Used Wheel Loader Buying Guide
The situation is simple enough: You need a used wheel loader. Whether you’re boosting your fleet or adding in a new machine to expand your operations, you might be wondering exactly what to search for, what to inspect, and how to make sure the wheel loader you find is truly the wheel loader you need. To help, we’ve put together this short used wheel loader buying guide.
Read on for our short tips and hopefully you’ll be a few steps closer to finding your perfect machine.
What Size Wheel Loader Should I Buy?
Because wheel loaders come in such a wide range of sizes, finding the right wheel loader can seem a little like being Goldilocks in the house of the three bears — This wheel loader is too big and this one is too small. But finding the wheel loader that is just right for you and your jobs will come down to taking a close look at the work you’ll routinely be undertaking and finding a wheel loader that fits that work.
To determine the size you need, it helps to start with the absolute maximum size job you’ll need it to do and make sure the wheel loaders you’re researching can all handle that job. Remember, it might be inefficient to use a wheel loader that is too big for a job, but it's impossible to get an underpowered loader to do more than it can. But you should also be smart in your evaluation. If you buy a wheel loader for the once in a lifetime big job, it might make more sense to plan around that job.
When considering the wheel loader’s size, take the following into account:
The bucket on the machine you’re looking at might not be the one you’ll end up using, but you need to know that the size of the bucket the loader can handle will work for you.
Lift Height and Load Capacity
Your loader, generally, works alongside other equipment and you might already have those machines rolling. An undersized wheel loader can slow down your operation as it needs to work harder to fill trucks or push materials and force equipment to wait.
Travel Distance, Work Layout, and Terrain
Compared to some other construction equipment, a wheel loader can be a fairly swift and nimble member of your machine team. When you’re thinking about size, it can be helpful to imagine how it will move around on your worksites. Do you need something snappy and flexible to hop from job to job or will the loader mostly stay in one place? Are clearances tight or will the loader be working in the great wide open?
How Old of a Wheel Loader Should I Buy?
If you’re researching used wheel loaders for sale, you’ve probably already made the decision that new isn’t the right choice for you. And you can have reached that decision for a lot of reasons: availability, costs, familiarity. The good news is that a wheel loader is a tough machine and with a little research you can often find a great machine at a good price.
Deciding how old of a wheel loader to buy is easiest when you take into account how it will fit into your operation. Ask yourself some basic questions like:
- How long do I expect to use this wheel loader before needing to upgrade again?
- Will this wheel loader be put to work constantly or will it just need to come off the bench occasionally?
- Does this new wheel loader have technology that will make my team more efficient?
- Is there technology in this wheel loader that my operators just won’t use, but I’ll still be paying for?
- Is this wheel loader a popular model? Are there replacement parts available?
When evaluating exactly what vintage of wheel loader works for you, it can also help to think strongly about your team. A newer machine might bring new efficiencies with it, but training operators and/or mechanics can also add time to your bottom line.
Which Brand of Wheel Loader Should I Buy?
While Volvo is credited with inventing the first wheel loader in the 1950s, once the wheel loader was introduced it quickly became popular and since its introduction a number of manufacturers have put their own spin on the machine. When it comes down to deciding the brand for you, it, again, comes down to weighing your options. If you have other machines from a certain manufacturer, there’s always some efficiencies in aligning to one brand — from understanding similar patterns in designs to a familiarity in certain controls.
If you’re more open to exploring manufacturers, often the best way to evaluate the machine is simply to run the machine through a few tests. Every manufacturer has certain ways of designing their machines and some of those decisions can come down to personal preference.
Since you are shopping for used, you will also want to, again, consider the availability of used parts. While not always the case, often a popular model from a popular manufacturer will mean there’s a better chance of finding a replacement part, if the need arises.
Some of the most popular wheel loader manufacturers are:
- Caterpillar Wheel Loaders
- Komatsu Wheel Loaders
- Volvo Wheel Loaders
- John Deere Wheel Loaders
- Kawasaki Wheel Loaders
- Dresser Wheel Loaders
What to Inspect on a Used Wheel Loader
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you’ll start looking at actual machines and to make sure you’re taking a close look at some of the most important parts, you’ll want to be sure to pay extra attention to a few particular parts of the loader.
The bucket on the machine can often be changed later and you might find a machine that is underpriced because the bucket needs work, but that’s something you’ll want to plan for ahead of time. Since a loader is only as good as its bucket, you’ll want to be sure the bucket is up to the job going forward. Check for wear in edges and teeth and look for any spots that have worn thin. You’ll also want to look for cracks or welds. While a crack or weld doesn’t mean the bucket won’t last, they should be noted, with an even greater emphasis put on cracks or welds in critical places like pin ears.
While proper fluid levels when the machine is being sold don’t mean that proper fluid levels were maintained for the life of the machine, if you do find low fluid levels it can mean that the machine has been neglected or is leaking at such a rate that maintaining them is difficult.
Tires and Rims
Both wheel loader tires and rims can be replaced later, but you’ll want to account for that cost in your eventual calculations. You’ll also want to see if the tires will fit with your work and your common worksite terrain — perfect tires that you’ll have to swap out because of their design aren’t always a great selling point.
If you do discover the tires need to be replaced, a little extra research around the cost to replace them can occasionally reveal a better understanding of the value of the machine. Most buyers prefer a machine that's ready to roll straight from the sales lot to a working jobsite, but if poor tires are dragging down the price considerably and you’re willing to buy a machine and tires separately, you might be on your way to finding value where others didn’t.
Getting access to maintenance records for a machine is always helpful, but not always possible. Still, taking a close look at the engine can often shed light on its condition. If you have access to the machine, you’ll want to take a close look at the engine and note signs for how it's been maintained. You should also start it a few times to see how easily it starts and even listen to how it runs. If the transaction is online, you should request plenty of pictures and don’t hesitate to request a video of the machine’s engine running — today this information is easy enough for anyone to capture and send so that it shouldn’t be too much of a burden to a seller.
A good working bucket cylinder and boom cylinder on a wheel loader are critical to the machine’s performance and even minor leaks can be a sign of bigger issues on the horizon. If you have access to the machine, you should check for leaks and also run the bucket through a few actions to note if it feels sluggish or its movements are irregular or stuttering in places.
What Should I Pay for a Used Wheel Loader?
If you’re reading this in 2022, you’ve probably already discovered a triple tidal wave of trends that are influencing costs for wheel loaders (new and used): An uptick in construction projects have led to more competition from buyers, many companies are expanding fleets in anticipation of new infrastructure projects, and lingering supply problems are causing both machine shortages and parts shortages.
While these trends have led some to reinvest in their current wheel loaders to extend their life until prices level out, not everyone can wait and no one can pinpoint the date that everything will normalize. The good news, and the reason why you’re likely searching, is that two of the trends can equate to an uptick in business if you’re in an affected industry. You can decipher some ballpark prices for what you should pay by sitting down and determining your return on investment using figures like costs you’ll save on maintenance or new income you’ll bring in with the wheel loader.
What to Search When Buying a Wheel Loader Online
If you’ll be buying your wheel loader online, you’ll want to find the best machine from the best seller. A good seller should be open to your questions and responsive about the condition of the machine. Unless you’re buying from an individual, you should research your seller to ensure they have a solid reputation. And don’t hesitate to request images and even video of the machine to help ensure you both agree on the condition of the machine and its important components.
By now, you should be well on your way to finding the perfect wheel loader for your business and putting it to good work for a long time.
At H&R, we’ve developed a thorough and qualitative evaluation process for every machine that arrives at our locations. For the machines we resell, that inspection process helps us ensure that when a machine arrives to a customer it’s exactly what they were expecting.
Most of the wheel loaders that pass through our hands are headed to salvage, however, but that rigorous inspection process is still the first step to evaluating a machine’s parts and determining where they’ll head next.
If you find yourself searching for replacement wheel loader parts (for the machine you’re still searching for or the ones you have), our Parts Specialists are always here to help. You can check our dismantled machines list to see if we’ve recently dismantled your machine or feel free to simply contact us and we’ll search both our inventory and our large, connected parts network. Just drop us a note.