Used Crane : A guide on crane inspection and how to buy a used crane

excavators, crane, heavy crane

*Updated regularly to prepare you comprehensively for any used crane sale. Last update : 21 March 2021

What this Crane Inspection Guide aims to do:

Teach crane buyers how and what to inspect to assess the condition of used cranes, offline or online.

Why Used Cranes?

Used cranes are a cost-effective way to upgrading your fleet or to replace older cranes. New cranes are expensive and depreciate much quicker. Whereas renting cranes is expensive in the long-run. Used cranes cost a fraction of new cranes while having the same benefits of long term costs-savings (and in turn, increase in profit margins) and increased productivity.

Buyers of used cranes with less capital can have the same capabilities and are able to better compete with larger construction companies.

The only problem: How do buyers make sure they are getting quality and working used cranes? 

With a quick read of this guide by EQT Yard, you can learn to better shop for used cranes. As a construction assets marketplace platform supported by industry experts with decades of contractor and used heavy equipment trading experience, we know the challenges and risks of buying used heavy equipment. The benefits however, outweigh the risks. This is why we provide expert support to our users so they can improve capabilities and grow at a low cost. 

So if you want to learn more about buying used cranes, read on.  

1. Purpose of the Used Crane

Having a clear scope on what jobs the used crane would be on would help you with the shopping process. No point buying a used crane that you have little use for or paying for additional features that you do not need. This is why EQT Yard’s expert support team always ask about the type of job buyers are looking to work on. So if a certain crane is not available for sale, we are able to recommend similar (or even better) models at a lower price. Doing so allows our team to help you optimize productivity and efficiency.  For example, the type of load is also important as moving a tank filled with liquid requires different lifting conditions as lifting a block of concrete. Also, different terrains require different types of cranes. Uneven terrains require rough-terrain cranes and flat and even terrains allow for truck-mounted cranes. Lifting height should also be considered to determine ideal length of the used crane’s boom. These are but some of the considerations when decided on what crane to buy. 

2. When do you need the Used Crane?

As with all things, prices of used cranes can drop and rise according to market demand. If you do not need the used crane urgently, you are able to spend more time searching and waiting for a good deal. But if you wait for too long, someone else might beat you to the purchase. Our RFx Board allows users to post what they are looking to buy. This way, buyers can wait for offers to roll in to compare prices and conditions. More options, more choices. 

3. Brand

Not all brands are equal. Some have a better reputation for manufacturing excavators than cranes etc. Some well-known brands like Liebherr and Bauer tend to be more expensive. On the upside, as these brands are internationally known, spare parts and support are more readily available. You may also be required to select a used crane of a specific brand according to your company’s equipment standardization policy. Standardization would allow for cheaper overall operational and maintenance costs. 

4. Used Crane Condition

Most used heavy equipment are sold on an “as is” basis, meaning no guarantees or warranty as to their condition. The risk of paying for a non-working crane is the main reason why many are hesitant to buy used cranes. Here at EQT Yard, we manage those risks through a comprehensive system to maximize legal protection for our users. Some companies require a purchase agreement/contract but sellers often will not agree to clauses requiring guarantee of the condition of the used heavy equipment.  Always ask the seller what is the used crane condition as this also helps manage expectations between the parties. Thus it is important to buy from a reputable seller and to understand the condition of the crane. 

5. Inspection

You may consider bringing an operator or technician or even engaging a third party inspector to inspect the used crane in person. Start with the undercarriage, it is common to have to change a few pieces of the undercarriage. If a full rebuild is required, you should factor the costs into the asking price as it may exceed your budget. Check the tires or tracks for any damages or cuts. Inspect the boom and crane structure for any bent parts or broken welds. Cracks and rust should also be noted. Light rust can be common but heavy rust may require replacement of that part. If possible, you can also do a test drive to try out the brake systems. Other areas also include the inside of the operator’s cabin and the controls,electrical apparatus and pins,bearings, shafts, rollers, gears, locking and clamping devices. Also inspect for any leaks. This is not a complete list and there are more parts to inspect when buying a used crane. However it is important to balance normal wear and tear with more serious deteriorations.


6. Assurance and Security of Transaction

Do the buyers make payment first or do the sellers release the used heavy equipment for pick up first? Parties are usually wary when it comes to procuring from new sources due to the potential fraud risks. Buyers tend to buy from familiar and established sellers to reduce such risks as they do not want to be in a situation when payment has been made but the used heavy equipment is not released by the seller. Sellers also do not wish to be in a situation where they release the used heavy equipment first only to not be paid or be told that the buyer does not have enough capital and will be paying in parts. Unfortunately, this limits options for both parties as the buyer could miss out on a great offer just because the seller is an unfamiliar party. The seller on the other hand, would miss out on the opportunity to sell the used heavy equipment simply because the buyer is an unfamiliar party.

Solutions to this problem can include either escrow, letter of credit, part payment or a legally binding purchase agreement executed by both parties. EQT Yard makes sure that buyers are not limited to getting great deals from a few sellers and can buy securely from any sellers without fear of fraud. To protect our users, we use an escrow system that ensures payment is only made to sellers when certain conditions are met (one being release of the used crane). 

6. Additional Fees (excluding Purchase Price)

Purchasing used heavy equipment especially used cranes can require substantial capital. Cost of Insurance, tax like import duty rates , VAT or GST can add to that. You should always consider such additional costs as they may cause you to exceed your budget. It also helps to discuss such additional fees with the seller who may be willing to absorb some of these additional costs in order to sell their used heavy equipment.

7. Year of Manufacture

The used crane’s year of manufacture can be used to assess its age. A more recent year of manufacture tends to be preferable but not entirely indicative of the used heavy equipment’s condition. An older model with less working hours may be in better condition compared to a newer model with more working hours. If the buyer is not particular on the year of manufacture, an older year of manufacture can be used as a bargaining chip to get the best used crane price while still getting the job done.

8. Working Hours / Operating Hours of Used Crane

The amount of working hours / operating hours of a used crane can be indicative of its condition. The less working hours / operating hours a used crane has, the better. Age can sometimes be just a number as an older crane that has been lightly used can be in better working condition compared to a newer crane that has been heavily used. All other factors should also be considered for a holistic assessment of the condition of the used crane.

9. Geographical History

The used crane’s history is another important factor. The condition of the used crane can be affected by where it was being used. A used crane being used in urban areas and stored in a sheltered yard tend to be in a better working condition than a used crane being used in rural areas and stored in an open yard under all sorts of weather conditions. Excess wear and tear can lower the price and value of a used crane. Accident history is another important consideration as it may well indicate a technical defect in the used crane.

10. Owner History

A used crane may have several owners throughout its life. Used cranes traded between suspicious and less reputable businesses tend to be poorly managed and thus poorly taken care of. Whether the used crane has ever been seized is also a point to consider. If it has, it is likely that the used crane was not taken care of well.

11. Servicing History

A used crane that has been recently serviced can be a safer bet than a used crane that was serviced a while ago. It is also important to know how frequent the used crane was serviced. A regularly serviced used crane may be in better condition than a used crane that was recently serviced but with a history of servicing at long and irregular intervals. Thus, a recently serviced used crane with a consistent and regular history of servicing is likely to be a positive indicator of the crane’s condition.

12. Availability of Spare Parts

Like new cranes, used cranes will be required to undergo maintenance and repairs at regular intervals. They may also require replacement spare parts. The availability of spare parts for your used crane is an important consideration.

13. Maximum & Minimum Lifting Capacity

The lifting capacity of a used crane is another key factor behind its price. The higher the maximum lifting capacity, the higher the price of the used crane. It is important that you have a clear understanding of the job scope you intend for the used crane. You should not be over paying for a used crane with a lifting capacity of 200 tons when you are only looking for a used crane with a lifting capacity of 100 tons. You can avoid such a situation by ensuring that the used crane meets your current and future objectives before jumping into the purchase.

14. Servicing Requirements (Reconditioning, Refurbishment and Repairs)

Most of the time, used cranes are so much cheaper than new cranes that buyers have room in the budget for additional servicing work to improve the used crane’s condition. Knowing the scope and extent of servicing works can help you manage your budget. In most certain countries, repair / reconditioning / refurbishing costs are low due to low labour costs. Often, a used crane that has been refurbished is still much cheaper than a new crane of the same model. 


Used heavy equipment are an economic way to improve productivity and upgrade your existing heavy equipment fleet. They also maximize profit margins by drastically reducing costs. The lower prices of used heavy equipment can mean that you are buying multiple used heavy equipment as opposed to a new heavy equipment for the same price. The biggest barrier to such benefits tend to be the purchasing process as buyers tend to view it with uncertainty and risks. These risks can be managed to ensure that you get a great deal. First time buyers of used heavy equipment may want to engage a third party inspector. However this also means paying for inspection even if you decide to not buy.  EQT Yard is a construction assets marketplace supported by industry experts with decades of contractor and used heavy equipment trading experience. 


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