Save money… and save the planet

Often, going green and taking the sustainable option comes with a premium price tag.

But by opting for a refurbished forklift rather than new, you save money whilst giving a pre-owned piece of equipment a second life and contributing to sustainability.

As a bonus, because many refurbished trucks are ex-rental models, chances are that they will have been routinely checked and serviced by the company that owns and rents them out (in order to protect their investment).

There are lots of good reasons for buying a used truck but, because of the cost involved and the dangers that unsafe equipment can pose, we’ve created a checklist to help you make an informed decision.

Will a used truck meet my requirements?

If you only use a forklift occasionally, a used truck might be perfectly satisfactory and could offer a great way to go green whilst saving some cash. However, if your business is heavily reliant on materials handling equipment and use it frequently, it may pay to invest in a new model.

Check what you’re getting

Because there is no agreed standard for a “refurbished” truck, you’ll need to check what, if anything, has been done by the supplier before putting it onto the market. This can range from “as seen” (untouched); through serviced, checked and painted; to fully refurbished and even remanufactured.

As with anything, you’ll probably get what you pay for.

Put your trust in a reputable brand and supplier

Your chances of getting the product quality and after-sales support you expect are improved by selecting a trusted supplier. A good way of achieving that is to seek out a manufacturer-approved dealership or depot. It will have better access to in-depth service information and original parts. Ask them to advise on the availability of parts.

Over the years, some forklift brands have earned recognition for the durability of their products. Notable among these is Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks with its near-legendary reputation for reliability.   

Get an expert site survey

A reputable supplier will visit your premises and carry out a survey to make sure the truck is right for your application. They will check whether it is appropriate for the work, the loads* and the environment. Is the mast tall enough to reach the tallest area of your storage space but small enough to fit through low doors and below ceilings? Will it work mostly outdoors or inside (and will fumes/emissions be an issue)?

*Check the rating plate to ensure it will lift your heaviest loads.

Give it a thorough check over

Go and see the truck for yourself. If you aren’t a competent engineer, you’d be well advised to take along someone who is. Check the truck over for rust, damage, cracks, previous repair work, or leaks.

In some countries a certificate is required to demonstrate that it has passed a safety inspection. Where appropriate, ask to see it.

Give it a test drive

Just as you would when buying a new car, you should take a test drive, especially since the stakes are much higher with a forklift. Those who will be using the truck are putting their trust in you so whatever you buy needs to be a safe, dependable and fit for purpose.

When testing the vehicle, do so over a clean floor. This will allow you to easily check for any drips that might be caused by a leak from the transmission or hydraulics. If it’s an engine truck, you should also check the colour of the exhaust fumes. Check that the vehicle starts from cold.

Drive the truck through a tight figure of eight pattern both forwards and in reverse. The truck should respond quickly and smoothly with accurate tracking.

Battery still good to go?

If you are planning to buy an electric forklift pay special attention to the battery. It can account for as much as 40% of the entire value of the truck so you’ll want to be certain it’s in good working order.

To check the potential life of the battery, you need to know its run time. The average battery will accept about 1200 charges. These charges will last roughly 5 hours of operational time. So, if you take the operational hours of the truck and divide it by 5, you can estimate how many charges you’ve got left in the vehicle.

Ideally ask a battery specialist or experienced forklift engineer to inspect the battery for you.

Check its age

Just as the age/value of a car is based on the distance it has travelled, a forklift is assessed on the hours it has worked.

As a general rule, one hour of operation is the equivalent of driving 50km (30 miles) in a car. On that basis, a truck that has been operated for 3,000 hours has done the equivalent of 150,000 km (90,000 miles).  

Check the service history of the truck against its hour meter to ensure that neither has been tampered with, in an attempt to increase the value of the vehicle.

Check the warranty (twice!)

A warranty is the single most important document when you’re buying a used truck. It should give you the security of getting repairs completed free of charge.

Check how long it lasts (obviously, the longer the better), what’s covered and, crucially, what isn’t. If the truck still has a manufacturer’s warranty, be sure that the company is willing to transfer the warranty to you (in the case of Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks, the warranty transfers with the truck). However, some warranties cannot be transferred, so watch out for those.

Consider taking out a maintenance contract to keep the truck in optimum condition and to prevent small issues from becoming bigger, more expensive ones.

The good stuff!

Having looked at some of the things you’ll need to consider before buying let’s round up a few of the potential benefits of going green.

It’s good for the planet  

If recycling is good, re-using is even better. Extending the life of a forklift is a major contribution to reducing your carbon footprint.

More for your money   

A refurbished truck can cost significantly less than new, which opens up the possibility of obtaining two trucks for only a little more outlay: adding to the scope and flexibility of your handling capability.

Shorter lead times

Lead times for new equipment can sometimes be extremely long. A used machine will often be available ex-stock and available to drive away the next day.

Bag a bonus

By choosing a pre-owned piece of equipment you obtain a truck with optional equipment such as sideshift, attachment etc. effectively free of charge. Alternatively, you may be able to obtain a more specialised machine – such as a reach truck – that is better suited to your application but, as new, would be beyond your budget.


Finally, we all like a bargain, but price is nothing like as important as suitability. Don’t settle for what’s in stock simply because it’s cheap. It’s only a bargain if it’s right for your application and – because you’ve done your homework – lasts a long, long time.

If you’d like more advice, contact your local Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks dealer.

  • Action Points:
  • Evaluate your handling needs – are they so demanding that you need a new machine, or would two cheaper but older trucks give more flexibility?
  • Identify a reputable, trustworthy supplier, linked to a brand known for its reliability and durability.
  • Check the truck thoroughly before you buy, calling on expert help if necessary (you have legal and moral responsibilities to those who will drive it).


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