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Eight Tips For Buying a Used Machine

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

"When I'm looking for a used piece of equipment, is it always smarter to invest in one with low hours?"

Although hours worked is one factor that should influence your decision, there are other variables you should consider as well.

"Many people would assume a wheel loader with 2,000 hours is in better shape than one with 8,000 hours, but that’s not necessarily the case. Maybe the owner of that 8,000-hour machine was meticulous about preventive maintenance, and the 2,000-hour owner wasn’t. Perhaps the lower-hour machine was used at a mine and put through more abuse, whereas the 8,000-hour machine has a lot of idle hours on it. What if the owner of the 8,000-hour loader recently replaced the transmission?" - Used Equipment Regional Sales Manager Jared Haughton, Volvo CE.

When comparing used machines, use these eight tips to help you make an informed decision.

Service History

Ask for a service history, or get a serial number and ask Highway to look up which components have been repaired or replaced. You can also find out if Highway serviced the machine in a preventative maintenance program.

If most of the wear parts and components haven’t been replaced, you can expect to encounter service needs down the road, as opposed to regularly-serviced equipment. If the previous owner took good care of the machine, it may last longer and have fewer service issues.


Tires are expensive; before you buy a used machine, check to see if it needs new ones. Verify the brand and inspect the casing (sidewall) and the tread for peeling, cuts, and debris. Check the tire type, bias or radial, and make sure it matches your application's needs.


Look to see if the machine has an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) undercarriage. You can usually tell by checking to see if the undercarriage has the manufacturer's name on it.

OEM undercarriages are always preferable to aftermarket undercarriages, because they focus on life cycle and spec their components to achieve longer wear life. Bushings and link assemblies, for example, are generally thicker and more rigid.

Sometimes, OEM undercarriages and aftermarket undercarriages can come from the same manufacturer, but the differences lie in the specs.

Click here to read about Volvo CE's Undercarriage Inspection Program.


Is the cab clean, and are the seats tear-free? A cab's cleanliness usually reflects the type of person who operated the machine. With typical operators working 10-hour days or more, a meticulous cab indicates the operator took good care of his machine.

Look for an inspection book. Some contractors require operators to clean roller frames, inspect for leaks, grease machines, and help identify operational issues at the beginning and end of a shift. If they document these in inspections, it isn't uncommon to find an inspection book in the cab.


Equipment owners who don't replace worn-down pins and bushings often face expensive repairs, like line boring a distorted hole. This may indicate the owner didn't notice or didn't care about regular maintenance. If pins are worn down, other parts could be, too.


If a used machine was repainted, find out what was repainted and why. Paint jobs could mean the owner is trying to hide something, or the reasoning might simply be making the machine look nice.

You can usually identify the motive by checking the paint job's quality and how the owner prepped the machine. New paint with a rough surface demonstrates a rushed job. If a part of the machine is painted that the factory wouldn't have painted, like back-up alarms, hoses, and rubber springs, find out why.

Machine Data

If you buy a used machine from Highway, you can request data about how it was used. Volvo CE’s CareTrack system uses MATRIS (Machine Tracking Information System) to run reports on operator behavior and operation data throughout the machine's life. For example, it can break down idle hours and work hours.

Certified Status

Volvo CE Certified Used Equipment includes inspection reports and warranties. In order to certify a used machine, Volvo CE requires inspections and repairs to be completed by certified technicians who use specific components.

Each of Highway's branches are Volvo CE Certified Rebuild Centers.


The next time you buy used equipment, consider higher-hour, well-maintained models before making a decision. Based on the tips above, the higher-hour machine may be a better value. Contact your sales representative to shop Highway's used inventory.

Based on article originally posted by: Jared Haughton, Volvo CE

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