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Help newbie pick a used excavator

Discussion in 'Excavators' started by Columbo, Dec 31, 2021.

  1. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    Hi all, I’m new here but have been reading many of the helpful threads. I’m a carpenter who’s pretty mechanically minded, I have some experience running mini and midi sized excavators, backhoes, tractors, etc. I’m looking to purchase an excavator to clear a lot and do the site work on my own home construction project. I think I want something around 25-30k lbs and I have a budget around $35k. I’ve found two excavators that I’m considering (my project won’t start until spring so I’m in no rush to purchase anything).

    First is a 1997 Cat 311B with 5500 hrs. Looks really clean and with a mechanical thumb. According to the owner the bucket/boom/stick was bored, welded, and new pins/bushings installed by a professional about 500-600 hrs ago. The remainder of other pins/bushings were replaced as well. Machine is pretty tight. Additionally the chains/sprockets were replaced maybe 700 hrs ago. Pads were re-used. This machine is owned by an excavation contractor (second owner) who says he hadn’t put many hours on it since he has bigger machines. Panels all look pretty straight except for the rear which has a decent dent. This one is near the top of my budget and about 3.5 hours away.

    Second is a Hitachi EX100-3 with 12,000 hours. This one is at a local equipment broker and is priced at $22k. From pictures it looks like it’s going to need at least new chains and sprockets. There is a mount of the stock for a thumb but no thumb included. I don’t know the maintenance history on this one. All panels look straight and the paint looks good. I’m concerned about what I’ve read about the pcv and hydraulic controls on this one.

    I’m open to any and all advice, either about these machines specifically or my equipment purchase plans in general. Thanks in advance and happy New Year to you all!

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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2021
  2. cuttin edge

    cuttin edge Senior Member

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    If the cat really has 5500 hours on it. It looks pretty clean, and the thumb is already on it.
     
    Columbo likes this.
  3. excavator

    excavator Senior Member

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    As much as I far prefer Hitachi over Cat I would say buy the Cat. The Hitachi -3 machines were a very good machine in their day but that was quite a while ago. Most off the ones I see have electrical issues, alot of bad wire harnesses and the harness is no longer available from Deere/Hitachi. Their electronics were also a bit of a problem, I think the biggest problem being that most guys didn't understand them. Any of the electronic components that are still available are also very expensive.
     
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  4. Tags

    Tags Senior Member

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    If you could get the serial # for the Cat someone can look up and see if it’s a Grey Market machine. Seems like it would be rare to only have 5500 hours on it but it is possible. I would stay away from the hitachi for many reasons posted above.
     
  5. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the responses so far! I’ll see about getting the s/n on the Cat.

    Im looking for the right machine at the right price, does this size and age of machine seem to be reasonable? I’m open to suggestions and I’m not necessarily set on the two machines I listed if I need to wait for better options. Would increasing my budget to $40-45k purchase a significantly better machine (I know in the world of excavators this is small money!)?
     
  6. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    So I’ve spoken with the owner of the Cat more and got some additional photos. I’ve asked for a photo of the VIN plate too. Is it typical to have the pins/bushings replaced/welded at 5-6k hours?

    I think I’m going to go look at it this week, I’ve never bought a used piece of equipment this size how is the inspection/purchase typically conducted? My plan was to try to have a tech from the regional Cat dealership meet me there for a pre-purchase inspection, is that common practice? If the dealership can’t have someone there on my schedule and it looks good when I check it out then I was planning to leave a deposit and try to have an inspection conducted later. Then arrange for transport and payment of the agreed on sales price?
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  7. rondig

    rondig Senior Member

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    Occupation:
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    fort macleod alberta
    Most good mechanics can give pretty good assessment on a cat machine..cat tech should be able to give great report...undercarriage wear...pump pressure...general condition....4 hrs should give you pretty good advice.....5500 hrs raises some alarms...but possible....as for pins and bushings....that depends on maintenance...but also red flag for me....good luck....but in that price range some flaws are expected.
     
    Columbo likes this.
  8. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    5500 hours is not a lot to already replace pins and bushings, and a new undercarriage. And I can't imagine anyone replacing any of that stuff really early on a older machine. The undercarriage could be it was just traveling a ton and not necessarily anything bad. The pins and bushings could be abuse or just not greasing. But if everything is tight now best thing is just to have someone competent inspect machine before purchasing.
     
    Columbo likes this.
  9. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    Here’s a pic of the ID plate, if anyone is able to confirm that it is not a gray market machine that would be great!
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  10. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    So if my online research is correct, the 8HR prefix shows this is a gray market unit from Japan. So, what now? What impact does this have for parts/value/resale on a almost 30 year old excavator?
     
  11. Tyler d4c

    Tyler d4c Senior Member

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    We have 2 grey market cat excavators never have had trouble with any parts we needed had the one for 19 or 20 years and the other for 3 or 4 now that part would not scare me off
     
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  12. excavator

    excavator Senior Member

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    The major impact depends on how good a parts man you have at your local Cat dealer. If you have a real parts man who takes their job serious it shouldn't be a problem, it's when you get one that will do nothing when they hear "grey market".
     
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  13. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    If it's just a machine to use once in awhile and not dependent on to make money I think as long as price is right grey market would be ok, if you know going in parts could be a bit more hassle. If local cat dealer sucks could deal with another and just mail parts, or find the numbers yourself.
     
    Columbo likes this.
  14. crane operator

    crane operator Senior Member

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    I wouldn't put much stock in the hour meter reading 5,500 hrs. Not very many hour meters last the life of the equipment. Its not like odometers in cars.

    It could be correct- but its a 1997 machine, so its 25 years old. If it only ran 500 hours a year in its first 10 years, you would have the 5,000 hours. Not very many companies buy new equipment to only run 500 hours a year.

    And its not anything strange that the hour meter is not "correct", I don't own much that the original hour meter is in and that's accurate. And the seller isn't doing anything "shady" with a low reading hour meter, he didn't buy the excavator new either, I look at a hour meter as just a way to know when it needs service. Not a indicator of lifetime use.
     
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  15. Bluox

    Bluox Senior Member

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    That machine is a Japan sourced unit which means it was built in Japan it's not "grey"
    And as for 5000 hours that only means that hour meter has 5000 hours on it.
    Bob
     
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  16. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback so far, my plan is to drive out to see it later this week. If all looks good I’ll probably pay to have the local Cat dealership do an inspection since I’m no pro. Keep the advice coming please!
     
  17. Tags

    Tags Senior Member

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    I think you’re on the right track sticking with that plan, some money spent to have someone that knows the machine to come out and inspect it will pay off way more now than when you are trying to fix something that failed right after you bought it because you didn’t know it wasn’t right to begin with.
     
    Columbo likes this.
  18. cuttin edge

    cuttin edge Senior Member

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    Does a B have a computer? If so wouldn't the Cat tec be able to get actual hours of it? We had a 320B and a C. one of them had a computer replaced, but can't remember which one
     
  19. Columbo

    Columbo Well-Known Member

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    The local dealer (one of the Milton Cat facilities) agreed that it was a gray market unit. They didn’t seem too concerned about that, though, and said they would be able to source most, but not all, parts.
     
  20. FWD

    FWD Well-Known Member

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    I looked in my Toughquip info guide for Cat Equipment. All 311B's were made in Japan. All seem to have similar specs. The 8HR says it has a narrow cab. I don't know the reason for that.
    FWD
     
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