1. Examine the External Condition
The first thing to inspect is the external condition of the excavator. Some damage, like scratches or rust, is easily visible without too much investigation. Other areas, such as the undercarriage, might require a closer look.
- Frame: While minor cosmetic blemishes are normal for a used machine, make sure the frame of the excavator is free from significant or problematic dents, scuffs, rust, scratches, paint chips or warping. Excessive damages could mean the machine wasn't properly cared for. Check that all welded areas are intact and that each hinge and latch are functional.
- Cleanliness: Consider the overall appearance of the machine, including the cab, frame and any windows. A reputable dealership will not sell an excavator that is caked with dirt, mud or other build-up.
- Tires or track: If you're looking at a wheeled excavator, make sure the tires are intact, full of air and free of visible damage. Be sure to ask the dealership how long the tires have been in use. For tracked machines, count how many tracks are on the belt and if any are missing or damaged.
- Undercarriage: The undercarriage of an excavator accounts for half of the cost of ownership, so don't sign any papers until you've inspected yours carefully. Check for any dents, holes or oily residue, as all could be signs of misuse or internal damage.
2. Check the Internal Parts
Once the outside of the machine passes your inspection, it's time to begin a more detailed inspection of the machine's internal components.
- Wiring: Inspect the quality of all wires and note any damages or frays. Turn the lights on and off to test functionality.
- Fuel: If you see or smell fuel or emissions while the excavator is running, this could indicate a serious problem or internal leak. You should also check that the fuel cap tightens securely and that the fuel inside does not smell expired or tainted.
- Battery: Check that the battery is secure inside the battery box and that all terminals are clean and not corroded. Check for stains, sticky spots or residue, as these could be signs of leaking oil or fuel. Note the expiration date of the battery.
- Cab: One of the most important things to look for when buying a used excavator is a safe and comfortable cab because this is where you will spend most of your time while using the machine. Sit inside the excavator cab and note the condition — is the seat comfortable and free of rips or holes? Do you have a full range of vision? Do the steering and gears work correctly? Are there any scratches or cracks in the windows?
- Hydraulic system: Inspect the hydraulic cylinder, lines and pump for cleanliness and make sure there are no visible leaks.
3. Test the Performance
The performance test is a critical part of any inspection. This is where you get to see how the machine feels when you operate it and consider whether it's the right piece of equipment for your job.
- Start up and shut down: Turn the excavator on and listen for any unusual sounds, such as rattling or excessive noise. If the excavator stalls or turns over when you try to turn it on, something may not be working correctly. Test the swing of the arm, as well as the control panel. Once you've tested the performance of the excavator, turn it off and continue listening.
- Attachments: If any attachments come with the excavator, inspect their condition, quality and compatibility with the excavator.
- Accessories and features: If your excavator has any additional features, such as built-in air conditioning or satellite radio, make sure they operate correctly — especially if you're paying extra for those options.
4. Consider the Service
Even when the excavator is in perfect operating condition, you need to consider the company you're working with and the services they offer. Make sure you ask plenty of questions about the equipment, as well as the dealership's policies:
- The history of the machine: Ask how old the excavator is and how many hours of operation it has seen. Ask the dealer to include information about the machine's performance history, including any previous issues or repairs made.
- Safety features and compliance: Verify with the seller that the excavator is safe to operate and that all safety features, including the brakes, cab, fire extinguisher and alarms, are all compliant.
- The year and model: Record all important information about the excavator, including the year, make, model and serial number. Keep in mind that if the excavator is very old or from an uncommon manufacturer, you may struggle to find replacement parts or repair service if necessary.
- Comparison to the listing: As you gather all the information from your inspection, compare it to the sale listing and see how the details match. Did the seller leave out any noticeable damages? Does the price seem justified? Ensure all documentation is included with the excavator, including the user manual and any manufacturer warranty information.
- Warranty and support: Finally, ask the seller or dealership what kind of warranty, return policy and after-sale support options they offer. A good dealership wants you to get the most out of your purchase and will do whatever they can to make sure the excavator you choose is right for you.