How To Determine Used Forklift Lifespan

Purchasing a used forklift can save you money. However, to determine whether a used machine is a good value, you need to estimate how much of the forklift lifespan remains.

How To Estimate Forklift Lifespan

There are several factors to assess to determine how much use you are likely to get out of a used forklift.

How Much the Equipment Has Been Used

The lifespan of new forklifts is measured in the number of hours you can expect to operate them. One way to estimate how much life a used forklift has left is to find out how many hours it has already been operated. Then, subtract that number from the estimated lifespan of a new forklift of the same type. The average lifespan of a new forklift is 10,000-12,000 hours. Check the odometer to find out how many hours a used machine has been operated. 

Electric or Internal Combustion

While internal combustion forklift lifespan is measured in hours, the life of an electric model is measured in charge cycles. Most electric forklifts last for 1,200 to 1,500 charges. If you are considering purchasing a used electric model, ask the seller how many times the battery has been charged. You may want to avoid purchasing a machine that doesn't have much battery life left because the batteries can be expensive to replace.

Make and Model

Some forklifts have a reputation for lasting longer than the typical forklift lifespan. For example, Doosan claims its products can easily exceed 15,000 hours, and Toyota claims its machines often last for over 20,000 hours. Do some research on the specific make and model you are considering to find out how long the manufacturer claims the equipment can run and what the experience of users has been.

Maintenance and Usage

A well-maintained forklift usually lasts longer than one that hasn't been serviced regularly. Forklifts used mostly inside tend to last longer than those used outdoors and are exposed to harsh weather conditions. How many hours per day the equipment has typically been operated may affect lifespan. Forklifts run three or fewer hours per day tend to last longer than machines that see regular heavy usage.

Other factors that can play a role in the estimated lifespan include whether the forklift was often used to lift very heavy stacks and whether it was run for multiple shifts per day.

10 Signs You Need To Replace Your Forklift

Watch for these signs that your equipment has reached the end of its forklift lifespan.

1. You Are Making Frequent Repairs

If it seems like your lift truck is always in the shop, it is probably time to replace it. Occasional breakdowns can happen, but if your equipment is maintained, it shouldn't frequently require repairs. Keep track of how much they cost to repair your forklift increases from year to year. If the cost has more than doubled, it may be time to purchase a new model.

Certain types of repairs are more likely to signal that it is time to replace your forklift:

  • Hydraulic leaks
  • Worn chains
  • Battery problems
  • Steering problems
  • Clogged fluid lines
  • Mast won't lift
  • Suspension unbalanced

2. Blades Are Worn or Distorted

Regularly inspect the blades of your forklift. If the blades are bent or cracked, they need to be replaced. Consider how much forklift lifespan the equipment has left before spending money on new blades. If you are likely to need to replace the whole machine soon, paying for new replacement parts may not make sense.

3. You Are Losing Money

Forklifts have both a useful life and an economic life. The useful life is how long the machine will continue to operate. The economic life is how long the equipment generates profits. Equipment that is still operable but costs more to repair than it generates in productivity must be replaced.

Estimate the maintenance cost per hour for your equipment and the revenue the equipment generates per hour. When maintenance costs exceed revenue, it is time for a new model.

5. Safety Features Are Obsolete

Newer forklifts have safety features for operators and people working near the equipment. Even if your equipment has some forklift lifespan left, it is time to upgrade if it lacks the most recent safety features.

6. Downtime Exceeds Uptime

The cost to make repairs isn't the only reason to consider replacing a forklift that breaks down a lot. You also must factor in lost productivity when your equipment is inoperable. If your equipment is down more than it is up, it is time for a new machine.

7. The Forklift Starts To Fail Dangerously

While some mechanical problems are just productivity issues, others can risk your employees' safety. A machine that drops loads leaks fluid, exhibits jerking motions, freezes up, or loses power must be immediately repaired or replaced.

8. The Truck Is Less Efficient Than Newer Models

Newer machines may use less fuel, be capable of performing more work per hour, have less downtime, or cost less to maintain. Suppose there has been a major technology upgrade during your equipment's forklift lifespan. In that case, it is worthwhile to compare the increase in efficiency or productivity you could get by upgrading to the cost of purchasing a new model. 

9. Your Equipment Is Fully Depreciated

Most business owners deduct depreciation from their taxable income. How fast your forklift is fully depreciated depends on the accounting method. Once you have fully depreciated the equipment, you no longer get a tax benefit from keeping it. Consider the tax advantages of buying new equipment when deciding whether it is time to replace your machine.

10. The Machine Has Been Operated for 8,000 to 10,000 Hours

As your equipment nears the average forklift lifespan, monitor it more closely for signs that it needs to be replaced. A well-maintained machine that has been responsibly operated in optimal conditions may outlive the average lifespan. However, forklifts used in average conditions are probably nearing the end of their useful life.

How To Extend Your Forklift Lifespan

No forklift will last forever, but there are steps you can take to extend the lifespan of your equipment.

1. Maintain Your Equipment

Regular forklift maintenance is the best thing you can do to extend its life. Perform daily forklift inspections to address any minor issues before they escalate. Then perform more thorough checks annually and bi-annually. Fix any problems you find before you operate the equipment. 

If you have an electric model, create a charging schedule. It is best to charge the battery at the end of every workday or whenever it has used more than 30% of its charge. 

2. Train Your Staff

Collisions, tip-overs, running the machine with too heavy loads, and other poor operating practices can shorten the forklift lifespan. Train all staff on best-operating practices and spot-check them to ensure they follow proper procedures.

Instruct your staff to avoid habits that can create safety issues or damage equipment:

  • Lifting loads with the first third of the forks or not fully securing loads
  • Pushing or pulling loads
  • Not using the grips or wearing sharp tools when entering or exiting the machine
  • Shifting the transmission while the forklift is in motion
  • Lifting loads that exceed the forklift's maximum capacity

3. Rotate Your Equipment

If you run machines indoors and outdoors, rotate them so that they wear at the same rate. Otherwise, the outdoor machines will wear out faster. 

4. Maintain Your Warehouse and Yard

Driving over potholes, through rough terrain, and around obstacles wears your equipment down faster. Removing hazards and obstacles from your warehouse and yard improves safety and can extend your forklift lifespan.

5. Use Monitoring Technology

Utilize technology to track and monitor your fleet. This makes it easier for you to track when your equipment needs maintenance and analyze when it is time to make replacements.

6. Change the Oil Every 3 Months

Changing the oil in an internal combustion-powered forklift engine every three months increases fuel efficiency and reduces combustion problems that could impair the performance of your equipment. It also avoids the accumulation of sludge, catalytic converter failure, and corrosion. 

7. Store Your Equipment Properly

Storing your forklift in a clean and dry location reduces issues with battery corrosion. It also keeps moisture from causing problems with electrical components, which can affect the forklift's lifespan.

8. Use the Right Equipment for the Job

Using your forklift for jobs it wasn't designed can shorten its life. You may need to add aftermarket accessories or choose a different model for some jobs to avoid causing damage to your machinery.

8 Things To Look For in a Used Forklift

If you need to replace your forklift, you don't have to purchase a new model. However, you must evaluate used forklifts carefully before making a purchase.

1. Look for Damaged Forks

Check the forks for bends, cracks, and other signs of wear. Check the thickness of the back of the blade. The forks are worn if it is thinner than the upright fork shank. This damage may indicate the forks need to be replaced soon.

2. Verify Mast Operation

Ask the seller to raise the forks to a height that extends a second or third mast. If the movement is not smooth, the mast rollers are worn, the link chain needs repair, or the mast rollers have not been properly maintained. This may indicate the machine does not have much forklift lifespan remaining.

3. Check the Battery Life

Ask the seller how many shifts the forklift has been used for. A machine used for single shift work should need a new battery about every five years. Batteries in equipment used for double shifts usually last three to four years.

4. Check for Leaks

Look for leaks in the transmission, the radiator, the mast, and the mast cylinders. Notice strong odors when the forklift is running. There may be a problem with the regulator or catalytic convertor.

5. Validate the Odometer Reading

Suppose the number of hours on the odometer seems too low for the body's condition and the amount of wear on the parts. In that case, the odometer may have been reset. Knowing the true number of hours is essential for evaluating how much forklift lifespan is left. If the seller can't validate the number of hours, it is probably best to walk away.

6. Inspect the Mast and Lift Chains

Check for cracks or weld marks on the mast. Cracks may indicate the equipment needs replaced, and poorly done welds may weaken the structural integrity. Look for corroded or missing links and pins in the lift chain.

7. Evaluate the Tires

Check the tread. If the tread is low, the tires need to be replaced. If a tire has a wear line and has been worn past it, it needs to be replaced. You can check for wear past the top of the lettering on the sidewall if there is no wear line. Look and feel for missing chunks that can indicate the tires are in poor condition.

8. Test the Safety Features

Operator safety depends on safety features, such as the seatbelt, horn, lights, seat adjustments, levers, and brakes working correctly. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that overhead guards not have damage that exceeds 3/4" deflection.

Shop for a New Forklift at Forklift Inventory

Forklift Inventory has a wide selection of new and used forklifts for sale. If your current equipment has reached the end of its forklift lifespan, we can match you with a new or used model that meets your needs. Browse our inventory online and contact us for a quote.

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