Buying Used Forklifts: All You Need to Know

If you are looking to buy used forklifts, we’ve got you covered! There is more to purchasing a forklift than just simply picking a model, inspecting it, and handing over some cash. It can be overwhelming but there is certainly more to it than that, however we are here to guide you through your purchase. We will give you some basic advice and tips by breaking down each step of the process to make it simple, time efficient, and risk free. If you’re not sure about the specifications, have a detailed chat with our certified salesperson so that everything becomes crystal clear.

Hundreds of used forklifts are on the market today, but many of them have certainly seen better days. How can you tell which is the hidden gem? When purchasing a used forklift, give the equipment a thorough inspection, test drive it, and look at the maintenancerecords. Manage your expectations during your purchase phase, it is vital to have the right state of mind. When purchasing a used forklift, there many questions that come to mind that you must answer first.

Tip #1 – Questions to Consider Before Seeing the Dealer

1. How high do you need to lift? You must consider the highest racking or package to determine your maximum lifting height required.


2. What do you plan to lift? You need to consider the dimension of your inventory. The length, width, and height will determine exactly how much weight is distributed and what capacity of forklift is required. Also always think of the future; do you foresee heavier loads?

3. What type of inventory are you handling? If you are in the food industry you will require an electric forklift which doesn’t give off contaminating emissions. Flammable materials require a specific forklift built to ensure safety in hazardous conditions. Thecounterbalance forklift is the most common and lends itself to straightforward operation.

4. Will the forklift be used indoor or outdoor or both? Different terrains ( concrete, gravel, dirt, pavement) call for particular forklifts with certain tire types and sizes too. Diesel forklifts are used for outdoors, propane forklifts are used either indoor or outdoor, and electric forklifts are used for indoor, however they are now available for some outdoor use.

5. Any Size Restrictions? Make sure you have a complete understanding of the space over, under, and around your forklift. Consider doorways and overhead beams when loading your product. This will determine your lowered height of a machine – the height of the forklift when the forks are on the ground. If you need to load inside a trailer or van, will your product stack inside?

6. How much space will the truck have to maneuver? You will want a forklift with a tight turn radius if the aisles in your warehouse are narrow or tightly packed. You will want a forklift tailored to the job to stack product effectively in tight spaces.

7. How often are you using the truck? There is a rule of thumb when it comes to forklift usage . More than four hours a day is considered a lot for a forklift. It puts a lot of wear and tear on the forklift along with decreasing its lifespan. At this point you may consider purchasing a new forklift. 

Buying a forklift is not an easy decision, but with this information and after determining the overall condition of the forklift, you will be ready to negotiate with the owner on the final price.

Tip #2 – Questions to Ask When at the Dealers


1. What are the maintenance costs? Maintenance costs can often be the determining factor as to whether or not to purchase the equipment. Find out the history of the service breakdown, when service was done and how often. Find out how available the spareparts  are and the cost of them as this will factor into your maintenance total. You certainly don’t want to buy the forklift if maintenance costs are too high. Make sure you carefully evaluate the equipment first.

2. How long has it been in operation? In your visual inspection you  should check the hour meter reading; it’s important to know how long the vehicle has been in use. Fork lift experts estimate that one hour of truck use is the equivalent to driving a car 30 miles. By this reasoning, a truck that has done over 3,000 hours is nearing the car equivalent of 100,000 miles. Also, it is advisable to check the stated hours against the service history; like cars the meters can be tampered with.

3. Does it come with a warranty? Having a good warranty is crucial when buying used forklifts. Find out what kind of warranty is left on the equipment and what it covers. You should never buy it if they won’t warranty it. Used forklifts still may have a manufacturer’s warranty; ensure the warranty can be transferred.

4. Does the forklift come with any additional attachments? Ask if attachments are included or available for the forklift. In many cases a forklift will come with separate attachments such as drum, carpet poles, booms, dumpers etc. Remember that an attachment can down rate your capacity, recheck the capacity plate for the down rate maximum weight.

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5. If buying an electric truck, make sure there’s life left in the battery – Batteries are worth more than 40% of the forklift total value.Forklift batteries are expensive, so it’s really important that there’s lots of life left in the battery. A rule of thumb to calculate the life of a battery is the average forklift battery will last 1,200 charges and each charge will provide approximately 5 hours of run time. Divide the hour meter reading by 5 and this will give you a rough idea of the battery life remaining.

6. Find out if your dealer will inspect your site for you – A reputable dealer will offer to inspect your site and application to ensure that the truck they provide is appropriate to your needs. You should conduct the following tests

• conduct a visual inspection
• take if for a test drive 
• confirm the safety inspection is up-to-date
• check the hour meter reading 
• check the capacity plate for the rating

If the prospective forklift truck passes the above tests, your search for a good used forklift may be over. However, the questions should not stop there.

Tip #3: Things to Avoid When Buying Used Forklifts

  •  Avoid discontinued models, these used forklifts may be less expensive up front, but finding parts may be a challenge

  • Avoid buying directly from the owner unless the seller is in your area and you can inspect the vehicle in person.

  • Avoid buying from online lists. These are usually taken at random, without inspecting the vehicle or verifying the source first.

  • Avoid buying from a company who is not established and does not have a long reputation.

  • Avoid “as-is” forklifts as they don’t come with any assurances about their soundness. In short, you can’t hold the seller accountable when you learn about a major defect after buying a forklift that was sold “as is”. Buying “certified used forklifts” from a dealer is a better option as they will look over all the systems to make sure the equipment you’re buying is safe and problem-free.

  • Avoid older equipment because keep in mind that older models will have higher mileage/hours and will have been put through some rigorous work over the years. You will pay less for older vehicles, but buyer beware, it will probably not last very long.

Tip #4: How to have it Inspected


Visual inspections are very helpful in identifying potential underlying issues. This visual guide will help you establish the condition of the used forklift. Be thorough and take your time. Ensure all the details provided match the forklift you are inspecting.

Inspection. When you find the forklift that interests you, it is time for a hands-on examination. The physical inspection is your final chance to evaluate the used forklift you intend to purchase; you need to ensure that all parts, attachments and features are functioning up to a standard that suits your needs.

It is recommended that a mechanic is present to provide a clear evaluation of the forklift.

  • MAST – Start by checking your mast, be sure you know what to inspect. The mast condition is vital and if damaged it creates many issues. Check the mast operation with a load and without a load to confirm the forklift full rated load. Look for lack of binding and smooth operation. Tilt your mast forward and back to see if there is any excessive play, as well as excessive side carriage play. Look for any signs of damage or leaks on the cylinders,and the pins; make sure the tilt and shift cylinders are secure.  Ensure that the chains have equal tension between them and that the hoses are in good condition too. If the forklift has an attachment make sure you put it through its paces to see it do the job it was designed for.

  • FORKS –  We recommend that you take a careful look at the forks. Check the forks for any cracks, bends or other types of distortion possibly caused by overloading. As you inspect the forks, check for any welds or cracks because the thickness of heel forks should closely match the thickness of the upright fork shank . You’ll want to have them measured, to be certain you won’t have to replace them.

  • ENGINE – Open the hood and start the engine. It should start easily and idle smoothly (it will be more noisy than a car). Look above and below the engine and inspect for leaks, dirt, cracks or any other signs of damage. Check that the air filter is clean and rev engine hard in neutral. Check the tailpipe once warm for blue or black smoke. Exhaust should be minimal if LPG (propane), and free from excessive odour.

  • TIRES – Check the condition of the tires; they should be evenly worn, free from major tears, flat spots, chunking or damage. Generally the cushion tires are beyond their useful working life when thirty to thirty-five per cent of the rubber is worn. With pneumatic tires, one must look at the tread wear; once the tread has gone you have reached the point where traction and stability are significantly compromised. With pneumatic tires you should check for balding, cuts, inflation and simple wear.

  • OVERHEAD GUARD AND FRAME – Look for any damage or evidence of repairs to the frame; if there has been then the safety and structural reliability of the forklift has been compromised. Check the main supports thoroughly for any bends, cuts, alterations or damage that could affect the overhead guard or the frame’s ability to protect an operator in the event of a dropped load or rollover.

  • BATTERY – If you are interested in an electric truck, you need to check the condition of the battery. Check that all battery connections are in good shape. Green and white crystals at the poles might indicate sulphation and convex cells might be suggestive of advanced age. Both can lead to the failure of the battery. Ask the seller, if the battery has warranty and if it was refurbished. 

Tip #5: Brands

Brands are usually always personal preferences, but do some research because there are a few things you do want to keep in mind. Choosing a brand you need to consider are the parts available to get in reasonable time, are the parts and repairs affordable.I believe certain major brands should be easy for you to learn more about them. A lot of information and reviews are readily accessible. Reviews are a very valuable resource. You will also want to know how long the brand has been around for and how long have they been producing. Big name brands aren’t your only option when shopping for forklifts. There are also smaller manufacturers that are known for released top-quality products. You’ll want to research your options so that you can find the best options available to you. It all depends on capacity of the forklift and exactly what environment you will be using your forklift in will determine what brand will be suitable for you.

My suggestion when buying used forklifts would be it is important to go to a dealer that sells all or multiple of the brands for you to test  as well as having the option for new forklifts and long term rental options. Going there with a budget in mind, it may end up more feasible to weigh out all your options. There are tons of great brands on the market and of course, every business is different, and therefore have different needs.

Next Steps

With all this information at your disposal, you should be ready to purchase a used forklift. Contact us to ensure you pick the right one for your needs. Picking up the right forklift will ensure that every cent spent counts, so have a realistic budget in mind. Buying a forklift is an important business investment and there are no shortcuts to take and no corners to cut. 

We hope this guide was helpful to you. Remember to check out our used forklifts.  We can also provide you with training, service programs, parts and rentals. Don’t forget we are just a phone call or email away.

Our dedicated sales experts will help you find the perfect used forklift for your needs and application. We can also provide you with planned maintenance agreementssafety inspectionsforklift parts and operator training!  

We purchased a used fork lift from Wayco in January. It was extremely clean and in excellent condition when it was delivered. We have also had incredible ongoing service from the professionals at Wayco. Overall dealing with them has been an excellent experience.

— Dons Trailer