Tips for buying machinery online

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As the impacts of COVID-19 hit home last year, more people went online for their latest earthmoving purchases. Daz Scale, of Sunshine Coast dealers Makin Traks, has a few tips for the newcomer.

Cat D6K2 dozer
Makin Traks specialises in second hand Cat Dozers, such as this D6K2

For Daz Scale and his team at premium second hand Cat dozer dealer Makin Traks, based in Yandina on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, 2020 was the year that online sales really took off in a big way.

"Pre-COVID, we probably had 50 per cent of our customers come into the yard and look over the machine, and check it out and start it and drive it and things like that," he says.

"Now it’s something like 10–15 per cent of people actually look at the machine, but with all the borders closed and those sorts of things, it makes it harder for people to buy, so you have to go the extra mile to show them the quality in the machine."

With roughly 50 per cent of his buyers focused on farming , Scale says he expects the trend will reverse a little as the threat of COVID-19, and ongoing travel restrictions, fade.

That said, it won’t go back entirely to how it was before, he says.

"We know now that as a person, as a family, as a society we can work more independently, and as long as you can rely on the products you don’t necessarily have to do as much face to face," he says.

"As far as wholesale commercial dealerships go, as long as you have got a good brand and a good point of difference, and people know they can trust you, I think the trend will still stay that way."

When it comes to brands, Scale is quite confident, with his dealership specialising in premium second hand Cat dozers, ranging from the 77.6kW (104 horsepower) D3 model to the 283kW (380hp) D8 model.

"We only do premium second hand. That is the best you can get for the hours that are represented on the machine… as straight as possible and in as original condition as possible that hasn’t been logged, or bent up or backed around."

Earning customers’ trust, Scale adds, is reflected in taking care of the small details such as regassing the air-conditioning, ensuring bearings are tight and that there are no oil leaks. "If you look at the machine as if you were going to send it out on a 12 month contract for yourself… you are going to be a long way out in front," he says.

"If you send a quality piece and they get a good run out of it, they will ring you up in six months and then say, we want a second piece, and then their business grows and as their business grows, yours grows.

"You have got to be looking at it as the big picture, and doing unto others what you would have them do unto you."

For his buyers, Scale seeks out a possible service history and an ECM product status report to verify the hours worked, and puts together a workshop report, an itemised service report and a handover folder for the machine in question.

"Unfortunately there are people in the industry who offer a machine saying that they have got 5,000 hours on the clock, but they have 8,000 hours – it makes a difference of $50,000 value in the machine," he says.

"But with a computer plug-in you can verify the hours and make sure that that is what is demonstrated on the screen."

Using the dozer serial number to check a vehicle’s service history is an essential step for Scale – as well as determining how much of that servicing has been done by Cat, and how much by third parties.

"When it comes to machinery and especially dozers, it’s what you don’t see that often needs the repairs and often costs the most to repair.

"When we talk to customers we say, make sure you have verification of the hours, make sure you know what has been done, because you can spend $10,000–$20,000 on these things and not see any difference."

The welcome pack Scale prepares for all units sold contains information including a verification of the hours, the serial and engine number and any repairs that needed attention or will in the foreseeable future – such as windscreen wipers, bearings or the air conditioning.

"There will always be 10, 20, 30 things that were needed on that item that, if you were buying it from me, you could put it straight to work," he says.

Of course, knowing whether a machine is job ready will rely on understanding the job that the machine will be required to perform – whether it’s a different task week to week or working solidly at one place for a six-month stint.

Scale says the D6 is his most popular model – large enough to be highly productive and small enough to fit on a truck bed.

"Typically, a D3 is a hobby farmer and a small contractor, a D4 or D5 you are doing more contractor work at bigger farms, and a D6 is full contracting and big, big farm work," he says.

With a genuine interest from the supplier in the machine, the customer has the best opportunity to receive the right machine the first time-job ready, he says.

"A successful business can obtain 30–40 per cent repeat business in this industry due to quality products, professionalism and integrity," he says.

This means giving customers guiding points when they need it – including operating and service advice, he says, as well as respecting the knowledge that a buyer may already have.

"It’s really about just giving customers some guiding points so they can make good decisions and get something that represents value for what they are doing," Scale says.

"You have to go the extra mile to show them the quality in the machine, whether it is photographs, whether it is videos, whether it is Facetime… whatever you need to do to give them peace of mind," he says.

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