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Used Excavator Buying Guide

April 27, 2023

Buy a used excavator that will best meet your needs. Discover what to look for and some of the challenges you may face.

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Navigating Your Purchase


This article about buying used excavators provides general information that can help guide your purchase.


Factoring in the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the equipment is one way you can make an informed purchasing decision that will save you money in the long run. Ultimately, you want successful and profitable operations. In this article we discuss:

  • Preparing to buy
  • Inspecting the equipment
  • Job and site considerations
  • Comparison criteria
  • When you're ready to buy

For more information on excavators, check out Excavators: What You Need to Know.

PREPARING to buy a used excavator


There is a lot involved when buying a used excavator. Here are six things to consider before you buy: 

  1. Technical Knowledge: If you don’t have technical expertise to fully evaluate the excavator, seek guidance and expertise elsewhere. You want to ensure that any piece of used equipment will stand up to the demands of the job and site.
  2. Availability: Used excavators can be difficult to find, particularly if you are looking for a specific type or size. It may take time to find the right excavator for your project, and it may require a lot of searching.
  3. Budget Constraints: Excavators can be expensive, so you may need to balance your need for quality equipment with any budget constraints. There are options you can pursue with lenders who specialize in used heavy equipment financing.
  4. Logistics: Can be difficult to transport and could require specialized handling, which can add to the overall cost and complexity of the purchase.
  5. Compatibility with attachments: If you plan to use attachments with your excavator, it is important to ensure that the attachment you need is compatible with the excavator. Some older excavators may not be able to support modern attachments.
  6. Safety: The safe operation of an excavator requires specialized training and certification, and buyers must ensure that they have the necessary resources and personnel to operate the equipment safely.

Inspecting the Excavator

What you buy depends heavily on what you need the equipment to do, and where. The more you need to dig, the better the shape the excavator and attachments need to be in, and the more powerful it will need to be.

When buying a used excavator look for wear and tear. Conduct a full walkaround of the machine if possible, and check for things such as:

  • Cracks, rust, dents
  • Leaks or damage to the hydraulic lines and hoses
  • Undercarriage, tracks, and bucket for excessive use
  • Number of hours and the hours meter accuracy

2019 Caterpillar 352F Hydraulic Excavator

Job and Site Considerations

To make sure you get the right excavator for the job and site, consider:  

  • Soil conditions: The type of soil on the job site will determine the type of excavator needed. For instance, rocky soil may require a hydraulic breaker attachment, while softer soil may require a larger bucket or a tilt-rotator attachment.
  • Terrain: The terrain of the job site will determine the type of excavator tracks needed. Excavators with steel tracks are better for rough terrain, while rubber tracks are better for softer terrain and for jobs that require more maneuverability.
  • Size of job site: The size of the job site will determine the size of the excavator needed. A larger job site may require a larger excavator, while a smaller job site may require a smaller excavator.
  • Space limitations: The amount of space available on the job site will determine the size of the excavator needed. Excavators with shorter booms and smaller footprints are better for jobs with limited space.
  • Depth of excavation: The depth of excavation required on the job site will determine the size and type of excavator needed. Excavators with longer booms and larger buckets are better for deeper excavations.
  • Height of excavation: The height of excavation required on the job site will determine the height of the excavator needed. Excavators with higher reach are better for jobs that require excavating or moving materials to higher levels.
  • Attachments: These need to be undamaged or without serious wear that could affect performance or life span. Attachments also need to be the right type and size, as well as compatible with the particular excavator you buy.
  • Environmental factors: The environmental factors on the job site will determine the type of equipment needed. For instance, jobs in wet or muddy conditions may require an excavator with better traction, while jobs in dusty conditions may require an excavator with better air filtration.

Excavator Comparison Criteria

Once you have taken into account your project needs, you may want to compare the different excavator brands and models to determine how well they have stood the test of time. Comparison criteria includes:  

  • Size and weight: Excavators come in various sizes and weight classes, ranging from small compact models to larger heavy-duty machines. Aligning the excavator capabilities to the job means it will provide optimal work performance results.
  • Engine power and performance: The engine power and performance of an excavator can affect its digging power, speed, and fuel efficiency. Compare engine specs and performance ratings to ensure that the machine has the power and speed needed to complete the job efficiently.
  • Bucket capacity and digging depth: Excavators come with different bucket capacities and digging depths, which can affect the amount of material that can be moved and the depth of excavation possible.
  • Hydraulic system and attachments: The hydraulic system powers the various attachments and tools, such as buckets, hammers, and thumbs. Compare the hydraulic system specs and attachments available to ensure that they can handle the types of work you will be doing.
  • Cab comfort and safety features: The cab should be comfortable and safe for the operator, with features such as air conditioning, ergonomic controls, and safety devices like backup cameras and alarms.
  • Maintenance requirements and costs: Excavators, like any equipment, require regular maintenance to ensure they run efficiently and last a long time. Servicing and replacement parts availability should also be considered in your decision.

It is important to choose a brand with a strong reputation for quality and reliability. Some popular excavator manufacturers such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Volvo, John Deere, and Hitachi are recognized as such and their used excavators stand the test of time. Check out our excavator category page to find out more and see what excavators we have available to buy now.

When You're Ready to Buy

Before purchasing any used heavy equipment, it is important to inspect the equipment and understand its condition, maintenance history, and any potential repair costs. It may also be beneficial to consult with a trusted mechanic or equipment expert before making a purchase.

Searching for used excavators

Finding the equipment you need can be time-consuming. Here are six ways to locate used excavators or any other heavy equipment for sale:

  1. Online marketplaces: There are many online marketplaces that specialize in buying and selling used equipment which allow you to search for equipment by type, brand, model, location, and price range.
  2. Auction websites: Some auction websites specialize in selling used heavy equipment and allow you to search for equipment by category, manufacturer, location, and auction date.
  3. Classified ads: You can also search for used equipment on classified ad websites where you can search for equipment by type, location, and price range.
  4. Dealerships: Many equipment dealerships sell both new and used equipment. You can find local dealerships by doing a search online.
  5. Industry publications: Trade publications often have classified ads for used equipment. You can also find equipment listings in these publications' online versions or print versions if you sign-up to receive them.
  6. Social media: Some social media platforms have groups dedicated to buying and selling used equipment. You can search for these groups by using relevant keywords and joining groups that are relevant to your industry.

Purchasing options

Purchasing options include:

  • Dealerships: Many heavy equipment dealerships sell both new and used equipment. These dealerships may offer warranties or financing options for used equipment.
  • Online marketplaces: Some online marketplaces specialize in selling used heavy equipment. Buyers can browse through listings and communicate directly with sellers.
  • Auctions/Auction Houses: Heavy equipment auctions are another popular option for purchasing used equipment. Auctions may take place online or in person and offer a variety of equipment at competitive prices.
  • Private sellers: Buyers can also purchase used equipment directly from private sellers. This may involve searching classified ads or reaching out to contacts within the industry.

Equipment financing options

If you need financing for your purchase, consider the following options:

  • Equipment financing companies: These companies may offer a variety of financing options, such as leases, loans, and lines of credit.
  • Equipment dealerships: Some heavy equipment dealerships offer financing options for both new and used equipment. These dealerships may have relationships with financing companies or may offer in-house financing options.
  • Banks and credit unions: These traditional lenders may offer options but may also have specific requirements and could require collateral for the loan.
  • Online lenders: These lenders may offer more flexible terms and may be quicker to approve loans.

It is important to compare interest rates, terms, and fees from multiple lenders. It is also important to have a good understanding of your financial situation and budget to ensure that you can make payments on time. Additionally, it could be beneficial to work with a financial advisor or equipment expert to determine the best financing option for your specific needs.

Let the Experts at Black Star Help!

The buying process takes a lot of thought and effort, and Black Star can make it easier for you. We have a proven track record of working with customers in a wide range of industries to provide information and equipment solutions that meet specific needs.


Our team’s industry expertise enables us to provide complete transparency and hold in-depth, technical discussions with interested buyers. We perform detailed inspections of all the equipment we sell and we have direct access to our sellers at every stage in the selling process. We also conduct extensive research and analysis on the latest industry trends and developments, enabling us to share valuable and trustworthy, unbiased and comprehensive information.


Our regular online auctions run on multiple platforms, depending on whether it’s a timed-online, or live virtual (auctioneer-led online). You can register to bid in advance on any of the sites so you are ready on auction day. To read more about online auction and how they work, click here.


If you are unable to locate a particular excavator to meet your needs now, we would be pleased to conduct a customized search. You can see all equipment we have available to buy now, and we also know of many contractors and business owners in our network that have equipment they want to sell when a buyer comes along.


We are strategically connected to many highly-regarded industry experts. Our reputation in the marketplace has a number of long-established and credible companies partnering with us to provide added value for our customers.


If you need to know more about what to look for and how to buy the right used excavator, need a suggestion for transportation, or want to explore financing options, contact our pros today.

This article is our representation of useful information and is not intended to be a complete guide for making the right decision for your company. Ask our experts - or your own - for specific advice based on your unique circumstances.

Used Excavator Buying Guide
Andrew LeMaster

Andrew is an accomplished sales leader with a remarkable track record in developing new business relationships and delivering results. With over a decade of experience selling in the heavy equipment and transportation industries, he knows equipment. He also possesses comprehensive knowledge of market dynamics, customer preferences, and sales strategies.

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