The current market makes it difficult to justify large capital expenditures. “A lot of people right now are looking to manage their fleets very carefully,” says Paul Hendrix, equipment pricing analyst, Iron Planet.
Purchasing high-dollar earthmoving equipment such as motor graders and scrapers can be especially challenging if you don’t have a large backlog of business. One viable solution is to purchase used late model grading equipment manufactured in the last five years.
“Some of the late model units we sell have very low working hours and are an excellent option to purchasing new,” says Doug Olive, senior director, pricing and valuation, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. “By doing your homework prior to attending an auction, a contractor will be able to leave with a work-ready motor grader at fair market value.”
Bargains are especially plentiful for motor scrapers.“The used market for motor scrapers has been really tough. If you look at the used market for those assets over the last three years, they have literally been falling off a cliff,” says Hendrix. “I think most people would think twice about making the cash outlay on a new motor scraper when they can buy used for such a bargain right now.”
Know what you’re getting
Before buying a used earthmover, it’s important to perform a thorough inspection. Unless you are an experienced mechanic, Olive advises you bring one along to complete a walk-around of the machine that you are considering purchasing.
“When inspecting a used motor grader, there are a few ‘rules of thumb’ to keep in mind and some basic things to ask for,” says Wade Porter, ADSD motor grader application specialist, Caterpillar. “Overall cleanliness of the machine will give a good indication of how well it was kept up. Structural damage, gouges, etc., can indicate the grader was used in heavy applications (e.g., rock), which will reduce its life expectancy before major repair and/or overhaul.”
Ask for the machine’s service records. “Whether or not it was serviced regularly, and by whom, will give you a good indication of the condition the grader is in, especially for the areas ‘below the surface’,” says Porter.
Take oil samples. “Fluid samples can tell you a lot about the current condition of a major component such as the engine, hydraulic system, transmission, etc.,” notes Porter. “Most major brand dealers offer this product support service.”
Motor grader inspection
When inspecting a motor grader, look carefully for any repairs that may be required. “The components on a motor grader that can lead to costly repairs are the circle, tandems (rear housings) and the center pivot pin,” Olive points out.
It’s best to take a systematic approach. Hendrix uses a four-point process to evaluate all types of equipment. “You can get into some pretty complicated systems with some of these units, especially motor graders,” he states. “There are so many pivot points and wear points, it is literally a minefield if you get overwhelmed by it.”
The four points to examine include structural, mechanical, hydraulic and ground-engaging components. “If you break any inspection down into those four components, it is easier to concentrate on each one individually and then come up with an aggregate at the end to determine the overall condition of the unit,” says Hendrix.
Start by looking for any structural problems. “If a motor grader does not have blade accumulators and you hit something with the blade, you can do a lot of damage to the A-frame, which is the part of the frame that carries the blade circle,” says Hendrix. “Look carefully around the A-frame of the blade circle to make sure there are no structural failures.” Make sure there are not any plates, cracks or welds.
Then examine the mechanical items, including the engine and transmission. Note how easily the engine cranks and whether there is a miss in the engine or any leaks. “Get it in gear and make sure it operates in all forward and reverse gears,” Hendrix advises.