I have found that most rig salespeople are honest. They will tell you what they know about a machine. However, they usually are sales agents and, in most cases, are telling you what the owner said about the equipment.
However, beware; there are unscrupulous equipment salespeople out there! I advise purchasers to thoroughly check out the equipment themselves or have a qualified surveyor check it out for you. As they say, buyer beware.
When searching for used equipment, try to talk to the owner/operator. Ask them specific questions. Try to observe the equipment in operation. Always keep in mind that many times owner/operators are honestly proud of their equipment. They truly think it's the best equipment around, when in fact, by others' standards, the equipment may be junk or in need of serious repairs.
Not to toot my own horn, but most of the equipment I sell, I know personally. I'm usually selling it for a client or friend that I know well. In most cases, I have seen the equipment operate. Most of the time, I immediately can tell the condition of the equipment by how it operates, how it is operated and how it is cared for.
Several times, I have been contracted by the prospective buyer to travel many miles to survey a piece of equipment. Upon my arrival, I have found puddles of oil or water that's been leaking under the equipment. Sometimes it's obvious the equipment hasn't been operated for days, months or even years. I'm always suspicious when a piece of equipment has to be jump-started. I'm even more suspicious if the equipment has been newly painted.
If you can't see a piece of equipment start and run, as my friend Wayne Nash would say, “it's like buying a dead horse.”
If the equipment is truck-mounted, be sure to have the owner/operator drive it around the block for some distance while you ride along. This gives you an idea of its care and operation. The seller may make excuses for poor operation.
Check to see if the equipment has proper air intake filters. Do the fuel and oil filters look rusty, old or unchanged? Do the tires, hydraulic lines, air and mud lines look weather-checked? What are the battery dates; are the battery posts clean and is water level where it should be? Are inspection stickers and tags current? Is there a maintenance record available?
I have surveyed equipment with the license tags 10 or more years old and with vines and trees growing over, in front of or behind the equipment. This tells you the equipment hasn't been moved or operated in some time.
I usually look in National Driller when looking for equipment. Then I call the seller to ask questions like: Are you the owner/operator or are you the sales agent? Why is the equipment for sale? Is it being operated now? Can I see it operate?
Once I had an excellent machine for sale by a reputable and large company in New York state. I traveled to the site to take photos and inventory the equipment. Upon seeing the equipment, I could have cried. They had removed the equipment from the carrier truck - the truck engine had powered the rig. The drill was sitting on its jacks and blocks. It still had two hollow-stem augers attached to the tophead. The Cat diesel engine had been removed from the on-board air compressor and several pieces of drill stem still were on the drill pipe rack.
It was obvious it had been an excellent machine worth a lot of money. However without being able to see the mast raise, the leveling jacks move, the tophead operate, or the air compressor run, it was a dead horse. A prospective buyer flew from Hawaii to see the drill. After seeing it, he said, “The owner should be shot for letting such an apparently nice piece of equipment come to such disrepair!” I was advised sometime later it eventually sold for almost junk price.
I once bought a Failing CFD-2 from someone I thought was a friend in Texas. I was advised it was an excellent drill and was being repainted. I bought it on the friend's recommendation, sight unseen. I advised the friend that to save money, my wife and I would drive from Georgia to Texas to drive the drill home. The friend advised that to save me money he would pay half of the shipping costs. You can't beat that, right? Wrong.
The drill was trucked to Tallahassee, Fla., on a flatbed semi. We drove to Tallahassee when it arrived to drive it home. Upon our arrival, we found it hadn't been repainted; the 1,700 by 16-inch flotation tires were all flat; it had no brakes; the windshield was busted out; there was no battery, no lights or muffler. Its last license tag was dated 1968 - this was in 1976. It was obvious it hadn't been operated in eight years. After three days of doing repairs on the drill in Tallahassee, we headed home with it, with some of the brake cylinders plugged off, tires aired up, a new muffler and the 1968 Texas tag. Due to these restrictions, a narrow road and driving 45 miles per hour, I had about a 1⁄2 mile of traffic behind me.
I got about 10 miles out of Tallahassee before a highway patrolman pulled me over. He said, “Where are you going with that @#$%^& thing?” and “What the @#$%^ is it?” and “What's it doing with a '68 Texas tag?” I advised him that it is a well drilling machine, that I was driving it to Adel, Ga., to drill water wells, that we had just picked it up in Tallahassee and my wife, driving behind me, had the title and bill of sale.
The patrolman was very nice, didn't give me any tickets, advised me to pull off the road occasionally to let backed up traffic pass and wished me good luck getting to Adel with that @#$%^ thing - the very reason for writing this article.
Buying used equipment is a skill and an art. Don't be mislead by a salesperson who doesn't know the piece of equipment personally. Check out the equipment yourself or have a qualified person inspect it for you. I guarantee it will save you many headaches and dollars.