The used farm machinery market in the UK is buoyant.
Farmers' Weekly reports1 that sales of new machines have taken a dip in response to uncertainty caused by Brexit. However, there is still fierce competition for quality second-hand kit. Cheffins2, who conduct the largest monthly sale of tractors and agricultural machinery globally, held 28 UK on-site sales in 2020. They sold 6,000 items to a total value of over £10m.
It's easy to get carried away in the excitement of an auction. There are a lot of products on offer. Caution is advised to get the best out of the experience. You are usually the owner of the item as soon as that hammer drops, so make sure you are ready. Planning and preparation are key so that when the machine you want comes up, you are in the best possible position to buy.
Check it out
Check the overall safety of the machine before the auction. It needs to comply with legal requirements3. If you don't feel confident inspecting the vehicle, you can hire someone to inspect it for you. There is a lot to look at in a relatively short time, so this can ease the pressure a little.
Maintenance logs, inspection lists and work orders should all be available to inspect at auction. Due diligence will be worth your while; you need to know what you are getting.
Wear and tear
Take time to look over the tyres: they can be costly to replace, so check for cracked or bulging tyres. Note articulation points and inspect the cab or driver's area: dirt and mud could be signs of low maintenance. But even machines with 5,000 operating hours can perform well if they have been looked after.
Don't tie yourself to one brand
A comparable brand may work just as well, especially if you have dealer support. Consider the amount of hours you will need the machine for: compromising could save you quite a bit of money.
Research the dealers' location before committing to one machine: you don't want to be travelling a long way to get parts when you need them. Keep up to date on the providers and services in your area.
The equipment falls under your insurance cover immediately upon purchase, regardless of how it got to the auction and whether the machinery is attached to another vehicle or not.
Most farm equipment sales take place at weekends. You need to be ready in advance of any purchase made as an insurer may not work outside of usual hours. It's quite possible that many purchases have been driven home from a farm sale without insurance over the years. Aside from being illegal, it would prove a very costly risk if an accident occurred.
If you are purchasing a vehicle to take away from an auction, it will be essential to add it to your existing insurance.
If in any doubt around arranging cover speak to your insurance advisor.
Farm and agricultural vehicle insurance covers a range of vehicles and machinery for combined commercial and domestic use. It should include legal liability, vermin damage, windscreen and glass cover, as well as internal machine damage. It can provide blanket cover on implements and attachments fitted to agricultural vehicles (subject to the value not exceeding the single item limit, which is usually £100k).
There is no need to take risks when buying secondhand farm vehicles.
With a little planning and research - and with your admin sorted - the farm machinery auction can be a very worthwhile experience.