Since we have recently finished a fairly cold and harsh winter, and we are currently on our way to spring with flowers, gardens, sunshine, and… tornados, I wanted to discuss purchasing a USED generator. Lots of people will be selling their generators because the winter is over, they didn’t really have a need for one during the ice storm freak outs that everyone had, and they aren’t forward thinking.
What this means is the possibility of great deals. But purchasing a used generator has its risks, just like buying a used vehicle. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider it, because the rewards can be just as large if not larger. Just remember when buying, “Are you willing to stake your life on this machine?” I know that question is a little dramatic, and 99.99% of the time, you can go without one and be just fine, but that just means that 1 out of 10,000 people would have some type of issue resulting in damage to life or limb, and when we have 313.9 million people in just the United States, that means that 31,390 people would have issues when having no power for extended periods of time.
So we want to take the purchase seriously as if it could be our last, just in case.
Big Factors to include when buying a used generator of any type (natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel, etc.) are:
- Age, Use, Hours
- Brand Recognition
- Generator Maintenance
- Physical Wear
- Load Testing
- Who you purchase it from
Generator Age,Hours, and Usage:
You want minimal age, hours of operation, and usage. What was it used for? Was the generator a primary power supply, was it a backup generator with a maintenance history, or did bob run it once a year during a storm with absolutely no maintenance whatsoever? Was the generator stored outside or inside?
Generator Brands or Manufacturers, Their History and Reputation:
Make and model of a generator may not be that critical of a concern when it comes to the purchase, but the manufacturer is. When it comes to generators and your livelihood, you probably want something that was designed and built by someone that is a big enough name in the industry that is willing to stake their NAME and reputation on the performance of their equipment. This is probably not a “corner cutting” decision. You want to know that the equipment from this manufacturer are know to withstand time and use. You also want to make sure that parts will be available for servicing. A good manufacturer is better at keeping these around.
Who are you purchasing from:
Dealer, Destributor, Bob around the corner? Make sure you check everything when purchasing from private sellers, but you can get your best deals that way as well.
Physical Wear of a Generator:
You must understand that a used generator is going to have wear on it. It will have motor wear. It will be weathered. Some components are designed to be sacrificial because they are the cheaper parts to replace, so they fatigue much faster. For commercial use, having different manufacturer “main” components may be ok, but for residential and portable generators, I would advise against purchasing something that is afranken-generator.
Bushings / Bearings:
These are cheap and wear first, so replace them when you can. It will keep them from causing more damage to the generator.
Wiring insulation can break down over time, so check for this. If you have anywhere that wiring is terminated, ensure tightness of the connections. You don’t want frayed or cracked wires.
Test the welds are still decent.
Initial Load Test:
Perform 2-3 different full load tests to ensure proper current, voltage and frequency (if possible) on the generator. This can give warning signs of the state of the generator.
I would expect any filters, belts, and hoses to be replaced, or the price to reflect that I have to do it. If the generator had a problem during the load test, and the problem was easily fixable, you may still consider the purchase. Get the seller to repair it or make the price worth while. Once you get the repair, go out for a final load test.
Final Load Test:
Check all the same stuff as the initial load test to ensure everything was corrected. You can see if the maintenance helped.
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