8 Things to Look for When Evaluating a High-Hour Used Machine
Over the years, a common question I’ve heard is, “When I’m looking for a used piece of equipment, is it always smarter to invest in one with low hours?” And my answer back has always been some form of, “Yes and no.”
Why? For one, many people would assume 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 that 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. To help you out, here are eight tips to consider 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 the 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 is in good condition. Always verify the brand and inspect the casing (sidewall) and the tread for peeling, cuts, and debris. 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 radial and bias.
- Undercarriage: Look to see if the machine has an OEM undercarriage (most OEM undercarriages have their name on it). OEM undercarriages are always preferable over aftermarket. While OEM undercarriages could very 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 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 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 OK 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 a 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 boggie 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 data about how some machines were used. Volvo’s CareTrack® system, for example, uses MATRIS (Machine Tracking Information System) software that provides in-depth reporting of operator behavior and operation data throughout the life of the machine. For one, it can tell you how many of the machine’s hours were spent idling versus actually working — maybe that high-hour machine wasn’t used as hard as you think.
- Volvo Certified Used: With Volvo Certified Used Equipment, we tell you exactly what you’re getting and back machines up with inspection reports and warranties (in the U.S. and Canada). Plus, inspections and repairs are completed by Volvo-certified technicians under strict standards, so even with high-hour machines, you can be sure any repairs and/or new components are designed to last.
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.