Buyer’s Guide to Used Compact Construction Equipment

Buying compact construction equipment is a tricky game. Some of the more specialized equipment isn’t required for every job you take, so for these pieces, it can be tough to earn a return on your investment.

In these cases, buying used is a great way to balance the cost-benefit scales. Research and due diligence are paramount, though, so when it comes to purchasing the equipment you need, we at Ring Power would like to help you make the best decision you can.

Why Buy Used?
In short, when you buy used, you get more bang for your buck. Buying used allows you to purchase a higher-quality machine than you may be able to afford if you were shopping for brand new equipment.

Proper maintenance by the previous owner is a big contributor to the quality of a piece used construction equipment, but thanks to programs like CAT’s SOS Services, you can shop the used equipment market with confidence.

Buying used can put you on the cost-effective side of the depreciation curve as well, which is a big advantage if you ever decide to sell your equipment later. Going this route means the first owner paid the 40% depreciation cost on that vehicle. With proper care and maintenance, you could potentially own that piece of equipment for the cost of maintenance and fuel — and not have to worry about the depreciation.

Heavy machinery enjoys long product lifecycles, and advancements in operations and technology don’t happen nearly as often as in other industries. Many people want the “latest and greatest,” but in the world of construction equipment, a machine that’s not the “latest” might still have all of the necessary features that allow it to retain claim to the title of “greatest.” It just doesn’t change that much from year to year.

Buying used equipment from a reputable dealer like Ring Power can help you get exactly the equipment you need to get the job done while realizing significant cost savings.

In this buying guide, we’ll give you some tips on what to look for when shopping for equipment, as well as an idea of what you can expect to spend. Keep in mind that prices vary greatly based on capacity and age, so these are just ballpark figures. Visit your nearest Ring Power location to discuss our large inventory of used construction equipment.

Compact Wheel Loader
Wheel loaders are used to transport or load materials which are too heavy to be moved efficiently by hand. Similar to skid steer loaders, they are used at worksites and in warehouse and stockyard settings when you need to move dirt, asphalt, debris and the like from one place to another.

Wheel loaders, as the name suggests, use wheels and tires to drive and steer. Wheel loaders are generally more efficient than skid steer loaders, as their engines are less powerful given the same rated operating capacity (ROC). Some compact wheel loaders have 4-wheel articulated steering, meaning that all four wheels turn, which helps to improve maneuverability.

Common Uses for Compact Wheel Loaders
Common uses for a compact wheel loader include moving debris and asphalt at a worksite, moving materials around the stockyard and removing large amounts of snow from a large parking lot.

Loaders can also accommodate a number of attachments for the hydraulic boom, increasing versatility.

What to Look for Before You Buy
Depending on the requirements of the previous owner, the plumbing for accessory attachments may or may not already be present. If you intend to attach more than just the standard bucket to your loader, make sure the plumbing is included and intact to get all of the hydraulic lines properly connected to the new attachments.

These attachments will also be sold separately, so figure out ahead of time which attachments you will need so you can get everything in the original purchase. Attachments are more prevalent for skid steer loaders than for compact wheel loaders, but wheel loaders can also handle their fair share of different tasks.

You’ll also need to compare and measure horsepower of any machines you’re considering. While it may not be as important as comparing ROC ratings, make sure you know the weights of the loads you’ll be moving around and get a machine that is up to the task.

Common Issues and Maintenance Tips
Tires, hydraulic lines and pistons, as well as cabin electronics should all be in serviceable working order. Look for damage as you would on any other piece of equipment when examining a used compact wheel loader.

To ensure your equipment remains in good working order, keeping an eye on the condition of the tires and hydraulic lines is the first step. Enrolling your equipment in a program like the Cat® SOS service will help to keep you on top of the routine maintenance of the machine.

Prices: $5000 and up

Skid Steer Loaders
Used for the same tasks as compact wheel loaders, skid steer loaders are a little more maneuverable, while providing similar performance in terms of load capacity. Choosing between a compact wheel loader and a skid steer loader can come down to personal preference when comparing general specifications, but there are enough differences to push an informed buyer in one direction or the other.

Common Uses for the Skid Steer Loader
As with the compact wheel loader, skid steer loaders are used for any job where the task is to move a pile of stuff from one place to another.

What to Look for Before You Buy
Because of the drivetrain configuration and shorter wheelbase, skid steer loaders are more maneuverable than their compact wheel counterparts. Although the four-wheel steering versions of the compact wheel loader can hold their own, they don’t approach the zero-turn radius performance of a skid steer loader.

Typically, skid steer loaders have more options for attachments as well. So if you value versatility in your machinery, you may gravitate toward the skid steer loader. However, the cabin is more utilitarian, and it’s much less roomy. If your driver is going to spend eight hours a day in that seat, they may appreciate the more comfortable cabin of a compact wheel loader.

Skid steer loaders are also going to be less fuel efficient than their compact wheel counterparts, but components on the machine are generally going to be less expensive. Calculating operating cost differences between the two options should factor in more than just the fuel costs.

Common Issues and Maintenance Tips
The two most important components to keep an eye on are the tires and the hydraulic system. Make sure the attachments you use are the correct size for your loader. Using attachments that are too heavy or that require more hydraulic flow than your unit provides can cause undue stress on the tires, the chassis, the hydraulic system and the engine. If you find any evidence of this on a used skid steer loader, move on to the next one.

Prices: $5000 and up

Multi-Terrain Loaders
Sometimes referred to as compact track loaders, multi-terrain loaders are designed for use in applications that require a more delicate tread on your working surface. Because the machine is run on two tracks instead of four tires, the machine’s load is spread out over a larger contact patch, which does less damage to softer terrain such as grass, cement and loose soil. The tracks also provide superior traction, which is helpful in snow and mud.

Common Uses for Multi-Terrain Loaders
Multi-terrain loaders are employed in scenarios where large amounts of material need to be moved around a worksite, especially if that site isn’t asphalt or cement. If your loader will see most of its time on asphalt, you will likely be better off with a compact wheel loader or a skid steer loader. If you will be spending most of your time on a farm, a lawn or similar soft ground, the multi-terrain loader is likely going to be your best bet.

What to Look for Before You Buy
Because multi-terrain loaders generally have higher operating costs than their skid steer counterparts, make sure you have done the preparatory research to know which piece of equipment is going to be best for your job. This isn’t to imply that multi-terrain loaders aren’t worth the extra money. There are some jobs and environments where only the multi-terrain loader will perform adequately, so in those cases, you don’t really have a choice.

Be confident, however, you are making an informed decision. Ask yourself the following questions:
Will you be working on any soft terrain where leaving tracks would be an issue? 
Will you be working in any environments where traction is not guaranteed? 
Is it more important to get the job done quickly, or to minimize your equipment costs? It is generally accepted that a multi-terrain loader can do most jobs more efficiently than a skid steer loader, so the extra cost of the machine might be offset in other ways.

Common Issues and Maintenance Information
The idea of maintaining a track instead of a tire might be daunting, but track maintenance is no more difficult. As with the other loaders listed here, the hydraulic system requires regular maintenance. Be sure to check it out thoroughly when examining a used multi-terrain loader.

Prices: $5000 and up

Integrated Tool Carriers
At first glance, it may seem that the proliferation of attachments for compact wheel loaders spells the demise of the integrated tool carrier. Tool carriers are designed to work with several different attachments to lift loads, while a compact wheel loader can lift with several different attachments and push some loads around with its bucket attachment. A more versatile wheel loader renders the integrated tool carrier obsolete, right?

As always, things aren’t that simple. Because of the differences in the coupling linkages and the hydraulic lifting arms, a wheel carrier still cannot quite match the performance of a tool carrier in some areas. 

Common Uses for the Integrated Tool Carrier
As the name suggests, an integrated tool carrier can be used for just about any task on the jobsite that requires lifting loads. With the right tools at your disposal, excavation and bucket loading can be accomplished with the machine as well.

What to Look for Before You Buy
If your company performs a wide range of job types, chances are you have a wide range of tool requirements. A tool carrier is designed to be more flexible than a wheel loader, so you can accomplish more without having to bring a whole fleet of vehicles to the job site.

Because these machines are designed to swap tools, you want to look at the linkage assembly and make sure it is in good shape. Connecting attachments improperly can put stress on the linkage, increasing the potential for failure.

Common Issues and Maintenance Information
Aside from the linkage assembly, typical maintenance issues for a used integrated tool carrier are going to be similar to the issues wheel loaders may encounter. Keep the tires, hydraulics and engine in good shape, and it will perform faithfully.

Prices: $10,000 and up

Mini Excavators
For digging projects, mini excavators have a couple advantages over their bigger brothers. First, the price difference can be overwhelming. While mini excavators can run from $20,000 to $90,000 retail, full-size excavators generally start at $130,000 and go up to $500,000. That extra money gets you a much larger machine with greater capabilities. But if your jobs are small, why spend money for a tool that’s larger than your needs? Better yet, buying a used mini excavator can save you even more money still.

Second, the smaller size of a mini excavator means some models can be transported by a ¾-ton pickup and a trailer, which makes transportation much easier. If your mini excavator can fit on a trailer and you have a pickup that can handle the load, you don’t need a CDL just to move it from site to site.

Common Uses for Mini Excavators
Mini excavators can be used for digging trenches for utilities, removing concrete, excavating swimming pools or anything that involves putting a new hole in the ground.

What to Look for Before You Buy
The biggest consideration with a mini excavator is to make sure the boom length and digging depth can handle the largest jobs you are likely to take. Check the tracks and the hydraulics to make sure they are in good working order. All of the normal components should also be examined for proper care and maintenance.

Common Issues and Maintenance Information
Since all of the operations of a mini excavator are managed by the hydraulic system, it is especially important to make sure you properly maintain the system on this machinery. The tracks should receive the same attention they would on a multi-terrain loader.

Prices: $12,500 and up

Dump Trucks
Dump trucks are used to haul large loads of material to and from a job site. Knowing which dump truck to consider requires knowledge of the size of the loads to be hauled and the terrain on which the dump truck will be working. Some models and tire options are designed for on-road travel only, but there are others that are best-suited for off-road tasks.

What to Look for Before You Buy
Shopping for a used dump truck is much like shopping for a used car. You want to make sure the engine has been serviced regularly and the chassis elements are in good shape. Inspect the hydraulic lift system for signs of wear and misuse.

Common Issues and Maintenance Information
Again, maintaining a dump truck more closely resembles a car or truck than the other equipment on this list. Regular service for the engine and suspension will help keep your truck on the road. Purchasing retread tires can help keep maintenance costs down as well.

Prices: $100,000 and up for heavy-duty dump trucks

Telescopic Handlers
A telescopic handler is the ideal machine for an environment where a traditional forklift either can’t physically go or just merely can’t reach. Ideal for rough terrain environments and longer reach requirements, a telescopic handler is better designed to handle some tasks than a wheel loader with a fork attachment.

Common Uses for Telescopic Handlers
Telescopic handlers can be used in warehouse settings, mining, agricultural and industrial settings. A telescopic handler would be preferable to a traditional forklift on worksites where the terrain is not asphalt or concrete, or where the load would need to be lifted at an angle that a traditional forklift can’t reach.

What to Look for Before You Buy
Make sure you know what load capacity your machine has to handle before buying a used telescopic handler that is too small. Inspect all of the normal components to ensure it has received proper maintenance and care. Inspect the attachment linkage for signs of improper use and undue stress.

Prices: $17,000 and up

Why Buy From Ring Power?
At Ring Power, we have an extensive inventory of high-quality, used equipment at our ten Florida locations. Stop by or call us to see what we have to offer and discuss financing options. We can help you increase the versatility of your operation without breaking the bank.



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