Buyer Beware When Purchasing Used Crane Systems

I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoy getting “used” stuff if it saves me a few bucks. I’ve spent a few Saturday afternoons combing through garage sales, I’m on my third used car, and I still love getting hand-me-downs from my older brother and sister, even though we’re in our 30s now.

Where am I going with this? With all the plant closures we’ve seen in recent months, we’re noticing an increase in the amount of used material-handling equipment like cranes and hoists for sale on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Budgets are tight—it’s understandable that companies want to save money by buying a second-hand system instead of a new one. But it’s important to take some steps to ensure that you and your employees are safe, regardless of whether you bought your crane system new or “previously enjoyed.” Never lose sight of the fact that the crane system you’re looking at is going to be handling loads that could seriously injure or even kill people if the crane system isn’t properly installed or maintained. 

Before you buy

Don’t assume that all used crane systems are safe. Unfortunately, there’s no “Car Fax” for used industrial equipment, so you just don’t know what you’re getting when you purchase used cranes. The crane system you’re looking at may have been installed incorrectly, causing components to wear unevenly or become damaged during normal use. It may not have been regularly serviced, leading to parts with excessive wear and damage. Parts could be bent or rusted, systems might have been improperly modified in the field, or components could be missing—all of which could compromise the safety and reliability of that crane system.

Before finalizing your purchase, examine the system to see if it shows any signs of damage that could signal potential safety issues. The most obvious things to look for are:

Bent or dented pieces of rail;

Cracked or highly worn wheels;

Different shades of paint colors that might  indicate parts of the system were modified from the original design; and

Any areas of weld or fabrication dissimilar from the original; and torch marks that indicate the rail may have been cut or modified or that holes were put in with a torch instead of a drill.

Check the papers

If the system passes your inspection and you make the decision to buy, ask the seller for copies of all documentation the company may have on the system, including the original packing list, installation and maintenance manuals, and a copy of the system’s inspection history, if available.

It’s also key to locate the serial number of the system you’re buying. Once you have the serial number, we recommend that you call the original manufacturer for the following items.

The original configuration drawings of the system: Once a crane system leaves the manufacturer, the company has no idea what modifications have been made in the field and can’t guarantee that the changes made by someone else haven’t somehow compromised its safety. Remember that a crane system is designed with hanger placements and runway and bridge spans that optimize the crane’s safety and performance. By checking your system against its original configuration drawing, you can see what, if any, modifications were made to it in the field. The crane manufacturer or a local dealer can help you understand how these field modifications may have compromised the safety of your crane system.

Verified capacity: Equipment distributors often put their own labels over the top of original manufacturer capacity and safety labels. If you can’t find the original manufacturer’s capacity label on the system, the manufacturer can look up the serial number and verify the safe rated capacity of that system.

Original packing list: When you buy used equipment, you have no idea what hardware has been lost, overloaded, or otherwise damaged. Using your crane’s serial number, the manufacturer can print out the original packing list, help you check to make sure you have all the necessary parts, and tell you which hardware should be replaced.

Don’t go it alone

If you found a great deal on a used system that you can’t pass up, we recommend having a capable local crane and hoist company install, inspect, and certify load test your system before it goes into use. Not sure who to call?  If it is a Gorbel system, call us at (800) 821-0086, and we’ll help you find an authorized dealer in your area who can help you make sure your new-to-you system is up to snuff.

About the Author: 

Susan Griepsma

Susan Griepsma coordinates the advertising, public relations, and trade shows for Gorbel, Fishers, N.Y. She regularly blogs on, and she can be reached at