to consider when looking for a piece of used equipment than the number of hours — and a higher-hour machine may actually be the better option for you. Consider these eight tips when looking at used equipment with several thousand hours or more:

  • Service History: For high-hour machines, ask for a service history or get a serial number and have your dealer look up what components have been serviced or replaced. You can also find out if the machine was serviced in a preventive maintenance program with a certified dealer. If you find that most of the machine's wear parts/components haven't been replaced, you probably want to budget additional money for repairs down the road. If the machine has a lot of hours but was regularly serviced, it indicates the owner likely took pretty good care of it.
  • Tires: Generally, machines with high hours either need tires or have tires with tread that's in good condition. Always verify the brand and inspect the casing (sidewall) and the tread for peeling, cuts and debris. The replacement cost of tires can have a significant cost to ownership. Also, check whether bias or radial tires were being used, and know your application to choose correctly between the two.
  • Undercarriage: Look to see if the machine has an OEM undercarriage (most OEM undercarriages have their name on it). OEM undercarriages are preferable to aftermarket. While OEM undercarriages could easily come from the same manufacturer as aftermarket undercarriages, the difference is most likely in the spec. OEMs are more centered on life cycle and spec their components to achieve longer wear life. Generally, bushings and link assemblies will have a greater thickness and a more rigid hardness spec.
  • Cab: Hop in and check to see if the cab is clean (e.g., the seats aren't torn). The cleanliness of a cab is usually reflective of the person who operated it. With typical operators working 10-hour days or more, a meticulous cab likely indicates an operator who took good care of his machine. Also look for an operator inspection book. Some contractors require an operator at the beginning and end of a shift to clean out the roller frames, inspect for leaks, grease machines and help identify any other operational issues. They might document this in an inspection book, and it isn't uncommon for these to be left in the cab of the machine.
  • Buckets: When pins start to wear down, eventually you have to replace them and the bushings. Some owners, however, will run them out, which leads to more expensive repairs, like line boring a distorted hole. This may indicate an owner who wasn't paying attention or didn't care about regular maintenance and was okay letting certain parts of the machine wear down. What else might be worn down?
  • Paint: If a machine has been repainted, find out what exactly was repainted and why. Sometimes a complete paint job may reveal an owner who's trying to hide something; but sometimes a paint job indicates an owner who's simply maintaining the appearance of his equipment. The quality of the paint job will usually identify the motive. New paint with a rough surface demonstrates a rushed job. Also, how the machine was prepped will tell you a lot. Some identifiers to look for are items that are now painted but wouldn't have been from the factory, like back-up alarms. Other examples are hoses that are sprayed over instead of taped off, and rubber springs on the bogie suspension that are painted instead of being black.

If you're buying a high-hour machine from an OEM or certified dealer, you should expect to get more information for your buying decision. For example:

  • Machine Data: With many OEMs, you can request telematics data about how some machines were used. For example, that data could tell you how many of a machine's hours were spent idling versus actually working — maybe that high-hour machine wasn't used as hard as you think.
  • Used Equipment: If you're looking to purchase a used machine, work with a seller that can tell you exactly what you're getting and back their machines up with things like inspection reports, warranties, etc.

The next time you're in the market for used equipment, don't immediately discount the higher-hour models. Look for signs that owners and operators took good care of them — if they did, one of those high-hour machines may be the smarter choice.