What to Do Before You Buy a Used Excavator

Buying a brand new excavator from a reputable manufacturer is always going to be a preference by anyone in business. It’s shiny, new, and when you choose from the likes of Kato excavators or other standout brands, you know it’s going to suit your needs well.

However, what you prefer and what you can afford are two different things. You’ll be pleased to know that with new excavators come competitive financial repayment agreements, but that still might not suit everyone. If that’s the case, then you might be looking at used excavators instead.

Used excavators can get a bad name for themselves because they’re used, sometimes worn, and often require a lot of maintenance. You can find yourself lumped with a bad egg – all because you were trying to find champagne on a beer budget.

If you spent a little time checking out the excavator – or any used machinery before you buy it – you may be able to avoid unexpected costs. Here are a few things to look for when you’re on the hunt for used excavators.

Check for Movement or Looseness:

Before you sink your life savings into a second-hand excavator, make sure you check for any movement or looseness in and around the boom. Most importantly, check the slew ring. A slew ring, which is a rotational bearing, is an expensive part to replace or repair on an excavator. Rotate the housing and see if there is any looseness around this ring.

You can then move on to the stick, bucket, and boom. The pins and bushings should be tight, not loose. If you buy the excavator with these problems, they will be evident by the accuracy of your excavation task. It can be a costly problem to fix.

Identify Any Damage:

When you see a car that’s dented and damaged, you often think that the owner didn’t care enough to look after it, or that they’re just not that good at driving! Any damage to an excavator can be an alarm bell – especially if the damage is in critical areas.


Check all connection points and welds, especially between your bucket and stick and the stick and boom. If there are any signs of wear or cracking in these areas, then you could be in for a complete boom replacement. Even large dents, while not entirely detrimental, can show that the previous operator didn’t use a lot of care.

Proceed with caution, or weigh up whether it might be a better idea after all to purchase new Kato excavators or an equally as reputable brand.

Look for Hydraulic Leaks – Or Leaks of Any Kind:

When have leaks ever been a sign of anything good? When your roof leaks, it means you have a hole in it. When your tap leaks, you need to replace the washer. So, when your excavator leaks, that’s going to put a frown on your face as well.

Check for any signs of fluid on the machine and ground. Open up the hydraulic pump compartment and check this out as well. Review all lines, hoses, and cylinders with an eagle eye. The slew bearing should also be free of leaks too, as this can prove there is too much movement – a costly problem as we established earlier.

While a leak doesn’t necessarily mean a catastrophic problem, it will need to be repaired before you can use it. It might be something you can use to negotiate the price.

Look Out for Scalloping:

An excavator that doesn’t operate at full potential can cost you a fortune in productivity. When living costs in New Zealand are exceptionally high, that’s not money you can afford to waste. Therefore, if you decided not to buy new Kato excavators and went down the used route instead, you may want to pay attention to scalloping.

Scalloping is half-moon shapes in between your excavator bucket’s teeth. The presence of scalloping indicates a reduced cutting force, which could mean that the bucket needs to be replaced. That might not be a cost you anticipated on top of the excavator purchase as well.

Pay Attention to the Hour Meter:

An hour meter is a way of knowing how much work your excavator has done. It comes in handy for regular servicing and for gauging the best price to sell your excavator as well. However, if the hour meter is broken or its reading appears questionable, you may find the requested price tag is a little high.

If in doubt, check the control pedals and operator seat. Excessive wear can mean the excavator has done more hours than the meter shows. Such an excavator may not be one that’s worth taking a chance on.


Kato excavators and other reputable brands are always going to be a business owner’s first choice. But nothing stays new for long, and will eventually fall into that used category. You may be able to save some money and still get a decent excavator by shopping in the used market. However, don’t take anything at face value.

Check all parts, identify wear and tear, and consider a professional’s eye over the machine to see if it’s worth your while. It’s better to be safe than sorry.