Some tips for buying a used mower and what to look for. If you read my post on “Drive for show putt for doe” you might be in the market for a used machine. Personally I had decent luck with Craigslist. There are other sites with classifieds as well. Do your homework and see what other similar mowers are selling for.
Initial look at the machine. Is is clean? Basically is it free from grass build up. Grass can be acidic. Build up of grass will lead to corrosion and rust. Does it have all it’s covers and original safety equipment. Deck/belt covers, discharge chute, operator presence controls on handles. These items are a must have. Other things to check for include: fuel cap seal, oil, air filter, condition of belts, idler pulleys bearings, blade bearings, blades and tires. Check fluid levels oil, hydrostatic system(if not a belt drive) and coolant (if its not air cooled). These items can usually be easily replaced or it can be a negotiating tool. Does the owner have the manuals and any other related documents. Verify frame and engine number tags are in place. If modified, missing, or scratched out don’t buy! It may have a history that you do not want to get acquainted with.
There is a difference between normal service, neglected service or hard use.
If the unit is clean and all the above mentioned items are in order you probably found a good machine. Depending on the age and hours (if the mower has an hour meter) neglected service might get you a better deal. This is providing the unit is not that old or has hundreds of hours of neglected service. Hard used machines I usually stay away from unless I can get a good deal. Signs of hard use would be indicated by chewed up blades and tires in poor shape.
Does the engine start without issues. Check throttle and choke cables for ease of movement. Engine should run clean without any smoke. Some machines may smoke briefly after starting when the choke is used. Once the engine is warmed up check for any hesitation when revving up. Engage the blades. Does it have any significant vibration. This may be an indication of bad bearings or unbalanced blades. Listen for a any high pitched noises. It may be a sign of bad bearings. This is not a deal breaker. It may only be a twenty dollar idler pulley which can be replaced in about ten minutes. However, if its a the blade bearings you need to investigate further. They can be expensive.
If you decide to purchase the unit get a receipt. You can also get a screen snapshot of the ad. Screen snapshot because a link can be deactivated seconds after you buy the machine. These are necessary precautions if by any chance the machine has a negative history of ownership.
One service I like to perform once I get the unit home is to change the hydrostatic oil and filter. This is often times overlooked. Unlike engine oil you can’t tell by looking at it if it’s dirty. Visit Equipment page for other helpful information.
These are just some general ideas for what to look for. If your not very mechanically inclined have a friend that is look the machine over with you.
Enjoy your new to you machine. Hopefully you will get many years of reliable service as a homeowner. As a contractor, years of profit.