Just like in the used car industry, there are some great deals to be had on used forklifts right now. However, just like in the used car industry, there is always the possibility that you could end up with a truck that can cost you thousands in repairs, or you could end up with a truck that isn’t going to perform to your needs. As always, it’s up to you to choose a reputable supplier and to thoroughly inspect the forklift before you make the purchase.


Remember, buying a used forklift increases your chance of breakdown, so you need to know the answers to the following questions:

Do you need a certain type or specification for your truck?

Is your business significantly affected by a forklift in need of repair?

Are your applications demanding?

Do you use your forklift more than 20 hours a week?


If any of these questions are a priority to you, you may want to consider buying a new forklift over a used one. Another option may be to have a back-up forklift on hand in case of breakdown.


Whether you have made the decision to buy new or used, used this guide to navigate your way to the correct forklift purchase for you and your business.


Have your dealer(s) perform site-surveys and ask them to quote you on both new and used.

In general, the new forklift quote will match your needs exactly and the used on will have some differences, because it’s from their inventory. This will help you to see if the used truck will really satisfy your needs.


Make sure you are buying a reliable brand and supplier.

More reliable trucks have less repairs, more easily found parts and service and will retain more value over time.

Just as important, you should buy from a reputable dealer. Ask questions to make sure your dealer can fulfill your unique business needs and ask for references to check their reliability.


Check the paperwork and forklift for the following items:

Name Plate and Capacity Plate (with manufacturer’s name and address) in the correct language

Operator’s manual

Labels and warnings on the truck


Check the Hour-Meter.

A good rule-of-thumb is to find a used forklift with under 1,000 hours of use for each year of its life. But remember, just like less-than-reputable car dealers, these can be tampered with. Asking for service records will ensure that the hours used are accurate, as well as confirming that the truck was properly maintained.


Try it before you Buy it.

Always inspect and test drive your forklift before you buy it. With the increase in the amount of trucks being purchased online, it’s up to you to figure out a way to do this prior to ownership.

For internal combustion engines, start them from cold. You want to see how the engine turns over as well as checking for strange smells and smoke.

Be sure to drive the truck in both forward and reverse.


Check for fluid leaks.

Run the truck for 15 minutes on a clean piece of floor while you check all of the hydraulic functions.

When you move the truck, look to see if there are any leaks. Even small leaks can become large expenditures down the road.


Mast Operation.

Make sure all operations are smooth and that the mast does not stick.

Be sure there is no ‘play’ between the fork carriage and mast.

Check that the rating plate refers to the mast and any fitted attachments.

Operate the truck with and without a load. If there is any ‘creeping’ down or forward when loaded, this could be a sign of seals or ram or valve problems.


Examine the forklift’s forks.

Check the thickness at the fork’s heel.

Check for fit. If the forks are loose, it could mean there’s damage to the carriage or hanger points.

Check for cracks on the arms, heels and mountings.


Check the condition of the battery.

For an electric forklift, a major part of its value is determined by the condition of the battery.

Look for sulfation- small white crystals on the battery plate. Sulfuric acid is a naturally forming compound and will prevent the battery from charging.


“Kick the tires.”

Look for uneven wear. This can tell you there is poor axle alignment, which is a very pricey repair.

Make sure the forklift has been fitted with the correct tires.

Look at the overall wear on the tires. Replacing the tires can be a costly repair if the tires are too close to their wear limit.


Here’s a checklist to review on your potential purchase.

Backrest condition


Capacity Plate suspicious or absent

Chassis cracks or signs of re-welding

Chassis rust

Elevated Carriage drift

Engine coolant rust

Exhaust pipe has sooty residue

Fluid leaks under forklift

Fork Arms cracked bent or worn

High truck hours

Hydraulic control valve leaks

Low oil pressure

Mast Channels bowed

Mast or cylinders rods scored

Motor noise

Operator’s Manual

Overhead Guard condition

Radiator damage

Steer axle knuckles are loose

Tire-rod ends are worn

Tires are worn or uneven

Transmission fluid discolored

Worn rings or valves


Find out about the truck’s warranty.

Ask to see the forklift’s warranty documents, what it covers and what is excluded.

Discuss additional warranty options with your reputable dealer.

Ex-rental or ex-demonstration units can be a good option for you. These are generally well-maintained and only used for a few years.


Buying a used truck makes good business sense if you are either using it as a back-up or if you are only using the truck sparingly. If you are looking for a full-time truck, it is a better decision to buy new, and look into extended warranties and planned maintenance options.


Either way, be as careful as you would when buying a new or used car. Take visit to a reputable dealer- your business depends on it!

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