How to Purchase a Quality Used Crane for Sale — 4 Big Considerations

A used crane for sale sitting in a lot with other used cranes

With so many uses for cranes across both construction and industrial applications, it isn’t surprising that used cranes are a popular option for anyone looking for a cost-effective way to add these machines to their fleet. But, before you buy a used crane, there are several factors you need to consider before making an informed decision.

Aside from finding a crane that is structurally and mechanically sound, you will also need to think about how much the crane will cost you each year to operate. You’ll need to consider expenses incurred from regular maintenance, component repair, or parts replacement.

Used cranes that are part of a large rental fleet will be more likely to have kept the cranes in top shape through the lifetime of the crane. A full-service crane rental operation must follow certain requirements and guidelines related to crane maintenance. In general, OSHA requires inspections of operational cranes once every month while the equipment is in operation. 

However, cranes that see consistent use in the field will require more frequent inspections to ensure safe operation. To avoid a sudden breakdown of the equipment or costly repair, it’s a good idea to only buy a crane that has verifiable inspection history, including an accurate record of any part replacements.

In short, knowing what to look for in a quality used crane can save you time and money in the long run. Read on to learn more ways to identify a reliable crane so you can feel more confident about your purchase.

1. Budget

Having a plan on how much you plan to spend will help you narrow down your search. The amount of money you can expect to spend is relative to your requirements and the type of crane you consider purchasing. You want to find a crane that can handle the lifting capacity you need, the height requirement of your lifts, along with a crane that can manage your typical project’s terrain, as most of a crane’s cost lies in the type and size of crane to ensure it can handle your requirements. You’ll also need to consider the age and condition of the crane when it comes to budget as well. Like with cars and other automobiles, a combination of age, mileage (or hours in the case of some cranes) play a role in determining the price.

2. Lifting Capacity and Crane Model Needed

If you are looking for a used crane, a key consideration is to make sure you understand the maximum lifting capacity requirements you’ll have for the work you want the crane to perform. You will need to calculate the biggest lift requirements, the maximum radius required, and what terrain the crane will most frequently be used on to determine what crane will work best. 

So, for example, if the largest lifting capacity you will have been 10 tons at a 100 ft radius, you will need a crane that can lift that amount so that anything below that maximum lift and maximum radius level is covered. Similarly, if you’re most often going to be performing lifts in more complex terrain, you may consider a rough terrain crane or a crawler crane versus an over-the-road machine like a hydraulic truck crane.

Aside from the crane’s lifting capacity, some other questions to ask yourself are:

What will the crane be used for?

There are a wide variety of cranes available on the market today, and each model has unique attributes for performing specific tasks. For example, a hydraulic truck crane is best used for smaller lift projects in tighter spaces. If you need to carry loads across uneven or muddy surfaces, a rough terrain crane or crawler crane would be ideal. Large-scale projects like constructing a high-rise apartment building will usually require a telescopic crawler crane or tower crane. Anticipating the most common tasks for your used crane will help to determine the type and model of the used crane you need.

How many hours will you use it and what is the utilization?

Before buying a used crane, you’ll want to consider its projected daily use and the kind of work the crane will do. If you expect to use the crane during much of the workday, you’ll want to find a model that can stand up to the rigors of constantly bearing weight without needing extensive repairs or part replacement. 

On the other hand, you may not need a recent model used crane on the market if you plan to only use it occasionally to move select materials around the job site.

Like mileage with cars, cranes record hours operated as a measurement of usage. This is an important figure to consider when determining how often the used crane you purchase will be running after you buy it. Some higher hours or miles (for mobile cranes) may mean you’ll have to anticipate more maintenance and repair costs when buying a used crane.

How often are you going to have to move the crane?

Another factor to consider is the type of mobility you require from the crane. Do you need a crane traveling over the road to the job site? Consider an all-terrain crane or hydraulic truck crane. Other cranes like crawler cranes, rough terrain cranes, and tower cranes require tractor trailers to deliver the equipment to the job site and, in many cases, require assist cranes to put up and tear down the crane. Consider if you’ll have access to the equipment required to move cranes that don’t have the ability to drive over the road and include the costs of moving and assembling the crane on a regular basis into your financial assessment.

In what kind of environment will the crane be used?

Not all cranes are equally resilient against the elements or varying terrain on a job site. Consider the type of environment your crane will encounter and how this will impact operations. For especially soft or waterlogged surfaces, you’ll likely need a crane that comes equipped with components like all-terrain tires or tracks to keep the equipment stable and grounded while in operation. 

For dry or relatively smooth terrain, cranes mounted on conventional tires may be more appropriate. You’ll also want to think about how the outriggers will perform in the terrain the crane will operate on to ensure stability when doing a lift.

3. The Crane’s History

It’s important to know the history behind the crane you’re looking to purchase. You should not just look at its hours, age, make, and model, but also the geographical location where the crane was used and the application it was used for. Was the crane exposed consistently to harsh weather conditions? Did the machine run constantly in its lifetime? Make sure you ask the right questions, so you understand the background and usage of the crane you’re considering buying.

The preventative maintenance history is also critical, as with any piece of capital equipment. It’s a good idea to either inspect the crane personally or hire a 3rd party to inspect it. At Maxim Crane, no matter the age of our used equipment we follow the same rigorous service and maintenance program for all our machines. In most cases, the used equipment we sell is either still part of our active fleet or was recently retired from the fleet.  When you buy used equipment from Maxim, you can feel confident that you’re buying a well-maintained machine.

When shopping around, look for the following background information when buying a used crane:

  • A comprehensive history of the crane’s usage, including any substantial repairs or part replacements that have occurred over the years. Beware of buying a crane with any undocumented repairs or lapses in its service history.
  • Make sure the equipment has received  annual and quarterly inspections. Documentation of these inspections should be complete and up to date. Never buy a used crane that doesn’t come with all the necessary records regarding its inspection history.
  • Buy equipment that is part of an active rental fleet and properly maintained. Typically, the equipment will be well-maintained because it is required to be 100% operational all the time. At Maxim Crane, our used equipment for sale is typically part of an active rental fleet and it is inspected and maintained on a consistent basis.

When evaluating the condition of a crane you intend to buy, it’s important to look over the equipment with a fine-tooth comb. Any issues big or small could indicate a more substantial problem with the crane that may require costly repairs in the future.

When looking for a crane  here are a few aspects of the equipment you’ll want to carefully inspect:

Overall condition

Look for any signs of corrosion to the crane’s exterior that could indicate a poor preventative maintenance record. Ideally, a crane should be thoroughly cleaned after each project to keep its components in top working condition. After examining the overall condition of the crane’s exterior, inspect the cab to ensure all control mechanisms are operational and fully intact.

Review preventive maintenance and major component exchange or repairs

Cranes with a history of breaking down have a higher probability of encountering similar problems in the future. Always take the time to thoroughly examine all records on the part replacements or repairs on the crane, paying careful attention to how often the equipment has been serviced over the years. 

In addition, reviewing the prior service history of a used crane can help you estimate possible costs later down the line, helping you to forecast the number of expenses the equipment more accurately that you may incur in the months and years ahead.

Visual inspection of high wear areas

Pay special attention to visually inspecting parts of the crane that do the most amount of work. Examples of the high wear components in cranes include bearings, hoists, wire ropes and braking assemblies. Ideally, these parts of the crane should be in job-ready condition at the time of purchase. 

Be aware that replacing parts on some crane models can take more time than others. The availability of components is largely determined by the age and particular model of the crane. To reduce lead time on acquiring critical crane parts if the equipment  needs a repair, it may be appropriate to order replacement components before the start of the project.


Look for any signs of fluid leaks with the crane. While some leaks are easy to detect, others may require a closer inspection. For example, the hydraulic system of a crane may leak internally and show no visible signs of fluid loss from the exterior. In these cases, the only sign of a leak will be the crane performing poorly or operating at unusually high temperatures.

Before you buy a used crane, make sure there are no visible or hidden leaks in the system that could undermine the efficiency of the equipment.

Excessive wear on undercarriage, tires, and other wear components

Check the condition of the crane’s lower body as well, including the high-wear components of the undercarriage and the tires. If your crane rests on a crawler chassis, verify that the track shoes and rollers are in good working order. It’s also important to check the operation of the crane’s turntable, noting any unusual sounds when rotating that could cause part failure. Additional wear components to inspect include sheaves, pins, and bushings. Finding any of these vital parts in poor condition should always merit immediate repair or replacement.

4. Ongoing Maintenance

Once you purchase a crane, it will need to have required preventive maintenance and repairs. This is a very important factor when you’re buying an asset that will be incorporated into your own fleet. Do you have the team and capacity to service it? A buyer should consider buying a crane from a company that has an extensive history of ownership and years of maintenance records. Having a history of that asset and knowing what the next steps are to maintain the crane in running condition is optimal. Use a company that can pull you an extensive history with years’ worth of maintenance that has been done to the equipment. 

Choose the Right Used Crane for the Job

A crane is a considerable investment. Knowing what to look for will help you select the right crane for your company. When it comes to cranes, a buyer should be educated and feel completely comfortable with their final decision. At the end of the day, you can buy a crane to work with or you can buy a crane to work on—if you base your decision solely on price, you might be getting yourself into a project rather than a machine that’s ready to do the work.

Maxim Crane has the largest fleet of used cranes available today, and we sell equipment ready for service. Browse through our selection of used cranes for sale and contact us today to discuss your needs.

Disclaimer Statement:

We hope you found this article informative. Our content is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute advice or necessarily reflect the range of services Maxim Crane Works, LP provides. Readers should not act upon this information without first seeking assistance from a qualified industry professional. For crane recommendations for your specific project, consider speaking with one of our sales professionals. Although we attempt to ensure that postings on our blog are complete and accurate, we assume no responsibility for their completeness or accuracy.


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