Used Forklift Horror Story & 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Used Lift Truck

Here’s a “buyer beware” forklift story to get your wheels turning. This year, Andersen Material Handling learned a tale of a hard-learned lesson when it comes to purchasing a used forklift. A customer called in desperate of help getting his newly purchased forklift to operate. This customer had owned an LP forklift but when the time came to replace it, they wanted to switch to an electric forklift option. So, they began to look for used options online—on Craigslist in particular. After some time browsing, they found a used electric forklift from an out-of-state re-seller. Great price. Good delivery time (two weeks). 50% deposit upfront, balance on delivery.  


Everything sounded great. On paper, that is. The problems started with the shipping. The two- week delivery turned into two months. And it turns out the cost of shipping wasn’t included in the purchase price, and they needed to pay a hefty delivery fee. “At least it’s here now,” they thought. But the problems only continued. Upon inspection, it appeared that the customer bought more (or less) than he bargained for. The first sign: it wouldn’t start. That’s when Andersen got involved. A simple visual inspection began to explain the reasons why. Here’s what they found, and it is exactly what you don’t want in a used forklift: 


  • Although the truck wasn’t an old model,” it was used very hard. Based on the hour reading, it must have been in an environment with around-the-clock shifts. 
  • The charger delivered was not the correct charger for the battery (36V vs. 48V). 
  • The battery was at the end of its life. 
  • The charger and battery were set up for fast charging (which indicates hard and heavy use). 
  • The connectors were incorrect, from the forklift to the battery to the charger. 
  • There was no money-back guarantee. 
  • No training was provided on electric forklift operation, battery maintenance, or safety protocols. 


In the end, Andersen was able to get the customer ‘s equipment setup correctly, their operators properly trained, and employees instructed on safety protocol so they could finally use the forklift they purchased. This story serves as a great reminder that you need to be cautious and educated when purchasing a used lift truck. 


Buying from a reputable dealer is the best way to keep out of trouble when purchasing a used forklift. Andersen Material Handling offers only pre-inspected, quality, and warrantied equipment that will keep your company operating at its peak. We always do right by providing quality products and services to our customers because we want to make their lives easier while keeping them as long-term partners.  


Keeping the five tips below in mind will help you get the best deal every time, no matter where you buy.  


1. Forklift Type 

Which Forklift Types Should You Consider? 

Conduct a needs assessment. Consider which type of forklift is most appropriate for your business by developing a list of requirements. For example, what is the maximum weight the truck will need to lift, what lift height is required, and are they going to be working indoors or outdoors? 

What Forklift Do You Need? 

Once you know everything about how you will be operating your lift truck, you can begin to narrow your search to find the best fit when it comes to make, model, and year of manufacture. You can start by choosing an electric or gas-powered lift.  

Gas-powered forklifts or those with an internal combustion engine (ICE) used to be a standard choice, but efficient electric models began to replace them with unique benefits. Gas-powered lifts are generally cheaper, but they aren’t suited to indoor use as they are loud and produce fumes. Electric lift trucks are the best for indoor use, and they will be easier to maintain, but they will be more expensive, and you will need to have sufficient charging equipment and batteries.  

What Attachments Does Your Forklift Need? 

Different industries will have different needs when it comes to forklift attachments. You may need attachments at a large additional cost, so it will benefit you to include them in your budget for a used forklift. Attachments include side shifters, clamps, lighting attachments, lifting/loading attachments, and rotators.  


2. Will It Cost Less To Buy Used?  

A used forklift can provide all of the features and advantages of a new forklift at a much lower price — if you find the right deal. Unfortunately, many companies shy away from buying used because they think it’s much riskier. The truth is when you know what to look for, buying a used forklift is just as easy as buying it brand-new. Here are some important tips on what to consider when making a used forklift purchase:  


  • Make sure the depreciation and selling price adds up. The price should be heavily discounted the more wear the forklift has.  
  • Will the forklift need any repairs? Repairs can be costly, and if the cost of parts and labor will approach what you would pay for a new lift truck, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate.  
  • If electric, will it need new batteries? You should find the battery model and year of manufacture to find out how much you will need to budget for a new one.  
  • Are there any guarantees on the forklift? If your used lift decides to keel over, you could be out more than if you had invested in a new forklift. That is why it is important to use all of the below information to help you get the best deal possible. 


3) Forklift Use History  

How Old Is It?  

Forklift age can play a part in how difficult it is to find parts and equipment. Servicing an older model forklift could be more difficult than a newer model.  

How Many Hours Has It Worked?  

How many drive motor hours a forklift has logged is an important consideration in buying used. To avoid a situation like the above horror story, you will want to know exactly how many hours a forklift has logged and what kind of shifts it ran at the old company.  

Has It Been Properly Maintained?  

Check how well the used forklift has been maintained by asking for the maintenance and repair logs relevant to the specific forklift. Make sure a thorough mechanical inspection is performed prior to purchasing the vehicle. In the event of a breakdown, ensure the supplier can offer good service backup, ongoing maintenance, and quick repair.  

Has It Been Professionally Inspected?  

Reputable pre-owned equipment is fully inspected, cleaned and refurbished by factory-certified technicians. Integrity of all operating systems are verified to assure optimum performance. 


4) Will It Be Easily Serviced?  

Maintenance is a big part of operations, and it’s best for your budget if your forklift is relatively low maintenance. Gas-powered forklifts will generally require more maintenance, as will older lift truck models. You should ask how the forklift was maintained in the past and check for signs of preventable wear. If the seller is not able to describe their maintenance schedule along with monthly maintenance logs, it will raise a red flag.  

Does it come with a warranty?  

Always understand the details of any warranty associated with the equipment. Is an extended warranty an option? Andersen Material Handling offers several levels of protection to choose from when purchasing used or pre-owned equipment. Choose from Value or Performance levels depending on your use of the equipment. 


5) Test  Drive 

Test drive. After you have examined your prospective forklift thoroughly, drive it around; forwards, backwards, lift and lower. It should offer accurate tracking and be very responsive. This is an excellent time to notice any problems in handling and could prevent you from making an expensive mistake.  

Is Everything Intact On The Forklift? 

 You can take an operator checklist with you to ensure you don’t miss anything. You will need to go through and check off things like the brakes, wheels, tires, cables, hour meter, forks, steering, and so on. If you notice anything, ask about the problem to see if the seller was aware and if they will do anything to fix it. 


When you want to feel confident shopping for a used forklift, look to Andersen Material Handling. We offer a wide range of electric and internal combustion lift trucks in a wide variety of capacities. We only sell pre-owned equipment that can pass our stringent certification process and qualify for its warranty.


Click here to view our pre-owned lift truck program.