What to Look for When Buying an Excavator


Excavators can be a great investment for your equipment rental business. Unfortunately, not all excavators are worth the cost. And not all of them will fit the needs of your local market.

When you’re ready to add an excavator to your rental equipment business, it’s important to know what to look for. This is especially true for used excavators. 

Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Excavator

Figuring out how to choose an excavator should start with asking some key questions. Consider these when you create an equipment purchasing checklist.

What Is the Equipment’s Maintenance History?

Ask for the maintenance logs for the machine. A well-kept machine will also have a documented history of servicing. Assess the details of the records and consider whether the service has been reasonable and performed at required intervals. Pinpoint any anomalies, such as long stretches without maintenance records. 

Has the Excavator Undergone Any Previous Severe Damage and Subsequent Repairs?

Ask about any previous damage that the excavator experienced, as well as any major repairs that were needed. Additionally, inspect the equipment for major wear and tear, dents, and signs of past repairs.

If there was past damage and repairs, what types of repairs were needed? And did the equipment experience recurring issues? For major damage, you’ll have to assess whether the equipment’s useful life could be reduced due to it. 

Will It Need to Be Serviced in the Near Term or Require Any Replacement Parts?

Figure out when the last service date was and whether there are any needed replacements due in the short term. Note that older excavators may be especially hard or expensive to repair due to hard-to-get parts. Make sure there’s enough manufacturer support for the parts for the excavator you’re considering. 

If there are near-term repairs needed, will the seller cover them? If not, any upcoming repairs should be accounted for in the final sale price. 

What Are the Seller’s Guarantees and Warranties?

Ask the seller about potential warranties or guarantees about the equipment’s condition. If possible, get any warranties or guarantees in writing. Also, gauge whether the seller will be around to honor these guarantees and try to get references or reviews from prior customers.  

Used Excavator Inspection Checklist

Buying a used excavator requires special attention. You’ll want to do a more thorough inspection than you would when buying a new machine. For an excavator, you’ll want to assess the condition of items like the bucket, boom and stick, and slew ring. Here’s what to look for when buying an excavator. 

Buckets and Attachments

First, inspect the bucket and attachments. You’ll want to look for excessive wear and tear, as well as any rust. Also, assess the integrity of the welding and look for any scalloping. 

Scalloping is the wear between the teeth of the bucket. Half-moon shapes may indicate reduced cutting force of the bucket. Knowing what to look for — and where — will go a long way in helping you know how to buy an excavator. 

Boom and Stick

With the boom and stick, look for any cracks in welds (or rewelds) at connection points between the stick and bucket and between the boom and stick. You want all the pins and bearings to be tight at the connection point. Loose connections in the boom and stick will reduce the excavator’s accuracy. 


Hydraulics includes the hydraulic cylinder, pump, and lines. Look for any leaks and cleanliness. Leaks don’t necessarily mean a replacement is needed, but it may mean you need to repair it soon. You’ll also want to consider the hydraulics (and the flows) when it comes to the potential attachments you’ll use. 

Slew Ring

Damage to the slew ring can be very expensive to fix. Make sure that the slew ring is in good shape and that there are no signs of overloading or poor lubrication.


The engine is another major cost component of the excavator, so you’ll want to check for any leaks. Turn on the excavator and listen for knocking or rattling, and look for excessive smoke. Test the various speeds to see if smoke becomes an issue as it’s used. Continue to listen for abnormal noises after you turn the machine off. 


Make sure to test the steering components and assess any play in the steering. Do all functions work? How is the rotation, and is the steering responsive in all directions?

Does the steering offer full rotation of the equipment? 

Tracks and Rollers

Regardless of whether the excavator you’re looking at has tracks or wheels, you’ll want to make sure everything is intact and there’s no damage. If the excavator has tracks, how is the tension? If there are rubber tracks, are there any cracks in the rubber? Excavators with tires should have proper pressure and not have any visible damage. 

Hour Meter

Make sure the hour meter is operational. If the hour meter appears to be questionable, assess whether the control pedals and other cab elements have excessive wear. If so, this can indicate the machine has had more hours than the meter counts. 


Ensure that the fluids, such as oil and hydraulic fluid, are at acceptable levels and aren’t running low. Look for any visible leaks. Some leaks are easy fixes, but others could be deal breakers.


Ask to see all original paperwork on the equipment, as well as service records. You’ll want to get as much information as possible, including performance and usage history. What projects has the machine primarily been used for, and where? 

Ready to Add an Excavator to Your Rental Portfolio? 

Is buying an excavator a good investment? If you’re renting out heavy equipment, or even if you’re catering to smaller projects, an excavator is a great option. They’re versatile and can be used for grading or home projects. But you need to find an excavator in good condition to see a great return on your investment.

Growing your rental business is what the Quipli team focuses on. Find out how our rental business software can streamline inventory management — book a demo today.

Check out our list of best mini excavators to rent and our top skid steer brands to rent.

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