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New vs. Used Forklifts

When speed and time are factors that affect your bottom line, you need a forklift that will move your products efficiently and safely. Many businesses quickly reach the point where manual labor simply is no longer viable there’s too much volume to move quickly, and time is money.

While almost nobody goes into business thinking about what forklifts or used pallet jacks they might need one day, the decision is an important one. Purchasing an industrial forklift is a decision that can affect your budget and possibly your business. 

Purchasing a forklift can be a challenging decision, especially because not all forklifts are created equal. The forklift is a very versatile vehicle.

For example, some forklift products are best suited for outdoor work, whereas other forklift units are best suited for indoor warehouse type applications. Choosing the right model of forklift requires research to make sure your decision is sound and cost effective. By knowing which model of forklift is right for your operation, you’ll also have a better idea of whether you should by buy new or pre-owned.

The forklift market is complicated, and supply doesn’t always end up meeting demand. Sometimes, buying a new forklift isn’t possible and your company will need to buy a used/reconditioned forklift. 

Purchasing a used forklift isn’t the same thing as buying a car, but there are some similarities. As with buying a new or used car, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, but those disadvantages can come with a hefty price tag if you choose the wrong forklift: lost time, staggering repair bills and inability to deliver your products. Choosing the right forklift is essential to keeping your business moving.

What Does a Forklift Do for Your Business?

Moving material can be a challenge. And yet, itís a vital aspect of any business ó whether youíre at a construction site or in a warehouse. If your business is large enough to require the regular movement of large stocks of material, you know that it can be a logistical nightmare. 

It comes down to this: the movement of material is an essential part of keeping your business going. Construction supplies need to be delivered to the site. Pallets of inventory/products must be accessible to all warehouse employees for distribution. 

In many ways, a forklift is the lubricant that keeps your business going. And yet, we often donít think about it that way, we often donít think about forklifts at all until that machine stops working, and we suddenly canít reach/ship our materials. They function in the background, but theyíre just as important as an assembly-line machine or the best inventory tracking software. 

The purchase of a forklift is a decision that should not be made without thoughtful consideration. Itís useful to think about what conditions the forklift will operate under, what jobs the forklift will be tasked with, and how much maintenance youíre willing and able to put into the continued operation of the forklift. In other words, you need to think about your present demands and your future needs and your total acquisition and operating costs. 

From Used Pallet Jacks to New Lift Trucks: Itís All in the Engine

Forklifts are generally divided by two basic criteria: internal combustion engine type and electric motor type. This doesnít mean that there arenít other options ó seated and non-seated, for example, only that these categories tend to be of paramount importance when it comes to making decisions. 

Generally, each of these categories are designed for separate and sometimes mutually exclusive purposes. The environment and terrain under which your forklift will operate will influence which category is best suited for you. 

There are two basic engine types for forklifts: electric and internal combustion, including propane, gasoline and diesel. As with everything, there are trade-offs in fuel types, but those trade-offs are generally in terms of costs, and those costs are often regional. 

For example, diesel and fuel costs may be more expensive upfront, where there are strict emissions standards. Propane may be more expensive in the Midwest, where cold winters can shrink the supply and drive up costs.

Whatever the fuel type, internal combustion forklifts offer a couple of advantages, first and foremost power. Bigger engines, more torque and more power mean that internal combustion forklifts may do more work and can accomplish a broader range of work ó than their electric engine counterparts. Internal combustion also offers the advantage of having a liquid fuel source ó a fuel source that can easily be replenished at any location.

However, because they are often larger and more complex, internal combustion engines require significantly more maintenance. They can be more expensive if something breaks down, making them a slightly more risky investment in the used forklift market. 

Fuel costs for internal combustion engines can vary wildly depending on weather conditions and global markets. It doesnít help that ìvarying fuel costsî is generally code for increasing costs exceptionally quickly. Your business needs will determine if an internal combustion engine makes sense: if youíre looking for power, torque and mobility, there may be few other options. 

On the other hand, if your forklift requirements are for use in a warehouse, an electric motor unit may be a great fit. An electric motor unit has the benefit of being smaller. You wonít have to schedule an oil change every three months, for example. And, because the electric motors are relatively simple, repairs also tend to be less expensive. The drawback for an electric motor tends not to come from cost, but from flexibility for a variety of uses (indoor and outdoor).

Electric forklifts often require an eight-hour battery recharge cycle. If you need your forklift 24 hours a day, this may not be your best option. It will also be difficult to sustain use of an electric forklift. If multiple shifts are required, it may require additional batteries or an alternative charging system. 

An electric forklift, however, remains an excellent choice for smaller, indoor spaces, not just because of the access to infrastructure, but because electric motors produce no emissions. When it comes to electric lift trucks, they generally require less maintenance.

Running an internal combustion engine indoors is sometimes necessary, but it can require extra mitigation of emissions to maintain an optimum working environment. It becomes easy to see, then, why electric forklifts may be favored for indoor tasks while internal combustion forklifts tend to be favored for outdoor jobs. That said, every business is different, and individual needs will have to be weighed against the pros and cons of each engine type and your workplace. 

Used Fork Lifts and New Treads: Whatís in a Tire

As if engine type werenít enough to keep track of, thereís also tire type. There are two basic tires when it comes to forklifts: pneumatic and cushion tires. Cushion tires are great for indoor purposes, they are basically made entirely of rubber, which gives them better maneuverability. Finally, cushion tires are generally made to have very low clearance.

Pneumatic tires, on the other hand, are often filled with air and are designed to provide greater under clearance for your machine. Because this clearance allows the forklift to navigate over larger obstacles, pneumatic tires are generally the go-to for outdoor work. You can also find pneumatic tires that are completely made of rubber material (solid pneumatics), so they are essentially impossible to experience a flat. These tires are great in environments where there are many sharp or hazardous objects, lumber yards, for example. 

Purchasing a Used Forklift

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, we can start digging into the merits of purchasing a new or used forklift. As has been mentioned, the forklift you settle on will largely depend on what you need the vehicle to accomplish on your jobsite. So the merits of new and used will have to be weighed against the criteria you need the forklift to meet in order to be a viable option.

Naturally, new forklifts tend to be more expensive. Since the 2008 financial crisis, forklifts in general are in higher demand. Because of the demand, this means that the used machines can run from around $15,000 to $20,000 for a standard-capacity electric warehouse forklift. The battery new/used plays an important role in final costs.

Buying a new forklift from a reputable dealer is easily the safest way to go, especially as most new forklifts will include a warranty that will protect you from unexpected breakdowns for some time to come. However, there’s also no getting around the fact that this is the more expensive and can be almost twice as expensive as purchasing a used forklift. 

That said, it’s difficult to make the case that purchasing a used forklift is a catchall solution, as there are some things to consider in that type of transaction. 

Who Sells Used Forklifts?

The riskiest phase of purchasing a used forklift is generally the initial transaction. Itís incredibly important that you purchase your vehicle from a reliable source. 

Buying from a personal entity is often the least expensive option, but there are very few safety nets in that situation. Dealers will often at least certify the vehicle and offer options in terms of warranties. There are no such protections with people selling forklifts on an individual basis. 

Itís also wise to make sure you understand the terms of any pre-owned certifications offered by any used-forklift dealer. Not all certifications are equal, after all, and some will cover common, expensive problems while others will not. So make sure that the merchant explains all terms of any pre-owned certification. 

Thereís no doubt that the better the certification, the higher the price may be. Most people accept this as long as they really get what they’re paying for. Pre-owned certification really does represent peace of mind. 

The highest premium, though, is paid when one purchases a brand new forklift. While that may also offer the greatest peace of mind, it can be financially out of reach for many businesses. 

Protect Yourself When Buying a Used Forklift

Because forklifts generally do the same type of work, lifting and moving heavy objects (or groups of objects) there are often common stresses that can give away a subpar forklift. You can protect yourself by inspecting several key areas of the vehicle and making sure those areas meet your standards. 

If you’re satisfied with the condition of these functional areas, it may be worth scheduling a more detailed inspection of the vehicle. Reputable sellers of forklifts will be happy to allow a mechanic to take a look at the machine they are selling. If you run into extreme resistance when trying to schedule this inspection, it may be wise to consider that resistance a red flag and terminate the transaction. Depending on whom you are purchasing the forklift from, you may also request a transcript of service and maintenance performed on that particular vehicle to ensure it has been kept in good working order.

Who Is a Used Forklift Good For?

We should be clear here that buying a used forklift is not necessarily your best option in all circumstances. Any type of used industrial equipment will require some careful consideration. 

If you will be using your forklift for more than five hours a day, for example, or utilizing it under very rigorous conditions, then a used lift truck may quickly become a liability. The maintenance costs for a used vehicle will escalate quickly enough to outweigh any cost-benefits on the front end earned from buying used vs. new. 

On the other hand, if you will be using your forklift only moderately, five hours a day or less, then the maintenance costs will be significantly lower. 

Your Forklift Decision Will Keep Your Business Moving

A forklift is a vital component to any growing business, they allow your business to function smoothly, whether that business involves warehouse inventory or on-site construction. The type of work you perform will dictate the class of forklift you need, and that class of forklift will have a direct impact on whether itís a wise decision to purchase a new or pre-owned forklift. 

Buying pre-owned has certain advantages, chief among them the lower price of the vehicle, but you’ll definitely need to take some extra time to review the age, hours of use and general operating condition. You will also have to estimate how much work your forklift will perform to determine whether the accumulated cost of operation of an older vehicle will not be outweighed by the savings of buying used vs. new.

Whether new or used, itís likely your forklift will be a huge benefit to your business. To secure that benefit with the maximum peace of mind and return on investment, be sure to investigate several reputable options, such as McCall Handling, a company of lift truck professionals that has over 65 years of experience in the business. 

Our inventory is filtered through an expertise you can trust. We have a track record that goes all the way back to 1948. Doing business with McCall Handling is a great way to safeguard your new or used forklift investment.