Equipment: New vs Used

A group of yellow backhoes parked in a parking lot used by contractors.

Any contractor, whether they have been in business for years or just starting out needs equipment, machinery, and tools but where to get them? Shovels, hammers, and most hand tools can come from a local hardware store. Large machinery, on the other hand, is a little more problematic with more factors to consider. The biggest of which is: new or used? Is it better to buy straight from the manufacturer with warranties or to buy from a used equipment auction and get something that has been broken in. To help with the decision, here are a few pro’s and con’s when it comes to buying equipment.


Obviously, it would be nice to buy something brand new. The engine is solid, the hydraulics are strong, and the pneumatic seats haven’t worn out. When a loader or press comes straight from the factory, you know that there are no hidden damages due to wear and tear and if something does break in the first five minutes, it is covered under warranty and will be repaired by the manufacturer. This gives you peace of mind and saves on the budget…sort of.

The price of original equipment, however, can sometimes be prohibitively high, especially for a contractor just starting out in business. Although there are always financing options, the monthly payments may be more than the equipment is worth if you are not using it regularly or if it is something that may be obsolete before the payments run out. At that point, although you have been able to use it throughout its lifetime, you now have a piece of machinery with nothing little to no use.


Wandering around an equipment auction site can be a trip of mixed emotions. A contractor in the market for a backhoe will certainly be able to find one for a much lower price than brand new, especially at auction prices. A 2 year-old piece of equipment might be purchased for less than 60% of what the original price was even with other bidders raising each other like a bunch of amateur poker players.

The downside is that, even with the auctioneer’s mechanic’s refurbishing, there may be hidden flaws or failures that are waiting to pop up in a few months or years requiring repairs. Some of these will be minor while others will cost almost as much as the purchase price or more, depending on the malfunction. At that point, it might be better to sell the old one and go shopping again.

Both new and used equipment have their advantages and disadvantages. From cost to reliability, each factor needs to be weighed and measured to fit the contractor’s needs and budget. Ultimately, it is a decision that is never taken lightly. Equipment new or used