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What to look for when buying a used forklift

When you’re in the market for a new forklift there are two main options for you: you can either buy a new or used forklift. There are advantages to both options for your business, but buying a used forklift might be the best option for your needs. Here are some of the benefits of buying a used forklift truck for your business and what to look for when buying one.

Why buy a used forklift truck?

There are several advantages of buying a used forklift truck. These include:

  1. Reduced upfront costs One of the biggest advantages of buying a used vehicle is that the upfront costs are often heavily reduced. In some cases you can save up to 50% on the cost of a new forklift truck. This can often mean that you are able to buy two used trucks for the same price as one new one. Therefore, if you’re looking to significantly add to the capacity of your fleet, this is a good option.
  2. Less lead times Sometimes, when buying a new forklift truck, you have to wait for it to be delivered – just like when you buy a new car. This can be frustrating if you have an immediate need to increase your fleet. There is very little waiting time, if any at all, when buying a used forklift. You could literally be using it the very next day.
  3. A wider choice When it comes to the choice of models available for forklifts, you’ll probably find more options when it comes to used forklifts. The more choice you have, the more likely you are to find the vehicle that will match your requirements more closely.
  4. Easier for drivers to operate When it comes to use, new models often require some time for operators to become familiar with new functions. This can reduce the productivity of operators when the new model is used. Also, older models, such as you find with used forklift options, tend to be the models that operators are used to driving or even trained on. This, therefore, reduces the time it takes to make the new asset fully productive.
  5. Simpler servicing Due to the time on the market and the prevalence of the models probably in use, spare parts and experienced service personnel are plentiful. This makes it easier for you to service and repair your used forklift should something happen. In addition, those selling the used forklift are likely to offer guarantees on your purchase, so you can rest assured that it won’t break as soon as you’ve bought it.

What to do when you’re thinking of buying a used forklift truck

Still, when buying a forklift truck you must ensure that the forklift you’re buying is suitable for your needs and is in good working order. Therefore, here are some of the processes you should follow to make sure you get the best truck for your business.

1. Check the vehicle’s rating plate

All forklifts should have a rating plate. It is a critical feature that tells you the amount the vehicle can safely lift. This is critical not only for your workplace safety, but also for knowing whether or not the truck is suitable for your needs.

The capacity of the used truck should be higher than the highest workload that you need the truck to be used for. This ensures that there are no potential conflicts or safety concerns.

2. Assess whether the truck is suitable for the expected use

The difference between forklifts might seem small, but there are big variations which make certain models more suitable for specific applications, even if they’re made by the same company. Therefore, you need to check your requirements against the ability of the vehicle.

Some of the questions you might want to ask include:

• Is the truck going to be used regularly or only once in a while when there is high demand?

• Will the truck be used indoors, outdoors or both? • How heavy will the loads be that the forklift needs to carry?

• Will the loads be balanced?

• What are the space restrictions of the operational area?

• Is the mast the right size to reach the tallest area of your storage space and yet small enough to fit beneath low doors and ceilings at your premises?

These questions are important to ask about the truck. If you can’t match the truck against your needs, you shouldn’t buy it. A truck needs to be built to be suitable, not amended once bought to fit your requirements. This is more costly and adaptions might not be possible.

3. Go and see the truck for yourself

While buying online might be convenient, it isn’t always the safest way to buy a used truck. Therefore, it is recommended that you always go and visit the truck you intend to buy in person. This way you can visually look for signs of wear and tear that might devalue a truck or perhaps even make a truck unsuitable for your business.

Some of the warning signs that you’re looking for include: rust, damage, cracks, previous repair work, or leaks. Some of these don’t mean the truck is worthless. Repair work could be very reasonable, depending on the age of the vehicle, but you must first know about the damage. If the seller hasn’t indicated any repairs, you should question them about it.

4. Test the potential truck

Just as you would with buying a new car, you should look to test drive the used forklift. However, the stakes can be much higher with a truck. Those who are using the truck are putting their trust in you. You’ve got to make sure you are buying a safe and reliable truck. If not, you could be putting their wellbeing at risk.

When testing the vehicle, ensure you’re doing so over a clean floor. This way you can check the floor for any drips that might be caused by a leak from the transmission or hydraulics. You should also check the exhaust fume colours. The final thing to check is that the vehicle starts from cold.

5. Ensure the warranty is in order

A warranty is the most important document you will have when you’re buying a used truck. You should ensure that you have a good length on the warranty and check what that document covers and what it excludes.

If the truck still has a manufacturer’s warranty, be sure that the company is willing to transfer the warranty to you. Some warranties can not be transferred, so watch out for those.

6. Check where the truck was produced

There has been a surge in the number of rogue imports that have entered the used forklift truck market. You should avoid these as they might not have the same safety standards as specified in UK law. In addition, it might be more challenging to find spare parts and knowledgable people that can fit them.

To be sure, look for the CE Certificate and ensure that all the identification materials are in the correct language.

7. Check the Certificate of Thorough Examination

A Thorough Examination inspection states that the vehicle in question is compliant with all regulations. Without this, you can’t be sure that the vehicle is in working order. However, this certificate doesn’t check everything, so don’t rely on this.

You should also be sure that this document is current as it is a legal requirement for all forklifts to have one. You can request an independent inspection to take place if you’re concerned about the health of the vehicle.

8. Check the battery

This is for those people looking to buy an electric truck, however, it is an important point. Up to 40% of the value of an electric forklift can be based on the battery. Therefore, you want to make sure that the battery is in working order.

To check the potential life of the battery, you need to know its run time. The average battery will have about 1200 charges. These charges will last roughly 5 hours of operational time. So, if you take the operational hours of the truck and divide it by 5, you can estimate how many charges you’ve got left in the vehicle.

9. Check the mileage of the truck

A truck’s operational hours is the equivalent of a car’s mileage. For every one hour of operation, the truck is doing the equivalent of 30 miles. Therefore, a truck needs to operate for about 3,000 hours to do the car equivalent of 100,000 when a vehicle is considered old.

Check the service history of the truck against its clock to ensure that neither has been tampered with. Some people will tamper with this in an attempt to increase the value of the vehicle.


Buying a used forklift truck is a great way to expand your business’ carrying capacity for a good price. Use the checklist above to assess whether the models that are on offer are suitable for your business. This will prevent you from making a bad investment in your business and help you and your staff to stay safe with your new truck. For more information, contact the team at Budget Fork Trucks.


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