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Used Forklifts Tips - How To Avoid Buying A Lemon Part 3: Physical Inspection

Filed under: Used Forklifts

Last week we went through the 4 steps required to complete the research stage to ensure you were headed in the right direction. If you haven’t read our previous post, please feel free to go back and read over the key points to ensure you haven’t missed any vital steps. Today we’ll continue through to the physical inspection aspect of buying a used forklift and the tips and tricks you must be aware of.

pre-inspection of forklift


When deciding to purchase a used forklift, maintenance and service costs may be constantly lurking in the back of your mind. To alleviate any fears or doubts there are a few things you can do:

  • Always ensure that a record of the used forklift’s service history is physically shown in the books.
  • If records are lost or unavailable, make sure you have it inspected by a forklift specialist (this will help you avoid any unwanted mechanical failures soon after you purchase the forklift).
  • Ask about warranty, sometimes you may have to pay a premium for a warranty but it may be worth it in the long run.

-         Be aware of what the warranty covers (e.g. parts, labour, are there any hidden costs?).

-         See how much time is left on the manufacturer’s warranty. If it has expired it’s a good idea to see how much it costs to extend it.     

As touched on in part 2 of this series, if you are looking for a forklift around 5 years old, it is often better to go to major suppliers as these trucks are usually from their rental fleet, which means they would have been regularly maintained and serviced, thus they have been well looked after and will be a worthy investment.

Physical Inspection

forklift inspection

The most important step in purchasing a used forklift is the physical inspection. This is your final chance to evaluate the used forklift you have chosen and ensure all parts, attachments and features are functioning up to a standard that is suitable for your needs.

When you make the inspection, it would be wise to ensure a mechanic is present (either from your own company or an external company) to look and provide a clear evaluation of the used forklift. When with your mechanic learn as much as you can about the potential vehicle as it may help you with future purchasing decisions when the mechanic may not be present.

It may be worth paying a little extra for a better machine, otherwise you may end up paying a fortune in repairs and parts, not to mention the downtime or even worse injuries/damage to people/property. Specific aspects you may want to take extra care with when inspecting a used forklift may include:

  • Tyres:  Ensure they still have some tread on them otherwise it will not manoeuvre properly and may be extremely dangerous. If there is uneven wear this may signify a misalignment in the axle.
  • Mast: No external damage that is too severe (e.g. cuts, rewelding or major dints) and ensure it moves up and down according to what specs say.
  • Counter weight: Ensure the weight is appropriate in terms of size and weight.
  • Seat: Seats physical appearance is respectable and is comfortable for the size of the forklift operator and for the amount of hours spent on it each day.
  • Gears/controls: Gears & controls are smooth and responsive
  • Brakes: Brakes work immediately and under pressure (perhaps on a slope or with a load).
  • Paintwork: Look for rust, peeling paint or bubbles under paint.
  • Engine No: Ensure this is not scratched off.
  • Chassis No: Take note of the chassis number, this enables you to check the year the forklift was manufactured.
  • Rating Plate: Check all information on the rating plate is correct (model number, capacity etc.)
  • Hour Meter: Use common sense when looking at the hours. Hour meters are easy to replace and are known to break thus showing usually low hours for the used machine.


Prior to testing a forklift, take some time to visually examine the trucks exterior. A general assumption is that if it has been badly dented or scratched then it has been operated carelessly. Once you have assessed it visually, take it for a test drive.

It is important to note that you MUST have your forklift drivers licence before operating a forklift. When operating the forklift for the first time, take notice of the forklift’s manoeuvrability. Is it up to your standard when it:

  • Turns
  • Accelerates
  • Reverses
  • Stops – in a timely fashion.
  • Lifts – at the correct speed and height you need.
  • Lowers – at the speed and minimum height you require.
  • Tilts – to the correct angle you need to support your particular load. 

When testing, lift loads that would represent the normal load you would lift in your own workplace setting. Also manoeuvre the forklift in a simulated area of your workplace (put cones down at aisle widths where possible).

Finally, look into the cost of replacement parts before you acquire the forklift. Particular parts for certain brands can be expensive and hard to obtain.

Next week will be our final blog for the “How to Avoid Buying a Lemon” series concerning purchasing a used forklift and post purchase maintenance tips. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below and we hope to see you all next week.


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Next entry: Used Forklifts Tips - How To Avoid Buying A Lemon Part 4: Sealing the Deal

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