5 Tips for Buying a Used Dozer

Not all used machines, or sellers, are created equal. Used equipment buyers have a little extra work to do in order to end up with a quality investment.

The quality care and preventive maintenance dealers put into their machines make them a good option for companies to find a quality, used dozer.
The quality care and preventive maintenance dealers put into their machines make them a good option for companies to find a quality, used dozer.

From diversification to growth opportunities, there are several reasons a company would be interested in purchasing a new dozer. When a brand-new machine isn’t an option, used equipment present a great opportunity for companies to expand their fleet.

But not all used machines, or sellers, are created equal. Used equipment buyers have a little extra work to do in order to end up with a quality investment and not a money pit. Whether a veteran buyer of used equipment or a first-timer, here are five tips to ensure the pre-owned dozer selected is a good buy.

1. Find the Right Source

The opportunity to find a quality used dozer has never been better. Dealer rental fleets are growing. Combined with the quality care and preventive maintenance (PM) dealers put into their machines, this is a great opportunity for companies to find the quality, used dozer they’re looking for.

Other options, including private sellers and auctions, exist and may require a bit more digging. Ask around, scour the web for online reviews and conduct additional research into the history of the seller. Look for red flags such as bad peer reviews, unethical business practices, even records of stolen equipment.

If choosing the route of a private seller, keep in mind his or her goal is to sell the dozer, regardless if the unit makes sense for the buyer or not. An equipment dealer typically has a large inventory and experts who can help a buyer determine which unit is the best fit. As a business, not only do dealerships have a vested interest in a happy, satisfied customer, building a relationship is also a great opportunity for the buyer to purchase parts and receive service on the machine down the road. 

Of all the options, auctions often offer a large quantity of used equipment in one place but come with their own concerns. Companies that struggle to sell used dozers on their own often look to auctions as a last resort. There’s also no recourse for buyers who end up with a machine that has hidden problems.

2. The Search is On

Just as there are numerous sellers of used equipment, there are several avenues an interested buyer can explore to see what’s out there. Because we live in a digital world, online searches are highly recommended by experts. Not only are websites evolving to be more search-friendly so it’s easy to seek out exactly what’s desired, online also offers the most up-to-date inventory selection. RDO Equipment Co., for example, developed its website to highlight used equipment inventory and provide an inside look at the history of the machine.

Going online offers opportunity to research used dozer options. Most manufacturers have informative comparison and research tools on their sites. Those who feel more comfortable purchasing a used dozer at a local dealership or rental center can go in with some background on what they’re looking for and what’s out there in the market. Newspaper classifieds and magazine ads are still used but keep in mind online typically presents the most accurate, up-to-date offerings available.

3. Timing it Right

While some industries have seasonal factors that affect used equipment availability and price, the construction industry typically doesn’t see that. But timing is still a factor in getting a quality used dozer at the best price.

Companies should look 30 to 60 days ahead to see if there’s an expected uptick in work or a certain type of project coming up that would require the addition of a dozer. This window allows enough time to search options and find what’s desired rather than settle for what’s available last-minute. In the case of a dealership that does a lot of rental business, there may be a dozer coming in from a rental within that time period, offering a unique opportunity to purchase a machine from the dealer’s rental fleet.

A smart buyer will also stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the industry overall, as market trends often dictate the equipment market. Keep an eye on auction prices, new equipment sale prices, and other online used equipment prices.

4. All in the Details

When the right make and model dozer is found from a quality seller, it’s a green light to buy, right? Not quite. A thorough investigation must be conducted on a used dozer prior to purchase.

First, ask to see a full evaluation, including hours, records of maintenance intervals and complete history of the machine. Ask for detailed photos to be included – both general shots of the machine and those that document major repairs and significant work done. While private sellers or auctions might not be able to provide the level of documentation desired, reputable dealerships will have full service records, and history of all PM and repairs done on every machine.

In addition to reviewing paperwork, do a visual walk-around inspection when possible. Signs of wear are normal but excessive track wear and, especially undercarriage wear, are concerning. If not addressed, both could lead to bigger problems, sometimes a full – and expensive – undercarriage replacement. Additional red-flag items are cracks, rust, and leaks.

Most reputable sellers will allow a potential buyer to test out a machine. If he or she isn’t a dozer expert, it’s worth bringing someone who is, for example, a veteran operator or service technician. Listen for strange noises, feel for rough operation points and be alert to anything that doesn’t feel right, and ensure overall functionality of the unit.

Machine age isn’t as much a concern as its hours. This is another example of where research and the machine’s undercarriage can be key points in finding the best deal. A machine with 1,500 to 2,000 hours on it should have quite a bit of undercarriage wear left, as well as plenty of life left in the engine and hydraulic components, so likely is a good buy. However, an older machine with more than 4,000 hours on it may be even better if it has a recent undercarriage replacement and still good life left in the engine and hydraulics. In many cases, warranties follow the machine and typically go to 5,000 or more hours.

5. Commitment to Care

The final tip for success continues long after the dozer has become a permanent part of a company’s fleet. As with new equipment, regular maintenance for used dozers is important to protect the investment and extend the machine’s life. And a little effort goes a long way.

At its most basic, a good PM program can be boiled down to five key steps:

  • Daily visual inspection of the machine before starting, checking for red flags like cracks and leaks
  • Daily check and refill of fluids
  • Daily greasing of crucial points
  • Regular check of the engine, including its air and fuel filters
  • Regular documentation of maintenance activities, including significant work and repairs

In addition to regular PM, dozer owners are advised to schedule a thorough service inspection every year with a local, trusted dealership.

A dozer doesn’t have to be shiny and brand new to be a great new addition to your fleet. With a little bit of homework, and effort to thoroughly inspect both a seller and machine, a used dozer can be a solid business investment.