Used forklift trucks are making their mark on the market, but can they match the quality of new equipment? Alex Leonards explores why companies are choosing refurbished trucks and the considerations needed to be made when buying.
Brand spanking new equipment is no longer the accepted norm for the warehouse when it comes to purchasing forklift trucks. Used and refurbished trucks are growing in popularity – and not just for small or medium sized businesses. Larger ‘blue-chip’ companies are also buying into the equipment.
“Take up of refurbished trucks is on the rise across a broad range of industries, by companies large and small; the main determinant is application,” says Neil Warren used equipment director at Jungheinrich. “If companies are looking at an intensive operation, for example, where a forklift will be required to perform shift work all day every day, then a new truck is most likely best.
“However, if a vehicle is only to be used for five or six hours a day, such as at the end of a production line or for less intensive loading duties and yard work, or more occasional usage, then a high-quality refurbished forklift truck may well be a suitable option.”
He says that, as a rough guide, high quality second-life equipment should be ideal for a 1000 hour to 1500 hour application, but a good supplier will work consultatively on this, to establish the exact truck to meet a customer’s unique requirements.
But can the quality of a used or refurbished truck match that of a new one? “In short, it depends,” says Peter Harvey, chief executive for the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA). “Buying second hand can be an affordable way to obtain a fork lift truck, particularly where the equipment will only be used occasionally.”
However, he says that it is still very much a case of “buyer beware” when it comes to acquiring a used truck. Especially if a business is considering buying from an online retailer.
“A refurbished truck can be restored to perfect condition both technically and visually, meaning the quality of a refurbished truck should be no different to a new one,” says Warren. “It should have the highest standards of safety and sustainability and it certainly shouldn’t be apparent that a truck is ‘used’ to the naked eye.”
But buying a forklift truck can be a complex task – there are many factors to consider. “Buying a forklift is very different from buying a car,” adds Harvey. “It’s a complex and potentially dangerous piece of equipment and you, as an employer, are responsible for making sure it is safe and suitable for purpose.”
But why would a company choose a truck that is either used or refurbished?
“While I’m sure most of us would prefer brand-new equipment that benefits from the latest technology and has no prior wear, finances are a significant deciding factor for buyers,” says Harvey.
“Choosing to buy a used or refurbished truck can be a very wise financial decision, but it does require more caution than if you were buying new from a manufacturer-approved dealer.”
Jungheinrich’s Neil Warren says that refurbished forklift trucks are just as well suited to certain applications as new models, and can offer companies significant cost savings as a result.
“With the right supplier, available trucks also offer the highest standards of quality, reliability and safety, but at a fraction of the price,” he says.
“At Jungheinrich, for example, our JUNGSTAR range of refurbished trucks undergoes a refurbishment routine that is completely unique in the market, whereby each truck is systematically stripped down, assessed and rebuilt on the production line at our dedicated factory in Dresden.
“As such, we can confidently say our refurbished trucks are as good as new with the industry’s best benefit-to-cost ratio, which we deliver with the same 12-month warranty as new Jungheinrich trucks.”
Well-refurbished trucks can mean that customers are able to benefit from the same economic and technical advantages of a new truck.
Of course, cost is a big factor in deciding to choose a refurbished truck. The cost of a refurbished forklift is between 70-75 per cent of a new truck, depending on the model, according to Warren.
“ Most refurbished trucks in the market are also available under similar contract rental and warranty agreements as new vehicles,” he says. “However, many suppliers will only offer them under three year contract.
“Due to the quality of the Jungheinrich rebuild and strict guidelines over vehicles considered fit for refurbishment, we expect our trucks to last at least another five years. We therefore offer the same finance packages, full maintenance contracts, and 12 month warranty as with our new vehicles.”
Is it the right route?
There are many considerations to be made in the process of acquiring or selling a used or refurbished truck. “There shouldn’t be any challenges to using or selling refurbished trucks that are at a standard that’s good as new,” says Jungheinrich’s Neil Warren. “However, there are considerations.
“Whether a refurbished truck is actually the right route for the customer is the main one, and to answer this, suppliers must work with their customers to assess the duties a truck will be performing.”
Of course, not all trucks are refurbished to the same standard. Warren says that for those looking to invest in a refurbished truck, it’s really important to look into the quality and value on offer. Identifying how rigorous the refurbishment process is, the age of the truck, the number of hours it’s worked, and its service history is really crucial.
“ It’s not uncommon to find a used truck on the market that’s ten years old or more and on its third or even fourth life,” says Warren.
As well as this, safety is an important factor to incorporate in a buying decision – making sure the truck has a CE mark of approval for European use is key.
The FLTA’s Peter Harvey also outlines a number of considerations to make before jumping in at the deep end. “With several thousand pounds on the line, it’s worth investing a few minutes to prepare yourself before taking the plunge,” he says.
Finding out more about the seller, and insisting on a site survey are just some of those considerations.
“Forklift trucks might all seem alike, but they vary enormously – according to how they are kitted out,” he says. “A reputable dealer will offer to inspect your site and application to ensure that the truck they provide is appropriate to your needs. Online retailers are far less inclined to do so.
“As an employer, the safety of the truck operator is your responsibility. Getting the wrong equipment could end badly for everyone – with damage, accidents, fines and, in the worst case, even imprisonment.”
He says that conducting a visual inspection is important, and that one of the clear disadvantages of buying online is that you’re forced into relying on the seller’s images and description. “A visual inspection should look for any rust, damage, or indications of an underlying fault – such as cracks, repair welding, or fluid leaks,” he says.
It’s also really important to take the truck for a test drive. “A good warranty is crucial when buying a second-hand truck. It’s important that you know how long your warranty period lasts, what it covers and – significantly – what is excluded,” he adds.
One of the biggest things to look out for is making sure that the truck is not a “dodgy import”. “There are a growing number of rogue imports on the second-hand fork lift market and it’s vital that you avoid them,” says Harvey. “Not only are they hard to source parts for and hard to sell but, in the event of an accident, such a truck could even invalidate your insurance.”
Jungheinrich launches Milton Keynes showroom
Jungheinrich UK has launched a “Forkcourt” showroom and business hub in Milton Keynes. The site is a drop-in hub for local customers to look at the company’s range of remanufactured forklift trucks.
The new facility has been designed to look like a car showroom, where people are able to drop in when and as they choose without an appointment.
“The Milton Keynes ‘Forkcourt’ is an opportunity to showcase the quality of these five-star refurbishments and their economic, technical and ecological benefits to our customers in Milton Keynes and the surrounding area,” says Neil Warren, Jungheinrich. “Combined with our new Business Hub concept, we look forward to working more collaboratively to support local industry and the materials handling and intralogistics requirements of the companies it is comprised of.”
This article first appeared in Logistics Manager, June 2018