Used Equipment: Vetting the Value


Assuming the machine’s title is clear and able to be sold, how do you end up getting a diamond in the rough rather than a pig in a poke? The more knowledge you can gather – by whatever means – the better the end result.

The ideal situation is one where the machine is still set up and powered up, and you can hire a knowledgeable technician to go in and do an inspection.

200 Bill j 2-1Click photo to enlargeEven before that, Kruschke says it pays to make sure you know – if you’re looking at a foreign-made machine – who represents the manufacturer in this country, and if there’s someone available to work on the equipment.

“A lot of times you can get a machine for quite a deal, but you go to set it up and something breaks, and you’re waiting for weeks and weeks to get a part,” he says. “Do your legwork, so you know what’s available for support and who knows anything about the machine.”

For someone with a stateside presence, the manufacturer or distributor will likely be the first line of assistance. For instance, Kremer says if a would-be buyer is interested in a piece of Park equipment and can provide the company with a serial number, it can offer quite a bit of information about the machine in question.

“We can track down where we sold the machine originally, and determine the options it may have had,” he says. “We can also tell you what parts should be with it, and what tooling should be with it. In short, we can help them determine what they’re buying.”

Park can also provide – for a service fee – a technician to go do an inspection.

“Just about everything is going to be one day to fly out, one or two days at the site, and then a day to fly back,” says Park’s Walerius. “We charge an hourly rate for travel and an hourly rate onsite.”

There are also independent technicians available for machine inspections. Granite Machine’s O’Connor says the higher the sale price on a piece of used equipment, the more it makes sense to get an evaluation.

“If you spend $1,000 on an inspection and find it’s a piece of garbage, and you’d have to put another $10,000 or $15,000 in it, you’ve saved yourself a lot of money,” he observes. “But, if it’s an $80,000 piece of equipment in great shape and you can get it for $15,000, that inspection was a great investment.”

A technician is also going to be able to judge the environment the machine is in, O’Connor adds. There’s a big difference between buying something from a clean shop where things are obviously maintained, and one that’s not.

In many situations, however, the machine isn’t up and running. It may be available for inspection, but it’s also possible all you’ll be able to see are photos. However, Doug Jackson of the Athens, Tenn.-based Rollin’ Stone says even photos can tell a lot.

“One of the first things you can tell is if there have been electrical problems,” he says. “You can see that in the electrical cabinet, because the wires are unorganized. If the motor or controls have burned up, there can be black marks in the cabinet. That’s always a bad sign.”

Another possible problem that a photo can reveal, says Stone Equipment’s Kruschke, is whether the person who disassembled the machine knew what they were doing.

“When they disconnect it, they don’t bother marking any of the wires,” he says. “When it comes time to install it, you’ll be scratching your head wondering where each wire goes.”

He adds that a few photos taken before things are disconnected, plus a small label maker, can make a big difference in that department.

Another thing a photo can show is the hour meter, says O’Connor.

“Once you have that, you can call the factory and find out what are the things that go out on that particular model and the cost of replacement parts,” he says. “If the spindle life is 2,000 hours and the machine has 1,800 hours on it, you’d better figure on including the cost of a new spindle in your purchase price.”

If the manufacturer isn’t that cooperative, Kruschke says perhaps the company will at least provide the names and phone numbers of some other shops that run the same machine. You can then call them and pick their brains regarding how the machine operates and particular problem areas.