5 useful tips when importing used construction equipment

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The used earthmoving construction equipment market in Africa has become a multi-million dollar business that has attracted not only many secondhand dealers but also online auction houses eager to tap into this fast growing market. Buyers in Africa are not new to the concept of used goods given their already insatiable appetite for used cars from Japan, Europe and Dubai. In the case of used cars several years ago it resulted in the collapse of several new car franchises in Africa which is a testament to how significant this market force is.

Used machinery is here to stay and machinery franchise holders have even caught on the game by introducing what they call factory refurbished equipment in order to remain relevant to market expectations. And what are those expectations? Reasonable prices for reasonably good equipment.

When buying used equipment five key pointers emerged when we interviewed various global second hand dealers. We highlight them in this article as well who to go to and have peace of mind.


Firstly, just as with new equipment when buying used, a buyer needs to carefully inspect the equipment and enquire on any warranty availability. Inspection is key so check out for any oil leaks and welds on the structure of the machinery both of which can signal a poorly maintained machine or one which was used very roughly to the point of breaking, hence the welds. Heavy smoke when the engine is turned on is also a bad indication as is any seized parts and don’t be fooled by a smooth talking salesperson either who may tend to downplay these flaws. Dustin Graves of Hoss Machinery International says that you should ask for service history, oil samples and photos of the machine and if you can know who owned the machine originally that would even be better.
If you are going to have to buy over the internet Bob Chafla of RLC Equipment based in California, USA advises that you can opt to appoint a local dealer or franchise holder in the region to inspect the machine on your behalf. This is far cheaper than paying for an air ticket and accommodation costs if you were to do the inspection yourself. Lieven Pauwels of Machinery Resale of Belgium adds that you can even ask for a video clip of the machine to see it in action though hidden problems will not be easily noticed.

The way of the herd

Secondly, going for equipment that is from the more popular brand names will ensure that parts will be available. You don’t want to get stuck with a brand name no one knows and hope to find spares for it round the corner when it breaks down. The scrap yard is filled with such machines that were purchased unwisely because of the unbeatable price offered and got grounded for lack of parts.


And that brings us to price. This should not be your only guide when buying a piece of equipment. Low price may result in upfront savings but misery later on with escalating costs due to downtime and repairs. Better to pay a little extra for a reasonable machine than rock bottom price for a doubtful machine. German Flores of Worldwide Group who sell and rent machinery puts it well when he says that you only get what you pay for.


Several dealers of second hand equipment tout the advantages of less electronics and this is with good reason because in Africa technical support may not be sophisticated enough to sort out an electrical fault with a computerized system . Your technical team will love you for choosing the old tried and tested models that are simply to operate and maintain not needing high-end computerized diagnosis when it fails to start up.
With time however the old will give way to newer machines and as German of Worldwide Group says tier 4 machines will be in the secondhand market soon and with their more sophisticated electronics and special fuels to meet emissions restrictions in Europe and USA the machines will be pricier.

Track record

Lastly, nothing beats good referrals. A dealer with many satisfied customers is one to look up. Getting your hands on a second hand grader or earth mover is not hard these days. There are many second hand equipment suppliers and many dealers of the popular machinery brands also offer refurbished machinery. In addition to this the internet has introduced online auctions where one can bid for machinery in real time on websites for auctioneers who pride themselves on selling only quality equipment with referrals and testimonials to boot. Look for reputable firms and you’ll be off to a good start. Paul Hindle of Clements Plant warns however that there are many fake companies out there ready to swindle any would be customer with very nice websites but with no equipment at all, so buyer beware!

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1 thought on “5 useful tips when importing used construction equipment”

  1. Thanks for mentioning that you need to inspect used heavy construction equipment before you purchase it. That does seem like it would help prevent you from buying a broken piece of equipment. It might also help you figure out if the equipment is going to break done soon.

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