How To Buy a Reliable Used Forklift in Washington State

by Trey Barber, on January 27, 2023 at 9:09 AM

How to Buy a Reliable Used Forklift in Washington StateIf you've ever played Marco Polo, you have some idea of what it can feel like to buy a used forklift. You're shuffling through the dark, reaching out as far and wide as possible in the hopes of catching a winner. Sometimes you get lucky and find one right away. Other times, you don't.

But finding a used forklift for sale doesn't have to be that way. With a bit of research, you can easily separate the great finds from the lemons. Read on to learn what to look for when buying a reliable used forklift.

Service Hours

Service hours are a reliable predictor of forklift longevity. So generally, you'll want to avoid trucks with high hours. But what is high hours for a forklift? On average, a forklift has a lifespan of about 10,000 hours. So the further away the truck is from the 10,000-hour mark, the more life it has left. 

Your dealer may or may not have the exact number of service hours available for all their used forklifts. However, you can make an educated guess if you know the age of the forklift and how many shifts it operated per day. 

Each eight-hour shift results in about 2,000 service hours per year. That means a forklift in single shift operation has around a 5-year lifespan. But a forklift working two daily shifts will only last about 2.5 years on average. Bear in mind that these are only averages. Some forklift brands are more durable than others. 


Where and how a forklift was used matters. Used forklifts that have been consistently pushed to their limits will have a reduced lifespan, even if later operated in more supportive environments. While doing your research, check out the following for any used forklift you find:

  • Was it operated in extreme temperatures?
  • Was it operated in a clean environment or a corrosive one?
  • Did it routinely carry maxed-out loads?
  • Did it work more than one shift per day?
  • Did it operate indoors or outdoors?
  • How was it stored?
  • Was it used by trained drivers?

A forklift operated in a clean, mild environment will typically be a better choice than one often pushed to its limits, even with more service hours.

Maintenance Record

You'll want to request maintenance records along with verifying the forklift's service hours. A forklift that has been properly maintained will have a longer usable lifespan than one which hasn't. Any reputable dealer will be able to provide you with this information.

Remember to compare the maintenance record hours to the hours on the forklift's hour meter. This ensures you have a complete picture of the truck's actual service time. 

One way to ensure you are investing in a well-maintained forklift is to purchase a used rental forklift. Dealers have to replace forklifts in their rental fleet annually. When they do, they sell off rental forklifts. These forklifts are some of the best-maintained used forklifts on the market and come with a complete maintenance record.


Intended Use

Looking for your next forklift isn't just about digging into the past. You also need to consider the truck's future. How will it be used at your facility? How often do you need to run it? How heavy will the loads be?

Thinking through your needs before you purchase will ensure your used forklift will save you money both now and in the long run.

What’s in a Name

There are some things in life where the generic is just as good as the name brand. Forklifts are not one of them. Major forklift manufacturers became recognizable brands by producing forklifts that last. And this is never more apparent than when buying a used forklift.

Above, we've discussed expected lifespans and average service hours. But again, those numbers are averages. Forklifts from major manufacturers, especially those well-maintained, will exceed the average by up to twice as much. However, generic brands often don't even make it to the 5-year mark, regardless of how well-maintained they are.

Buying Season

Now that you know a little about what to look for in a used forklift, you might be asking yourself if there is a best time to buy. Usually, you will find the biggest selection of reliable, used forklifts for sale during the winter. This is when dealers like Mid-Columbia Forklift winnow down their rental fleets to make room for newer models. As a result, they'll sell off painstakingly maintained used forklifts at bargain prices during this time.

If you're ready to learn more about how to buy a reliable used forklift, check out our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Buying Used Forklifts. It covers everything we discussed and much more, arming you with all you'll need to make the best choice. Alternatively, contact one of our experts online or at one of our locations throughout Washington State.

Auburn 253-854-5438
Pasco 509-547-7413
Wenatchee 509-663-9009
Yakima 509-457-5137

Further Reading
When to Buy a New Vs. Used Forklift
Common Misconceptions About Buying a Used Forklift
What’s the Value of a Used Forklift?

Get the Used Forklift Buyer Guide

Topics:ForkliftUsed Equipment

About This Blog

Material handling articles to help answer the questions you have about forklifts, aerial equipment, utility vehicles, warehouse optimization, and safety.

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