How to Buy Used Forklifts That Are Safe

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How to Buy Used Forklifts That Are Safe

Buyers with heavy hauling demands and limited budgets can purchase used forklifts to carry loads through warehouses, garages, and large worksites. Knowing what to look for when shopping for a used forklift, however, can be a confusing prospect for first-time buyers. Forklifts are designed to incorporate widely-accepted relational principles to maintain stability when lifting heavy loads, so buyers need to understand how to determine which lifting capacities they need before shopping for a used forklift. Failure to stay within the maximum weight-bearing restrictions when operating a forklift can lead to serious injuries for a forklift's operator or others within a work area.

Used forklifts can be found at local forklift manufacturer dealerships and industrial tool suppliers as well as online at marketplaces like eBay. Since purchasing a used forklift is often a long-term investment, buyers should prepare as much as possible before searching for their perfect used forklift model. In general, buyers should understand the physics of forklifts, the types of forklifts available, and how to gauge the condition of used models to ensure that a used forklift is a safe and value-added addition to their worksites.

The Physics of Forklifts

For forklifts to lift loads and manoeuvre on wheels through worksites, manufacturers apply a number of physics principles to design their forklifts. Understanding these physics principles helps used forklift buyers to gauge the stress and carrying capacities of different types of forklifts. A forklift is a cantilever-based lifting device, which utilises counterweight to maintain stability. The counterweight of a forklift is the forklift's main body in most cases. For a forklift to resist tipping forward when it lifts loads, a comparison of the weight of a forklift's counterbalance must be made to the weight of its load and positioning of the load in relation to a forklift's centre of gravity. This comparison of weights and gravitational force is referred to in physics as "moment".

Manufacturers make advanced calculations based on moment principles to determine the lifting capacity of their forklift models. To operate forklifts safely, users must stay at, or below, a forklift's maximum load capacity. Before shopping for used forklifts, buyers should, therefore, estimate the weights of the heaviest loads they plan to haul to identify the lifting capacity they need their forklifts to provide.

Types of Forklifts

Forklifts are manufactured in a number of different types, which are designed to match the everyday challenges of most worksites. Which type of forklift is the most appropriate depends on the particular needs of a buyer.

Stand-Up Rider Forklifts

A standard, stand-up rider forklift employs a counterweight within the body of the forklift to supply stability when the forklift is in operation. To operate the forklift, users stand within the main body of the forklift where they are protected from falling loads by a roof. Because stand-up rider forklifts are very popular, manufacturers produce a number of specialised models to meet the demands of their customers.

Stand-Up Forklift Subcategories


Stand-up rider: narrow aisle

Omits the counterbalance within the main body of the forklift; stability is provided by straddle legs on both the left and right sides of the front of the forklift

Stand-up reach rider: narrow aisle

Employs straddle legs in the front of the forklift and includes a mechanism that allows operators to extend the forks of the forklift forward to pick up loads

Stand-up rider: order picker

Allows users to stand in the front of the forklift so they can be elevated with the forks to access loads stored in elevated positions

All types of stand-up rider forklifts can raise loads to 2 m. For buyers who require loads to be lifted to 4 m, a narrow-aisle, stand-up rider forklift that contains a mast is the best purchasing option because of its added height.

Sit-Down Rider Forklifts

Sit-down rider forklifts contain a cab that allows a user to sit while operating the forklift. Unlike other models, sit-down rider forklifts typically employ a steering wheel instead of levers to guide the forklift while it is moving. To maintain stability, this type of forklift has four tyres. The back tyres of a sit-down rider forklift can be at the edges of the forklift, or situated together in the middle of the back of the forklift, depending on the model.

Hand Pallet Forklifts

Hand pallet forklifts are designed to slip through the slats of large wooden pallets and lift the pallet up for moving. Some hand pallet forklifts permit an operator to stand on the back of the forklift, while others require that an operator walks behind the forklift to move it. Hand pallet forklifts also vary by their lifting mechanisms and can contain automated lifting mechanisms or lifting mechanisms that are manually cranked to raise a pallet.

Used Forklift Specifications

When possible, it is best to purchase a used forklift that has an owner's manual as part of a sale. This allows buyers to have a detailed list of specifications and replacement part information for their forklifts, as well as an overview of safety procedures to keep in mind when the forklift is in operation. All is not lost, however, if a manual is not included with a used forklift, because manufacturers install capacity plates on forklift models before the models are released from a manufacturer's warehouse. These capacity plates list a forklift's most critical information like the maximum capacity limits of loads and the height of a forklift's centre of gravity.

Used Forklift Condition Issues

To make the most valuable used forklift purchase, buyers should check the condition of the forklift thoroughly. This generally entails systematically evaluating different parts of the forklift for excessive wear or damage.


Forklift tyres can be either cushion-type or pneumatic-type tyres. For both tyre types, buyers should see if the tyres are properly inflated and free from any worn spots, which could weaken the tyre. Additionally, the nuts that fasten a tyre to a forklift should be clean and tight.

Forks and Masts

Forks and masts are essential components on a forklift. To lift loads securely, a forklift's forks and mast must be even. While evaluating a forklift, buyers can use a level to make sure the forks and mast are straight. Buyers should test the hydraulics of the forks and mast for smoothness when the forks and mast are being raised or lowered. After operating the forks and mast, buyers should also look for any hydraulic oil leaks along the forklift's mechanisms and oil well.


The integrity of the engine can largely determine how much use a buyer can expect from a used forklift. Because of this, buyers should check the engine both before and after operating the forklift. Any belts within the engine should be free of cracks and frays and engine fans should not wobble when in use. Battery connectors should contain no signs of corrosion. A leaking radiator is a sign of poor maintenance and needs to be repaired before the forklift can be operated safely.


The brakes of a used forklift must be fully functional to control the forklift adequately. Buyers should, therefore, test the brakes of a used forklift both with and without a load when possible. Safe brakes stop a forklift smoothly and do not create a jerking motion when in use. If any problems are found with a used forklift's brakes, buyers need to be prepared to have the brakes professionally repaired before operating the forklift.

Buying Used Forklifts That Are Safe on eBay

eBay carries a wide selection of used forklifts that can meet the challenges of most buyer's demands. To find used forklifts easily, buyers can type keywords, like "used rough terrain forklift", into eBay's search field. After eBay generates search results based on the keywords, buyers can apply eBay's handy filters to limit results further. Buyers may opt to apply lifting capacity filters to narrow search results based on a used forklift's weight-bearing restrictions. Additionally, buyers can apply location filters to find used forklifts in their areas if they would like to test drive the forklifts before purchasing.

While browsing through used forklift options, buyers should carefully read the eBay product listings that accompany every forklift offering to learn important information about a forklift, like its fuel requirements and manufacturer's name. Buyers should also check to see if an eBay seller has a detailed maintenance history of a used forklift available. This helps buyers determine the condition of a used forklift before purchasing.


Purchasing a used forklift that is safe relies greatly on the thoroughness buyers engage in before, and during, shopping. Buyers should understand the basics behind the physics that make forklifts possible in order to truly appreciate why forklifts are manufactured with weight restrictions. If buyers overload their forklifts, the likelihood of injuries and damage increases significantly. Manufacturers release a number of different types of forklifts, which can all provide benefits and limitations depending on the particulars of a worksite. Because of this, buyers should consider both the loads they plan to lift and where the loads are placed after they are unloaded from the forklift. All forklifts can raise loads, but buyers who need loads lifted to great heights require forklifts with masts. Condition issues impact the safe operation of a used forklift, so buyers should evaluate each component of a forklift separately for evidence of wear or damage. Once buyers know what to look for to ensure a used forklift is safe, they can visit eBay to find a wide range of used forklift models with different capacities and conditions.

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