Tips For Buying Used Material Handling Equipment

With every expenditure being so thoroughly scrutinized these days, you want the best value for your company’s dollars. Buying used material handling equipment has the instant gratification of spending less than you would on new.

What’s more, the highest form of recycling is putting used equipment back to work at the task for which it was originally designed—a win/win for you and our environment.

But how can you be sure to get a good value? You certainly don’t want to “use used for used sake,” and bring the wrong capacity, the wrong size or other problems back to your warehouse.

The most important factor to ensure your purchase of used equipment is of good value is buying from a reputable dealer.

One of the first options that may come to mind when considering used is an auction. And auctions can be a great source for “pre-owned” warehouse gear—just be sure you “know’ before you go.”

First, is the equipment for sale a match for your needs? You can’t bring home the right equipment if it’s not being offered there.

The next thing to consider at an auction is that most of the equipment is sold “as is.” You own it, whether it works or fits your needs—or not.

Also, if the equipment is sold standing, you will have to calculate the additional labor and shipping costs involved to disassemble and transport it to your facility.

And because of the way auctions work, it can be difficult to buy the correct quantity you need. You definitely won’t be able to put in your order for “X” amount of something.

Finally, auctions bring with them an excitement and atmosphere that can be overwhelming. There is the potential for a novice to get caught up in the moment.

But when the auctioneer says “sold,” it’s yours! I have seen some ugly cases of buyer’s remorse.

Buying used warehouse equipment from a reputable dealer eliminates many of the issues you may find at an auction. But you must ensure that the dealer is, in fact, reputable.

If this is the first time you are going to do business with a dealer, get and check their references and testimonials. But don’t stop there.

Check with your peers, the Better Business Bureau, and some online discussion sites. Some good investigation work up front can save you from major headaches.

When you proceed, your dealer should invest the time to help you in your purchasing decision. If the dealer you have contacted is too busy, go elsewhere.

There are hundreds of questions to be asked and answered when buying used equipment. A good dealer will be ready to put in the time because it knows this ensures a satisfied customer.

Is the equipment guaranteed to be free of workmanship defects at the time of delivery/installation? Reputable dealers are interested in repeat business and referrals, so they will stand behind what they sell.

A good dealer will represent the equipment in the condition it really is—not as he or she wishes it were. Digital pictures can confirm what the dealer is saying. If there is any doubt, make a trip to the facility to personally view before closing on the order.

Another sound strategy is to ask your dealer for a comparison quote for new material when you get the quote for used. Steel fluctuates continuously in today’s market. Having a current quote for new will help you establish a benchmark and a solid basis to judge the value of the used being offered.

In real estate, we’ve all heard about location, location, location. When you are purchasing used material handling equipment, it’s dealer, dealer, dealer.

So do your homework on your facility’s equipment needs and on the used-gear dealers. Then go bag that good value for your company, and be a hero to your bosses.

Steve Kinsella is an outside salesperson for Kansas City-based Warehouse One (, a provider of new and used material handling equipment.

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