Tips for Buying a Used Forklift


There are a number of reasons why a warehouse owner might choose to purchase a  used forklift over a brand new one. Often, second-hand forklift trucks offer increased reliability and durability over new alternatives. 

In addition to this, they also come with a much smaller price tag, making it exceptionally affordable for almost any warehouse, regardless of its size, to benefit from high-quality material handling equipment that’ll suit both their needs and their budget. 

Where purchasing refurbished forklifts, along with other pieces of warehouse equipment, is a popular solution among many of those in the industry, it’s important that you know and understand what to look out for before making that all-important decision. Buying a used forklift online can be tricky because you are only relying on the seller’s images and description. 

Check the used forklift for any damages

When inspecting the used forklift you would like to buy, start from the front of the vehicle and work your way round to the back. You should be keeping an eye out for cracks, bends and any other signs of wear or damage throughout. Cracks are particularly worrying as they indicate that the forklift may need to be replaced in the not-too-distant future – not what you want if you’re looking to get a considerable number of hours out of the machine yet.

Make sure to pay particular attention to the heel of the fork blade as this area is often forgotten about by those looking for any damages or simple wear and tear. If you notice that the back of the blade doesn’t match the depth of the fork shank, which is positioned upright, then this is a sure sign that the forks themselves are worn and will need to be subsequently replaced as soon as possible.

Look for any gaps in the lift chains

It’s important that you look along the mast for any visible cracks or even welding marks where cracks might have been rectified. If the weld has been done poorly, then that could end up affecting the structural integrity of the mast itself. 

Keep this in mind because you may need to replace the mast at some point if this is the case and that could add to the overall cost of a second-hand forklift truck. When looking towards the middle of the mast, take the opportunity to also inspect the lift chains for corroded or missing pins and/or links.

Ask someone to operate the mast for you

A fully-functional, safe mast must operate smoothly at all times. Before committing yourself to buying the second-hand forklift, make sure you ask the dealer or a company employee to operate the mast for you. This way, you’ll be able to see how well it performs, particularly when handling a heavy load.

If you find that the mast doesn’t go up and down in a smooth motion, then it could mean one or all of the following:

  • The links in the chain need to be fixed
  • The mast rollers are worn or damaged
  • The mast rollers have not been adequately lubricated or maintained

A quick and easy way to tell if the mast rollers are worn or damaged is that they’ll be more of an oval shape as opposed to a perfectly round circle. The more distorted it is, the more damage the mast roller has suffered over the years.

Inspect the tyres closely

Kneel down to the level of the tyre and take the time to both look and feel for any chunking signs. It’s also important that, much like with car tyres, you check for any bulges, cuts, slashes or distortions. If you find any of the aforementioned things, then the tyre will need to be replaced as soon as possible and the forklift should not be operated until the switch has occurred.

You should also take note of the tyre tread, because like with car tyres, forklift tyres can wear down and even become frictionless over time. This will put your workers at risk, whether they’re the ones operating the forklift or on the warehouse floor. If the tread is low or non-existent then that specific tyre will need to be changed before the vehicle is used again.

Determine how much life is left in the battery

It’s unfortunate, but the number of hours a forklift has worked isn’t recorded like how a car’s mileage would be. As a result, there are several ways of determining how much life is left in the battery, including the following:

  • Asking the dealer how many shifts the forklift has worked
  • Determining how old the forklift is 
  • Asking the dealer whether the battery has been changed recently
  • Checking the service history of the forklift

When asking the aforementioned questions, you should look to seek out any and all paperwork which backs up the dealer’s claims about the forklift and the state of its battery. If they cannot provide you with any evidence of a new battery being fitted, for example, then you should look elsewhere for a used forklift, just to be on the safe side.

Make a request to see the engine

Ask the dealer to turn the forklift on and either leave it running for a short while or have an operator drive the vehicle around for a few minutes. Once the engine has been on for a decent amount of time, ask to open the engine compartment and start looking for any cracks or leaks, particularly on the hoses.

You should then pull the dipstick out to check the engine oil. If the oil level is low then it might suggest a leak, so keep this in mind upon inspection. It’s also imperative that the belts are as tight as they can be and that they’re also well-lubricated throughout.

If you can see the brakes, then check those for wear or damage and then ask someone to show you that the brakes do work in their current condition. You should also use this opportunity to check the brake lights for good measure.

Keep an eye out for leaks

As well as the engine, you should also look to check the following parts/areas for leaks:

  • Along the length of the mast
  • Mast cylinders
  • Around the radiator
  • The transmission

Also be aware of any emissions that the forklift could be giving off while it’s running – you should be able to determine this based on smells when the forklift is operational. If you’re looking to purchase a diesel forklift, then this could indicate a problem with the catalytic converter.

Understand how all of the safety features work

You’ll need to make sure that all of the safety features work, together with exactly how you operate them. You’ll need to check that the following are fully-functional before you agree to purchase the forklift:

  • Horn
  • Seatbelts
  • Seat adjustments
  • Lights
  • Brakes
  • Levers

It’s also important to note that the OHSA requires that the overhead guards, if there are any, should have less than three quarters of an inch of deflection, so make sure you take a closer look at the overhead guard. Any damage could mean that you’re putting your forklift operators’ safety at risk.

Multy Lift are a highly-experienced, fully-trained forklift company who are proud to supply their customers with high-calibre forklifts, both new and used, in order to meet your budget, needs and expectations. They’re also pleased to provide a wide range of new and used warehouse equipment, as well as forklifts, including reach trucks, order pickers, tow trucks and more. For more information about how Multy Lift can help you today, get in touch with a member of their dedicated team.

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