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Used, Rough-Terrain Forklifts Have Come Down in Price

Offering huge benefits for hauling loads around the farmstead and field, values of forklifts have softened due to a loaded market.

Once considered a disposable-income purchase, forklifts have grown in popularity to the point that they’ve now replaced tractor loaders on many operations. The entry point for most farmers was the factory-floor forklifts dumped on the used market by the bushel basket when the general economy slumped in 2001 and manufacturing slowed down. At this same time, more seed and chemical were arriving at farms on pallets or in totes that begged for a lift truck to move and store. 

Since then, producers’ appetites for lift trucks – whet by the advantages such vehicles offer for easily moving loads to heights beyond the reach of a tractor loader – have expanded to include rough-terrain vehicles that offer higher ground clearance, lugged tires, and greater lift capacities ranging from 3,000 pounds and beyond 50,000 pounds. 

The added appeal of rough-terrain mast lifts is that they are feature-rich, with options such as four-wheel drive, sideshifting forks, tilting masts, and cabs with or without air conditioning. 

Besides their growing popularity, another reason to consisder a rough-terrain lift is that improvements in the general economy have loaded up the used market with a fleet of trade-ins. The most popular lift sizes are vehicles with load capacities ranging between 5,500 and 7,000 pounds. 

The Pocket Price Guide offers recent sales of the most popular makes in this lift range. Of the hundreds of sales uncovered online, this guide lists those with the lowest hours.

Both Caterpillar and John Deere are missing. This is due to the fact that both manufacturers discontinued making rough-terrain lifts.

One fact you’ll notice in the Pocket Price Guide is the narrow range of final prices. Unlike farm machinery sales (which can be greatly influenced by regional differences), construction equipment generally trades at the same value nationally since buyers are able to comparison-shop online.

However, there are substantial price differences with makes of lifts. 

For example, look at the $10,000 vs. the $24,000 Case 386G lifts. That wide spread can be readily accounted for when differences in hours or optional equipment are taken into account. Those variations aside, forklifts generally trade in a consistent, narrow price range.

what about telehandlers?

The alternative to a rough-terrain mast lift is an extended-reach forklift, often called a telehandler. Such loaders have seen extensive use in livestock operations, primarily large dairies.

The telehandler is immensely popular on construction sites, as well, because they not only offer similar load capacities and lift heights to rough terrain mast lists, but also can reach out as far as 60 feet and beyond (depending on the model) to pick off or place a load.

This explains the recent interest in used telehandlers by farmers and ranchers who appreciate not only the machine’s reach but also the fact that they often have more features compared with mast forklifts, such as standard four-wheel drive. 

As a price comparison for the rough-terrain mast listing in the guide, following are recent sales of telescopic lifts in the 6,000- to 7,000-pound capacities with their price ranges:

Caterpillar TH306B:

  • 2004: $17,000 – $24,000
  • 2005: $15,500 – $27,000
  • 2006: $16,000 – $34,000  

Gehl RS642:

  • 2005: $17,000 – $18,900
  • 2006: $18,000 – $21,500
  • 2007: $18,500 – $23,000

Ingersoll-Rand VR642C:

  • 2004: $17,500 – $25,000
  • 2005: $15,000 – $22,100
  • 2006: $16,500 – $25,500 

JCB 506C:

  • 2004: $15,100 – $26,100
  • 2005: $17,000 – $21,800
  • 2006: $17,500 – $23,500 

John Deere 3420:

  • 2004: $16,00 – $32,100
  • 2005: $15,700 – $33,000
  • 2006: $18,800 – $35,100 

inspecting for forklift wear and tear

Forklifts are often subjected to harder service than most farm machinery since they’re run year-round by a variety of operators who are not necessarily the owners of the equipment. For that reason alone, you need to inspect a lift before bidding to avoid buying expensive repairs. “Things to look for when examining a forklift have a lot in common with farm equipment – you want to pay particular attention to wear points and parts,” says Scott Steffes of Steffes Group. “I always encourage potential buyers to get on the forklift, start it up, and drive it around to see how it operates.”

Also crucial in a presale inspection is calling the lift’s owner and asking how the vehicle was used (construction vs. warehouse use, for example), what kind of service it received (extra points if the lift was on a dealer service plan), and if it was damaged during use. After that call, get to the auction ahead of bidding and give the forklift a basic inspection by examining these key components:

  • Look at the forks to determine how the lift was used. That can reveal if it was overloaded or abused during operation. Rough-terrain lifts can be particularly prone to abuse if they were employed at a construction site. Examine the forks for cracks, bends, and distortion.
  • Examine the mast for cracks, past welding repairs, and general structural condition. Also, inspect the mast rollers for wear, the lift chains for overall condition, and hydraulic hoses (running parallel to the chains) for cracked covers or kinks. Finish the inspection by examining all cylinders to determine excessive leakage and look for a bent or damaged ram.
  • Size up tires for uneven or excessive wear or chunking (pieces of the tire’s lug missing).
  • Start up the forklift and listen for any odd sounds coming from the engine or hydraulic system while you operate the mast. If the engine produces blue smoke after it’s warmed up, this indicates leaks in the system, often around the piston rings. 
  • Lift and lower the arms, tilt the mast fore and aft, and operate the sideshift mechanism. Watch the mast in operation (if possible, lift a load in the process) looking for smooth movement without binding or slipping. Also look for hydraulic leaks along the mast and cylinders.
  • Drive the forklift in a figure-eight pattern, stopping and starting in order to test the responsiveness of the steering and braking.

A five-point inspection plan is also offered by Ritchie Bros.

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