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Forklifts and telehandlers are on the market

A buying opportunity opening up for a common staple of the construction world — rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. The coming year promises that inventories of both types of lift will continue to swell as new machines finally leave manufacturing floors in droves and move into the hands of eager buyers who will be trading in older lifts.

A staple of construction sites, rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers provide greater lift and reach capacities than the factory-floor lifts many farmers have bought in the past. Additionally, telehandlers offer the added benefit of being capable of operating with a bucket and of reaching up and out to move loads. 

If you are in the market for either machine, be aware that their lift and reach capacities vary greatly by model. As a starting point, the price guide on the next page looks at 5- to 8-year-old lifts with lift capacities of 5,550 to 7,500 pounds. This is the base range of rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers whose lift abilities can soar up to 25,000 pounds. If you are looking to buy a lift, first figure out the maximum payload you need to elevate. 

These lifts do not offer the wide variety of options and accessories that are available in tractors. In fact, the lift might not even have a cab. A fair share of rough-terrain lifts — and to a lesser amount telehandlers — come only with open ROPS. If the machine does have a cab, don’t assume it is air-conditioned.


Tire and Lift Options

Even the tire options are limited on these machines. Drive tires, like tractor tires, are most often lugged. Occasionally, you will find a lift with turf-like tires. Considering that a forklift in use on a farm will likely run in feedlots, muddy yards, and fields, you should opt for lugged tires.

The one tire option that is unique to these lifts (as compared to tractors) is that they come with traditional pneumatic tires as well as foam-filled and solid versions. Pneumatic tires provide the best traction on any terrain. 

Foam-filled tires are more resistant to punctures and provide added stability, but are far heavier than pneumatic types and can cause more wear on the equipment. Solid tires have little cushion, if any, and weigh more than the other varieties. However, that additional weight may provide more balance, allowing your operator to reach higher and farther or lift heavier loads. 

Other features to look for include: 

  • Two- and three-stage masts on forklifts. Three-stage masts provide a higher lift reach. 
  • Four wheel drive. Powered rear and front wheels make lifts with this feature capable of easily running in fields and feedlots. More telehandler models and larger forklift versions come with 4WD as standard equipment.
  • Side shift (forklifts only). This feature uses hydraulic cylinders to move the mast sideways to adjust the position of a load while lifted. 
  • Shuttle shift or powershift transmissions. 
  • Three steering modes (telehandler only). This feature allows you to choose between three steering modes: front-wheel, fourwheel, and crab.
  • Fenders. They may not be as important on a building site, but they are a really nice feature for farm use. 

Finally, always be sure to know if the telehandler you are interested in buying is sold with a bucket, forks, or with both. A telehandler being sold with a bucket and forks would be an added bonus, as it is not always the case when it comes to used sales.


Crucial Inspection Pointers When Shopping For a Forklift Or Telehandler

If you are in the search for either a rough-terrain forklift or telehandler, bear in mind most machines on the used market have been employed on construction sites.

Unlike most farm machines, these lifts have often been worked for a full day five to six days a week. They were often operated by employees, not the owner of the machine. Workers may be more abusive and less concerned with repair and maintenance.

Considering the hard use forklifts or telehandlers receive, be sure to thoroughly inspect these key components before purchasing:

  • Forks and buckets. Either component offers the best evidence of how a machine was employed by revealing if it was overloaded or abused during operation. Lifts can be particularly prone to abuse if they were used at a construction site. Check for cracks, bends, and any distortion that may have happened from repeated overloading or ramming of loads.
  • Mast. On forklifts, examine the entire length of the mast, looking for past welding repairs and general structural condition. Examine the mast rollers and lift chain (shown left) in particular for their overall condition. On telehandlers, examine the boom with it fully extended.
  • Hydraulic components. Check the entire length of hydraulic hoses — running parallel to chains on forklifts or on the extended booms of telehandlers — for leaks, cracked covers, and kinks. Examine the lift cylinders for excessive leakage at their seals or for bent or damaged rams.
  • Engine and transmission. Start the lift, and operate its mast or extend the boom (preferably with a load). Also, tip the forks or bucket. Look for smooth operation during use. Next, drive the lift, listening for unusual engine and transmission sounds. Transmissions of construction lifts are particularly subject to abuse. During the drive, feel for smooth transmission operation when shifting.
  • Tires. Beyond evaluating their wear, examine tires for slashes, missing chunks of tread, and sidewall damage.

January and February Auctions

January 25: An online-only sale of trucks, tools, and equipment is set by Kraft Auction Service ( 

January 28: A large agricultural and construction equipment auction will be held in Delaware, Ohio, by Alex Lyon and Son Auctioneers (

January 28: Live Oak Auction ( will hold an equipment consignment auction in Goldthwaite, Texas. 

February 2: Polk Auction ( will run two rings for its late model ag and construction auction in New Paris, Indiana.

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