Buy a Used Forklift

New forklifts are expensive pieces of equipment. If your business only uses a forklift for a few hours or less a day, it may be more economical to buy a used forklift. Before contacting a dealer or company to inquire about used forklifts, you must identify what type of model you need. When comparing used forklifts for sale, it's important to find a dependable model, especially if your company relies on one for its daily operations.


  1. Determine what type of forklift you need. Forklifts vary in brand, size and purpose. If you have previously owned a forklift, determine what aspects you liked and didn't like about the lift.
    • How much weight does the forklift need to lift? Always purchase a lift that can handle at least the heaviest load, even if you rarely lift that much weight.
    • What is the maximum height the load will be lifted? Forklifts vary in how high they can lift a load. Again, think in terms of at least your maximum height.
    • Will the forklift be used outdoors or indoors? Engine forklifts are typically used outdoors and electric lifts are used indoors.
  2. Contact used forklift dealers and other possible sellers. Inquire about specific used forklifts that are in your price range and meet your requirements.
    • Some new equipment dealerships may have used forklifts that were part of a trade-in.
    • Forklift rental and lease companies may have used forklifts for sale.
    • Local businesses that recently purchased a new forklift may be selling the used model directly.
  3. Visit sellers and compare potential used lifts.
    • Ask the seller how many hours the lift has been used. Most machines have an hour counter that keeps track of its running time. The hours of operation are more important than the year model when it comes to buying used forklifts.
    • Look over the maintenance records. Has the forklift been maintained and serviced on a regular schedule? Check to see if any parts have been replaced during the service.
    • Inquire about the factory warranty. If it is expired or soon will expire, it may be possible to pay a fee to extend the warranty. Equipment with a warranty is your safest purchase.
    • Have a qualified forklift operator view and test-drive the lift.
    • Ask a mechanic to check the forklift for potential problems that you have identified or might have overlooked. Add the cost of needed repairs into the selling price when making comparisons.
  4. Make the purchase once you are satisfied that you have found a used forklift in good operating condition.


  • Some companies, such as Toyota, offer certified used forklifts. This means that they ensure that the lifts have passed inspection and are of top quality.
  • and other online classifieds sites have equipment listed to help determine market pricing for certain brands and models of forklifts.
  • On a lift truck, inspect the lift cylinders and motors for leaks. Check to see how stretched the lift chains are (you should not be able to insert a dime between the links if they are in good shape).
  • On a pallet jack (pallet truck), use another forklift to lift the tips of the forks a few inches off the ground and look at whether the wheels and fork trailings move and show slack. If they shake and rattle, expect an expensive repair in the near term ($2000 - $3000 parts and labor).
  • Ask the manufacturer to confirm the age of a lift truck and provide you with its build history. A serial number can sometimes include the date of manufacture. Some brands print the date on the overhead guard.
  • Leasing companies and large food service companies depreciate their forklifts over 8 years. An 8 year old forklift will have no book value for the seller, therefore, the pricing should be lower than a younger lift truck (although it might be in better shape depending on its use over the previous 8 years).
  • Be sure to get the hour reading, as the higher the hours of the forklift, the more likely you are to encounter repair issues. Find out if the hours are original or as read.
  • Tire type plays a big role in how you are using the forklift. If you are driving the forklift on a smooth terrain, use cushion tires. When riding on an uneven or shifting surface (gravel), you should be utilizing pneumatic tires as they can handle that surface with ease.
  • Reconditioned forklifts can be similar to buying a new forklift as the entire machine is inspected and worn parts are replaced to give the buyer a unit that is like new, with barely any noticeable hours.


  • Be sure to find out what kind of warranty exists on the forklift. Companies can sell a forklift as is and if you have major problems, then you could be stuck paying to repair it just to get it running.
  • Always ensure your forklift has the lifting capacity to lift your loads safely at ground level and at height. A smaller forklift may seem to have no issues carrying a heavy load close to the ground, but raised a few meters up in the air can cause the forklift to tip forwards if due care is not taken and weight calculations are not made - always refer to the forklift manufacturer's lifting capacity data plate.
  • Also ensure your forklift is still small enough to effectively be maneuvered around the workplace - Generally forklifts with a lifting capacity over 3 tons will have a much bigger rear end (used as a counterbalance weight) which therefore makes them much less maneuverable and requires more space to turn and maneuver through aisles or tight spaces.

Related Articles


You may like