10 Things You Need to Consider Before You Purchase a Used Forklift

The recession and recovery have dramatically changed the landscape of the used forklift market and it appears it is not going to change any time soon.  Pre-recession inventories were ripe with moderately priced and well-maintained forklifts averaging between five and ten years of age.  Purchasers looking to used forklifts as an alternative to new equipment in order to maintain profits have all but depleted this segment of the used forklift market, resulting in a sellers market. This leaves the buyer with two choices; purchase an older model of ten to fifteen years or a more recent model between one and five years of age.  While there are some light-duty applications that are a good fit for older model forklifts, most buyers should steer clear of these potential money pits.  But before you consider used equipment in lieu of a new forklift there are some things you want to consider.

  • Your application.  Are you fully aware of ALL the responsibilities of the lift truck(s) you are replacing?  Operations change with time, and it’s important to review all the activities of your forklift fleet with your operators and front-line managers to be sure you are not overlooking something crucial when making your selection.
  • Your facility. In this seller’s market the exact piece equipment may not be available leaving you to select a model that is close, but not an exact match. Will the new lift be able to navigate the aisle? Is the capacity consistent with your floor, dock, truck or elevator capacities?
  • Your operators. Do you know how your operators use your current fleet?
  • How they exit and enter the forklift.
  • How much they turn around
  • Mast and overhead guard views
  • How the forklift operates
  • What type of capacities and lift trucks they are accustomed to operating

There are a myriad of things that you as the buyer want to arm yourself with before you begin your search.  Once you begin your search and have narrowed down your potential used lift truck replacements there are things you are going to want to do to ensure you are buying not only the lift truck that meets your facilities requirements but is also of the quality that you will need to operate it profitably.  Before making an offer you will want to:

  • Know the exact age of the forklift
  • Know the operating hours, key on hours and/or dead man hours
  • Ask for maintenance records of the lift truck
  • Ask for the previous owner and call to get information on:
    • What kind of application the lift truck has endured over its lifetime
    • How many shifts the lift truck operated daily
    • Its condition when turned in or traded in
  • Bring a trained technician with you or have the forklift transported to a facility (like Apex Material Handling) that can give you a professional and unbiased report of its condition and what you can expect to be replacing on the lift truck in the near future.  In addition we can provide you with an estimate of what these repairs are going to cost.


Once you are comfortable with the lift truck and that it meets your requirements for both facility application and condition, you want to consider the source of your used forklift purchase.  It is one thing to be sure that the used forklift meets most or all of your requirements, and the price is fair.  It is another thing to be sure you are purchasing your used forklift from a reputable source that you can count on down the road should any potential problems occur.  If you are not sure of the reputation of the seller, ask around.  Ask the seller for three references, then set them aside and ask for three more.  Call the second set of references to be sure you are buying from a source with integrity. 


In addition you may want to contact the local Better Business Bureau to verify that the seller has no complaints and that their rating is adequate.  Warranties are only as good as the company that is providing it, and you need to know that the company you are partnering with not only has integrity, but also possesses the financial solvency to stand behind the sale should a problem arise.  Fly-by-night wholesalers or sellers that are many states away can cause many problems in resolving any post-sale issues.


Finally, you want to consider the cost of replacing and repairing worn parts on your forklift when considering a used forklift “bargain.”  One repair can wipe out any savings in the initial price and is why for most applications, when considering used, we recommend late-model, low-hour and well-maintained forklifts.  Below are only ballpark figures and range widely depending upon make and model, but these illustrate potential costs should a used forklift not be inspected properly by a well-trained forklift technician:

  • Complete brake job – $2500
  • Set of tires – $900
  • Replace hydraulic hoses – $1500
  • Hydraulic pump and cylinder – $4100
  • Battery – $5000
  • Engine rebuild – $5700

Apex Material Handling is your source for late-model used forklifts that have been properly serviced and are ready to meet your application.  Our company has an excellent reputation and we are an long-standing reputable dealer of high quality used forklifts in the Chicago area.  Let us help you find the used forklift for your application.  Or, if you are considering a used forklift from an alternate source, let us give it a proper inspection and estimate of any repairs that may come along with the lift truck.

Our goal is simple; to be sure your materials handling operations are efficient and profitable.  Please contact us at 630-293-8610, or on the web at www.apexmhc.com Put us to work for you, you will be glad you did.