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Forklift Truck Buying Guide


The humble forklift truck offers a vast helping hand to businesses across the world. If your business is expanding and you have never bought or rented a forklift before, this guide could save you from being caught out with the wrong truck. If you are a veteran forklift owner with an out-of-date fleet, it should offer a good checklist to ensure your new investment is the best it can be.

New trucks

With a new truck, you are spared the challenge of sourcing a well-maintained second-life machine. It comes with a guarantee, a service package and a certified dealer who can rectify early hiccups with a phone call, so your mind can rest easy. But your choice of truck is just as important when buying new.

It is a good strategy to rent the truck you are interested in before you buy it. If your budget can stretch, rent two trucks that will meet your needs and select them from different price brackets. This way, you can compare like-for-like and work out if the benefits of the pricier machine justify the extra cost. You can also assess which truck is most comfortable for your workers and, by extension, which truck improves the productivity of your workforce.  

With both trucks in situ, you will have the perfect test for assessing the suitability of the forklifts in your work environment. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does the truck reach high enough?
  2. Does the truck fit through your aisles, doorways, under mezzanine floors, retail space or HGV?
  3. Are the benefits of an expensive machine worth the extra cost?
  4. Which new machine visibly increases productivity?

If improved functionality is obvious when using the truck from the higher price bracket, industry experience recommends investing in the truck that will do the job right every time.  

Used Trucks

To make less of an impact on your budget, a used forklift might make more sense for your business. Forklifts encounter long hours and heavy workloads during their lifespan; knowing what to look out for when buying used could mean the difference between improved productivity and a stalled operation.

Questions in the ‘New Trucks’ section apply to a second-life machine, however, a full inspection is required to make sure you are being sold an honest forklift. When buying from a used forklift dealer, these checks have been made prior to purchase and the machine will be in full working order:

Manual and service reports – Ask to see the truck’s manual and make sure all warning labels and notices are present. All parts of the manual and service reports should be in the relevant language. Here at East Midlands Forklifts, if we are buying the forklift from a trade dealer on behalf of a customer it will not be supplied with a service history. If the forklift is from our hire fleet, a full-service report will be available.

Engine – Test ride the vehicle and note any irregular changes in engine noise. Leave the truck running for ten minutes and check beneath it for any leaks that are visible on the ground. Is there excess smoke? Activate the hydraulic functions and check these for any leakages.

Lift mast – Pick up a load with the truck if possible. Do the guide rails and fork carriage operate smoothly? The applied load should not cause the forks or mast to bend.

Brakes – Operate the brakes during the test ride to assess their modulation. Do the brakes stick or are they sharp? Do the brakes pull the truck to one side? If they work at a slow pace, test them again at typical operating speed.

Steering – There should be no play in the steering. The vehicle should feel stable when cornering.

Lights – Functioning lights are often overlooked. If any of the lights are not working, ask the seller if he/she can repair them prior to purchase.

Tyres – Cuts and bursts are often found on the tyres of working trucks. Check the tread and the tyre walls. The rubber should not be worn down to the tread wear indicators and the walls should be free of deep marks.

Battery – When buying an electric truck, ask to be shown the battery. If it is clean, it is in good working order. Visible corrosion is a tell-tale sign of advanced wear. Green or white crystals forming at the poles of the battery is sulphation, and this can mean costly repair or replacement. Does the battery come with a warranty and has it ever been refurbished?

Bodywork – This is important to check even if ‘looks’ are not important. Superficial damage to paintwork is clear to a buyer looking for a presentable machine. But look closely at the bodywork to identify rust, dents, or deformations that could be problem areas later.  

Thorough Examination Inspection – When buying a used forklift from a reputable dealer it should be supplied with a current Thorough Examination Inspection certificate.

Test drive – A reputable dealer may allow a test drive on your own premises. This is a good way to ensure the forklift will operate effectively in its place of work and immediately answers the questions in the ‘New Trucks’ section.

Now you have the tools to make an informed decision about purchasing a used forklift, there is one more consideration before setting out to find just the right machine.

Refurbished vs Check, serviced and paint

In the used market, forklifts are split into Refurbished vs Check, serviced and paint

categories. Refurbished forklifts are the most presentable machines for jobs where a tidy image is required, such as shop-floor work where customers will see the truck in action. If the machine will be seen by customers, it is worth considering a Refurbished forklift, not just as a workhorse, but as a representative of your business.

For general warehouse work, Check, serviced and paint forklifts are fully functional forklifts that show signs of aesthetic damage. Leftover marks from the truck’s previous life are visible, but underneath the bonnet, all mechanical parts are working perfectly. As any forklift truck owner will tell you, sooner or later a working truck will pick up knocks and bumps and still keep doing the job.


East Midlands Forklifts sell, hire and inspect forklifts in the East Midlands area. Used Trade and Retail forklifts for sale undergo the rigorous inspection described in this article, prior to sale. We have a range of forklifts to suit all applications at competitive prices. For more information about sales, hiring or inspection, please get in touch with one of our team today.

Video Credit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV48fnztoAI&feature=youtu.be


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