What's the best way to buy used equipment? Ten questions to help you decide.

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There are many avenues an equipment buyer can explore when shopping for used equipment: auctions, online equipment listing websites, private sellers or dealers and brokers

There are many avenues an equipment buyer can explore when shopping for used equipment: auctions, online equipment listing websites, private sellers or dealers and brokers. Which buying method you choose depends on your buying needs: price, selection, speed, services and more.

Before you certify that check, count out your dollar bills or get pre-approved equipment financing, you need to decide how to buy the equipment and trucks you need. Here are ten questions to ask to help you make the decision.

1. What’s the price? Is the price negotiable?

If you’re a savvy equipment buyer, you’ll do your research and make sure you have a good knowledge of used equipment prices before you buy.

Dealers and private sellers may publish a specific asking price. Talk to them or simply make an offer and find out if there is any wiggle room built into the list price; some sellers price to sell, others price with room for negotiation. On many online marketplaces, equipment is open to offers for a specific period (sometimes with the option to ‘buy it now’); find out if the seller can set a ‘floor price’ or if the highest offer results in a definite sale.

If you’re buying at an auction (live or online), find out if the auction is unreserved. That means there are no minimum bids or reserve prices. At an auction with reserves, the seller may choose not to sell if their reserve price is not met. At unreserved auctions, every item is sold to the highest bidder, regardless of price.

Tip: create your free account on our website and check Auction Results for the selling price of 600,000+ equipment items and trucks. This way you pay only what you can afford and feel comfortable paying.

2. Can I be sure I’ll get what I paid for?

Buying through a private seller or a business that doesn’t seem to do much business can be risky. Find out if the seller has an established reputation, a long history in the business, a solid financial record, and customers who will provide recommendations. Brick-and-mortar facilities and a highly-trafficked website are other good signs to look for.

Make sure the equipment is located where you can verify its existence, or that your money will be held in escrow until you have collected the equipment from the seller.

3. Is the equipment guaranteed clear title at time of purchase?

The last thing any equipment buyer wants to do is put money down on a piece of equipment they cannot fully own. Clear title ensures that the equipment you are purchasing is free of any liens and your ownership cannot be contested. Find out if the seller can deliver clear title on the equipment you’re buying.

4. Can I inspect the equipment before I buy?

Depending on what type of equipment you are buying, you may want to conduct a visual and, if possible, a functional inspection before buying used equipment. The greater the investment, the more likely you will be to do the inspection yourself, or have a mechanic, operator or other experienced individual conduct the inspection for you. Find out if the equipment is available to inspect.

If you’re comfortable not doing a personal inspection, find out if there is adequate information available online, including high-resolution photos of the equipment’s interior, exterior and functional components, such as the engine compartment, hydraulic system, cab, attachments, wheels, etc. Scrutinize all equipment photos carefully before making an offer; ask the seller for more photos if you can.

5. When can I pick up my equipment?

No matter how you buy, most equipment is available for pick up only once paid in full. If you’re in urgent need of the equipment, find out how quickly you can finalize the purchase. In some cases, you can pay a little more to expedite the sale. If you can wait, you may be able to secure a bargain.

Other ways to speed up the process: pay with certified funds (not cash or personal check), or use available equipment financing through the seller. International buyers need to consider how long it will take for the equipment to clear customs before setting a pick up date. If shipping an over-sized item, ask if the seller provides dismantling services. Before setting an equipment pick up date, confirm equipment load out hours, if the seller will help with loading and, if necessary, the existence and location of a loading ramp.

6. Are there any additional/hidden costs associated with this buying method?

You may be required to pay a buyer’s fee when buying equipment at an auction or a broker’s fee when buying through an equipment broker. When you consider additional costs, don’t forget to add time and travel costs to the final tally as well; for example, your mechanic’s time spent travelling to multiple seller locations to inspect pieces of equipment. Time is money after all and every buying method comes at a cost. To be a confident buyer, you need to consider the direct and indirect costs of each buying method.

7. Can I finance my purchase?

If you’re working with a fixed budget and want to give yourself some breathing room, a seller that can offer financing may be your best bet. Low monthly payments instead of a lump sum outright purchase can help make the piece of equipment you need affordable and give you more financial flexibility in both the short term and the long term. Rather than approaching your bank, which probably doesn’t understand the value of equipment and may not offer 100% financing on used equipment or trucks, ask if you can finance your equipment purchase.

8. Can I view equipment service records, maintenance logs, or get more information before I buy?

A quick review of maintenance logs can tell you if a machine has been serviced regularly or if maintenance has been neglected. Service records tell you what type of work was performed – everything from brakes to a major engine rebuild – and when. Find out if the seller can give you access to this key information.

You may also want to confirm in what capacity the equipment was used. For example, a hydraulic excavator used at a landscaping supply store most likely has not been worked as rigorously as a hydraulic excavator used in a forestry operation. Also ask current owners their reasons for selling: Are they retiring? Making way for a newer model? Or was the machine not quite right for the job it was intended?

If you are buying from a third-party, such as a dealer or an auction site, find out if they will contact the seller for you, give you the seller’s contact information or let you know who previously owned the equipment.

9. What can I do if I have after-purchase issues with the equipment?

Find out if you’re buying equipment “as is, where is” or if the seller can offer a guarantee or service warranty on the item you’re buying. If you’ve done a thorough inspection, and have factored possible repairs or upgrades into your purchase price, you will be less likely to have an after-purchase surprise.

10. Do you offer any additional services to buyers?

A private seller most likely will not be able to offer financing and shipping services

From financing and shipping to insurance and warranties, each additional buyer service offered is one less thing for you to arrange. A private seller most likely will not be able to offer financing and shipping services. If you are buying from an auction, online equipment listing service or a dealer, check the company’s website or call and find out what other services are available.

Before you buy used equipment, remember to ask the right questions. The answers you receive might surprise you and challenge your preconceived ideas about buying used equipment. The more information you have to help make your decision, the more confident you will be that you are choosing a buying channel that best fits your needs.

About Ritchie Bros.

Ritchie Bros. is the world’s largest seller of used equipment. We conduct hundreds of unreserved public auctions around the world each year, selling a massive selection of new and used equipment with no minimum bids or reserve prices. Learn the benefits of buying at a Ritchie Bros. unreserved auction.

Ritchie Bros. also offers a secure online marketplace at EquipmentOne.com where buyers can find and buy equipment for sale by private sellers. Buyers can make offers and even “buy it now,” knowing they are covered by EquipmentOne’s Total Buyer Protection, including a secure escrow process.

Find this article helpful? View more tips for buyers or learn how to buy at a Ritchie Bros. auction.

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