Let the buyer beware at the machinery auction


I don’t think the inventors of the Latin phrase ‘caveat emptor’ were talking about construction equipment. But who knows, maybe they were talking about the construction equipment of their day like an ailing ox or a three legged mule. When buying a machine at the auction, a person has to have their guard up. Some of the machines at the auction may be in great condition and perfectly acceptable to purchase and go to work, however, that is not the case with many machines. Many times the best looking machine may have the most expensive repairs necessary. There are many reasons that machines are in the auction to begin with and that leads to why the machine may not be in good condition.

The recent economic downturn has driven a lot of contractors and machinery dealers into bankruptcy. When a contractor loses his machinery to the finance company, the finance company may put the machine in the auction. The contractor who lost their machinery wasn’t focused on maintenance, he was focused on a lot of other items that helped to keep his business running. That can lead to extended periods of running with dirty filters, lack of grease, worn out lubricants, bald tires or worn out tracks among other things.

Frequently dealers have to trade in machines that are too worn out to resell or even too dangerous to resell, the only option is the auction. Many times I have started a machine at the auction only to be surprised that it wanted to instantly start driving in one direction or another. Many rental machines show up at the auction, they have accelerated cosmetic wear but usually good maintenance programs. Machines damaged while on rent will show up at the auction. Frequently they are in the dead row, (machines that don’t run, and may look like they got run over by a big dozer).

A machine that has suffered an engine or drive line failure too expensive to repair will be at the auction. Also possibly in the dead row or bandaided together to last long enough to get through the auction. Some machines come from highly abrasive or corrosive chemical plants that will run around the clock, these machines will usually have fresh paint jobs and new hour meters, you have to look closely at to see what has been covered up.

Stolen and recovered machinery will show up at the auction, these machines may have missing serial number plates or painted odd colors in order to throw off the police. A person has to wonder how well a stolen machine was maintained. Ever see a Caterpillar painted John Deere Yellow with John Deere decals, it may have been stolen.

These are just a few reasons that machines may be in the auction in less than good condition. Remember, don’t start a machine at the auction unless you know where the throttle is and how to turn it off. More than once I have started a machine at the auction only to find that the throttle was left in the wide open position. I have written a whole series about what I check on machines, all of these checks can be applied to buying a machine at the auction.