Used but not abused

Features - L&L Snow and Ice Report

Snow operators can get great bargains on used equipment if they know where to look and do their homework.

April 5, 2013
Jason Stahl

When Sean Roche of Roche Services Ltd. in Newfoundland heads south, it’s strictly to find great deals on used equipment for his business.

“The equipment there is cleaner and hasn’t seen snow or salt,” he says. “It’s a $10,000 bill to get it home, but you’re in money at the end of the term. We never lose when we buy at auctions in the southern U.S.”

Roche cites two loaders he bought at an auction for $42,500 and $41,000. He had the $42,500 machine for one year, and sold it for $55,000. He had the $41,000 machine for four years, and after only doing regular maintenance on it, sold it for $49,000.

“It doesn’t cost me anything to own this equipment,” Roche says. “You can’t do that with new equipment. If you go out and buy a new loader, you’re looking at a minimum of $2,500, $4,000 or $10,000 a month, and you’ll never get that money back.”

Roche rotates out his equipment every year, keeping loaders from one to four years and changing out trucks every year due to the harsh environment they’re exposed to. Roche has been to auctions in Florida, Texas, Arkansas and other southern states.

He prefers to be there in person to examine the equipment. After 25 years of running every type of snow equipment there is, he considers himself an expert at what to look for and how to get a good deal. Case in point: he recently acquired two Oshkosh HB2518 MP3’s for $100,000 each – and they normally go for $1.2 million new.

Live auctions may work for Roche, but they don’t for Chris Marino of Xtreme Snow Pros. Marino much prefers eBay, where he has bought and sold a lot of equipment and has never been let down. He prefers eBay to other websites because the sellers are held accountable through a feature that allows buyers to rate their experience with them.

One of Marino’s recent success stories was purchasing an MT trackless from a Michigan municipality for $14,000 when the machine typically sells for $125,000 new.

Marino estimates that 40 percent of the equipment he buys is used, typically the larger pieces like wheel loaders, tractors and specialty equipment. Things like snow blowers or snow plows he generally buys new.

“(Buying used) gives us the ability to acquire equipment with someone else taking the beating on the depreciation of the piece,” he says. “If I get something that has a lot of hours on it, it might need some paint or other fix-ups here or there, but it’s still a good piece.”

Doing extensive research beforehand is the key to success when buying used equipment on eBay. One dead giveaway that a deal might not be all it’s cracked up to be is a lack of description or photos, says Marino.

“If there is only one or two photos, I would never buy it,” he says. “There have to be a lot of pictures, including shots of the underside and all the critical points. And just one sentence of description won’t cut it, either. You want as much history as possible. That way, you can tell the person actually cares and they’re not trying to hide something.”

Part of Marino’s research also includes visiting to hear what guys in the field are saying about the particular machine he’s interested in.

“Even learning what to look for, you still take a risk, and I’ve certainly lost on some things, he says. “But overall, it’s a giant gain in savings in building up our fleet.”


The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.