The case for well-worn jobsite soldiers
by Christopher Mellott
October 24, 2016

Maintaining a fleet of telehandlers and aerial work platforms that will meet customer demands during busy construction seasons is not always easy. Experience helps the fleet owner know the number of pieces and types of equipment that should be available. But experience cannot raise the capital required to purchase this equipment. To avoid large capital outlays, many fleet owners are taking advantage of alternatives to buying new, including the least expensive option—used, “as is” equipment. Other options are progressively more expensive and vary from one provider to another.

Not All Reconditioning Is Created Equal

However, not every piece of reconditioned equipment on the market can be labeled “like new.” That’s because the reconditioning process varies from one provider to another. As a result, the scope of work can be as simple as applying a fresh coat of paint and installing new tires, or as complicated as tearing the machine down to its frame and rebuilding it to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications.

This is why it is important for equipment owners to carefully consider the provider as they shop for reconditioned equipment or look for a company that will provide reconditioning services. They should begin their search by asking for a detailed description of the scope of work that was or will be performed, thus setting expectations of what they will be purchasing. Related questions include:

  • Will the machine be completely disassembled?
  • What percentage of the machine will be replaced as new?
  • What will not be replaced?
  • What items in each of the following four areas—electric, hydraulic, engine and structural—will be replaced, rebuilt or repaired?
  • If parts of the machine are being rebuilt, are they being rebuilt by an OEM or to OEM standards?
  • What is the life expectancy of the reconditioned equipment? If it is advertised as “like new,” will it have the same life expectancy as a new piece of equipment?

Another important consideration is the extent to which the provider will stand behind its work. Will the company provide a 90-day, 6-month, 1-year or 3-year warranty? The warranty is a testament to the confidence that the provider has in its work and should instill confidence in the buyer as well.

Seeing Is Believing

Shopping for a provider of reconditioned equipment or the reconditioning process should also include a trip to the provider’s facility. Is the facility a brand-certified reconditioning center, which holds strict guidelines regarding the facility, its procedures and its staff? Is the facility dedicated to reconditioning? Is work performed in a single bay or on a production line that closely resembles lines in a manufacturing facility? Is the staff fully trained in the reconditioning process? It is important to note that technicians certified for annual inspections are not necessarily equipped to perform tasks in the reconditioning process.

It is also important to consider the experience of the provider. How long has it been reconditioning equipment? How many machines has it actually reconditioned? How frequently does it recondition equipment? Can it provide several references who will attest to the quality of the work? If it does, be sure to contact them. Will it provide service after the machine is purchased or reconditioned?

Know What You Are Getting

In any transaction, it is always a good idea to clearly articulate your expectations and confirm that the provider is able to meet them. In the case of reconditioning, some providers will allow their customers to customize the process based on budgets. While some steps in the process can be enhanced to upgrade machines to the newest technologies, none of them can be scaled back or eliminated. Doing so would invalidate the warranty.

When sharing expectations, machine owners should include how much they intend to use the machine. For example, if the machine will be used every day, it is important that the engine is rebuilt.

However, if the owner is not planning to use the machine as much as reconditioning would allow, it might behoove the owner to consider purchasing a certified used piece of equipment rather than making the larger investment in a reconditioned machine whose full potential will never be realized.

Reconditioning Is Not for Everyone

This raises the question, is every machine a candidate for reconditioning? In the case of an older machine, will it be difficult to find parts, both for the reconditioning process and for later repairs? In most cases, if a machine is still in production, parts will be available. However, when a machine is no longer in production, a limited volume of replacement parts will likely drive up the cost of reconditioning and future repairs. In this case, it may make more financial sense to dispose of the asset and consider another price point. Even a certified, used piece of equipment might be newer than the old asset, and still cost considerably less than a new piece of equipment.

In addition to age, major structural damage or other problems may make reconditioning too costly. That’s why a good reconditioning program involves two levels of inspection. The first begins with a thorough inspection of the frame and all readily visible components. A second inspection, after teardown, completes the view of all needed repairs, including any that are above and beyond what is considered routine for the reconditioning process. Armed with this information, owners can make informed decisions on whether reconditioning makes sense.

In the event that reconditioning makes sense, what can an owner expect in terms of time involved in the process? The schedule varies from one provider to another. For example, at JLG Industries, the machine is delivered to one of three reconditioning facilities 7 to 10 days before the reconditioning process begins. At this point, the machine is inspected, and a report is sent to the customer. The process itself takes 10 to 14 days, so that a customer will be without an asset and its associated revenue no more than 30 days.

Less Cost, Longer Life

For many, the decision to recondition equipment is a financial one, saving