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Used Loader Buying Guide

June 19, 2023

Explore the key factors you should prioritize when purchasing a used loader.

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Versatility on your projects

If you're in the market for a used loader (aka front end loader), you're likely aware of the numerous benefits these versatile machines can bring to your business or projects. Whether you're involved in construction, agriculture, landscaping, or any industry that requires heavy lifting and material handling, these machines can significantly enhance your operational efficiency.


Buying a used loader doesn't mean settling for less. With the right approach and due diligence, you can acquire a high-quality loader that delivers exceptional performance, extends your capabilities, and contributes to the growth and success of your operations.


In this article we discuss:

  • What to look for
  • Inspecting the loader
  • Assessing to optimize
  • Different loader types and uses

For more information on loaders, check out Loaders: What You Need to Know.


Looking for a buying opportunity

A used loader can provide an excellent opportunity to save costs without compromising on performance. Here are some practical tips to help you confidently navigate the buying process:

  1. Obtain as much information as possible about the loader's usage history. Determine the number of hours it has been operated and the type of work it was used for. Heavy-duty applications may have subjected the loader to more wear and tear.
  2. Request maintenance records to gauge how well the loader has been maintained. Regular, documented maintenance indicates a responsible previous owner who likely addressed issues promptly, reducing the risk of hidden problems.
  3. Conduct a thorough inspection and look for signs of excessive wear, rust, leaks, and damage to key components such as the bucket, engine, hydraulics, and tires. Pay attention to structural integrity and ensure all safety features are intact.
  4. Assess the loader's mechanical condition. Check if all controls, attachments, and hydraulics operate smoothly without unusual noises or vibrations. Engage all gears and observe how the loader performs during various maneuvers.
  5. Ensure that you can easily find replacement parts and receive professional service if needed.
  6. Evaluate the comfort and safety features. Adequate visibility, ergonomic controls, and proper safety measures contribute to operator efficiency and well-being. Check seat condition, cabin functionality, and the presence of safety features like ROPS (Roll-Over Protective Structure) and FOPS (Falling Object Protective Structure).
  7. Compare the price of the used loader to its current market value. Research similar makes and models, their average prices, and take into account factors such as age, condition, and included attachments. Negotiate the price based on any identified repairs or maintenance needs.
  8. Look for reputable dealers or sellers/re-sellers with positive reviews and a history of fair and transparent transactions. A reliable seller will provide accurate information and may offer warranties or guarantees on the used loader.
  9. Request a test drive or operational demonstration whenever possible to help you assess performance, responsiveness, and overall functionality.
  10. Explore financing options and insurance coverage to determine the best payment plan or loan terms that align with your budget and needs. Also, ensure the equipment is covered by appropriate insurance to protect against unexpected damage or accidents. 

Assess condition and performance

Inspect to get a good idea of the condition of the equipment, and pay specific attention to these components:

Exterior and Frame

  • Check for signs of rust, corrosion, or damage on the body and frame.
  • Look for visible cracks, weld repairs, or structural issues that may affect the loader's stability and strength.
  • Ensure all body panels and attachments are securely fastened.

Engine and Powertrain

  • Start the engine and listen for unusual noises, vibrations, or smoke emissions.
  • Inspect for any oil leaks or coolant leaks around the engine and powertrain components.
  • Check the engine's overall condition, cleanliness, and fluid levels.
  • Test the functionality of the transmission, clutch, and other powertrain components by engaging various gears.


  • Inspect hydraulic hoses and connections for leaks, wear, or damage.
  • Operate the hydraulic system to check if all functions are responsive and smooth.
  • Pay attention to any unusual sounds or delays in hydraulic operation.
  • Look for signs of excessive hydraulic fluid contamination or discoloration.

Tires and Undercarriage

  • Examine the tires for tread wear, cuts, bulges, or uneven wear patterns.
  • Check the condition of the rims and valve stems.
  • Inspect undercarriage components, such as tracks or axles, for any signs of damage or excessive wear.

Bucket and Attachments

  • Look for any cracks, dents, or excessive wear on the cutting edge and bucket walls.
  • Ensure that the bucket or attachments properly connect to the loader without any play or looseness.

Electrical System

  • Test all electrical functions such as lights, gauges, switches, and controls.
  • Check the battery's condition and ensure proper charging.
  • Inspect wiring harnesses for any signs of damage or improper repairs.

Operator Cab

  • Check the seat for comfort and adjustability.
  • Assess visibility through windows and mirrors.
  • Test the operation of all controls, levers, pedals, and gauges.

Safety Features

  • Verify the presence and functionality of safety features, such as ROPS (Roll-Over Protective Structure) and FOPS (Falling Object Protective Structure).
  • Check for seat belts and ensure they are in good condition.
  • Assess fire extinguishers and any other safety equipment.

Documentation and Maintenance History

  • Request maintenance records to assess the service history.
  • Check if the loader has undergone routine maintenance, including oil changes, filter replacements, and scheduled inspections.
  • Review any repair or maintenance invoices to identify potential recurring issues

If you are uncertain about conducting the equipment assessment yourself, consider hiring a qualified inspector to assist.

Get the right loader to optimize your operations

Optimize productivity, minimize downtime, and maximize the return on your investment with these tips. They can help you select a used loader that alignswith your needs and budget, as well as job demands and work environment.

  • Determine the specific tasks and applications you need the loader for. Consider material type, weight, volume, and operating conditions. Evaluate the required lift capacity, reach, and dumping height necessary and identify specific features or attachments that would enhance your productivity and efficiency.
  • Evaluate the terrain, ground conditions, and any potential obstacles or limitations in your work zone. Do you need four-wheel drive, articulated steering, or specialized tires for optimal performance in your work environment?
  • Choose a loader size and capacity that matches your workload. Too small of a loader may result in reduced efficiency and excessive strain, while an oversized loader may be unnecessary and costly. Consider factors such as the width of access points, space limitations, and maneuverability requirements on your worksite.
  • Familiarize yourself with different loader types, such as skid steer loaders, compact track loaders, wheel loaders, or backhoe loaders. Understand the advantages, limitations, and specific applications of each loader type.
  • Seek advice from industry professionals, equipment dealers, or experienced operators. Discuss your requirements, job specifications, and operational challenges to gain insights and recommendations.
  • Research and read reviews of different models from reputable sources. Compare specifications, features, and user feedback to gauge the reliability, durability, and overall satisfaction of each loader option.

Different loader types and their uses

The type of work, terrain conditions, space limitations, and specific operational requirements each play a key role in guiding you towards deciding on the right equipment.

  1. Skid Steer Loader: Compact and highly maneuverable machines ideal for working in tight spaces. They are commonly used in construction, landscaping, agriculture, and various industries for tasks such as material handling, digging, grading, and site preparation. They can be equipped with a wide range of attachments, including buckets, forks, augers, and sweepers.
  2. Compact Track Loader: Also known as multi-terrain loaders, they are similar to skid steer loaders but with tracks instead of wheels. The tracks provide enhanced traction and flotation, making them suitable for work in challenging terrain, soft ground conditions, or sensitive surfaces. Compact track loaders are commonly used in construction, forestry, landscaping, and agricultural applications.
  3. Wheel Loaders: Much larger machines designed for heavy-duty applications. They feature a front-mounted bucket that can be raised and lowered for material handling tasks. Wheel loaders are widely used in construction, mining, quarrying, agriculture, and industrial operations. They excel at loading and transporting loose materials such as soil, sand, gravel, rocks, and construction debris.
  4. Backhoe Loader: Versatile machines that combine a loader in the front and a backhoe attachment in the rear. The loader on the front is used for material handling, while the backhoe is used for digging, trenching, and excavation tasks. Backhoe loaders are commonly employed in construction, utilities maintenance, landscaping, and urban development projects.
  5. Compact Wheel Loader: Smaller and more agile versions of conventional wheel loaders. They offer improved maneuverability and versatility, making them suitable for construction, landscaping, agriculture, and material handling tasks in confined spaces. Compact wheel loaders are often used for loading and unloading materials, snow removal, and general site maintenance.
  6. Track Loader: Also known as crawler loaders, they are similar to wheel loaders but equipped with tracks instead of wheels. The tracks provide superior traction and stability making them suitable for demanding applications, including construction, mining, and forestry. Track loaders are particularly effective on rough terrains and uneven surfaces.

Compare brands too, and see what we are currently selling from these leading loader manufacturers: CATERPILLAR, JOHN DEERE, CASE, VOLVO, KOMATSU, and others.


Check out the loader category page. If you don’t see something available now, keep an eye on our upcoming auctions or request an equipment search.


Black Star can make the purchase of your next loader worry free. We have a proven track record of working with customers in a wide range of industries to or locate and provide specific equipment solutions.

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 know of many contractors and business owners in our network that have loaders and other equipment to sell when a buyer comes along. Ask us to see if we can get what you need by contacting our experts 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 Loader 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.

When you decide to sell your equipment,
we will personalize a way forward that benefits you.
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