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Buying Used Turf Equipment

A Guide to Buying Used Turf Equipment

By Drew Hunter - January 5, 2016

The landscape has changed in the golf industry over the past 10 years.  In 2006, courses were being built left and right, maintenance crews were fully staffed with employees to manicure each part of the golf course, and equipment budgets were plentiful. 
 
Ten years later we see a different mentality in the golf industry.  Only ten new courses were expected to open in the United States in 2015 (Tucker, 2015).  Maintenance crews are held to the same condition standards but have less employees.  Equipment budgets are only a fraction of what they used to be.  Essentially golf courses are required to do “more with less.”  Many courses have the same equipment they used for grow-in during the early to mid-2000s.  With this change in landscape, used equipment is a great option to fulfill equipment needs at courses across the country. 
 
Below are six items to think about before your next used equipment purchase.  
 
NEEDS
 
Since the golf industry declined sharply in 2008 there has been an increased need for staff efficiency.  Many courses are no longer staffed to walk-mow greens, tees, or fly mow bunkers or native areas.  This has required maintenance practices to be altered to match new staffing levels; Knowing exactly what you need a piece of equipment to accomplish will help your team increase productivity and playability of your course. 
 
You may also have equipment that you no longer can use because of staff cutbacks.  Ask your dealer if they would be willing to purchase or apply some of this excess equipment as trade-ins. 
 
BUDGET
 
How much should your course spend on a piece of equipment?  Should you purchase or finance?  Many courses are given a set amount per year for new equipment (for our example lets say $25,000).  For $25,000 a course could purchase a very low-hour triplex or fairway mower.  This would mean upgrading one piece of equipment per year.  If your course is willing to finance used equipment there are two common finance types: lease or lease/purchase. 
  • In a lease, your course would pay monthly for the financed equipment over a certain time period (typically four to five years).  At the end of the lease the equipment would return to the finance company or dealer. 
  • In a lease/purchase, your course would pay monthly for the financed equipment but would own the equipment at the end of the lease period (assuming all payments are current).
Below is an example of equipment your course could obtain with a $25,000 per year budget.  Payments would occur consecutively over a 48-month period, a 5.0% interest rate was used.  
  • Purchase – $25,000.  Example of turf equipment:
    • one fairway mower, 2011 or newer, 1500 hours or less, fully serviced with new cutting units
  • Lease – for $25,000 per year your course could afford a $100,000 turf equipment package. Example of turf equipment package:
    • Two fairway mowers, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new cutting units
    • Two  triplex mowers, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new 11-blade cutting units
    • One rough mower, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new rotary blades
    • Two utility vehicles, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced
  • Lease/Purchase – for $25,000 per year your course could afford a $91,000 turf equipment package. Example of turf equipment package:
    • Two fairway mowers, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new cutting units
    • Two  triplex mowers, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new 11-blade cutting units
    • One rough mower, 2010 or newer, 2000 hours or less, fully serviced with new rotary blades
 
As you can see it may benefit your course to finance equipment instead of replacing one or two pieces per year.
 
RESEARCH & ASK QUESTIONS
 
Research the specifications of each piece of equipment.  Will the width of cut work on your course’s trim and surrounds?  Does the payload capacity on a certain utility vehicle allow your staff to complete their tasks?
 
Ask questions of your local salesperson.  Treat this part of the sales process much like you would when buying a used car. 
  • Who – Who was the previous owner?
  • What – What type of maintenance practices did the dealer use to set-up each piece of equipment?  Ask for maintenance records and manuals.
  • When – When was the last time this piece of equipment was fully serviced and what are the common wear items on this machine?
  • Where – Where (on the course) and how often was the equipment used?
  • Why – Why did the previous owner trade-in this piece of equipment?
 
Last, always ask for references.  Make sure the references apply to similar courses as you.  Similarities should include terrain, staffing levels, budget, and climate.  How well has the dealer performed after the sale or lease?  Have they taken care of any equipment issues that have arose?
 
SEE THE EQUIPMENT IN PERSON
 
You know what piece of equipment your course needs and have researched the history of the machine.  Now it is time to lay eyes on the piece of equipment.  It is a great idea to visit the dealership to see the machine.  This visit will allow you to meet key contacts at the dealership that will be future resources.  Make sure your salesperson knows how you will be using the piece of equipment and how you want it set-up.  What is your height of cut?  Are there specific bedknives you like?  Are there specific rollers that work better on your turf?  All of these are valid requests to ask your salesperson, after all it is your course that will reflect these equipment details.
 
There are certain circumstances that do not you allow to visit the equipment in person.  It is imperative that you ask for appropriate pictures and maintenance logs for the equipment.  Make sure your dealer communicates with you through this process and keeps you informed.
 
PARTS
 
Make sure your local dealer or distributor can supply you with needed parts.  This means avoiding models that are no longer in production, these parts can be difficult to locate (and costly!).  Ask that your Equipment Manager has all the necessary manuals and contact information to order parts.  If you cannot be without a certain piece of equipment for more than a couple days it might be best to inventory common wear items.  Ask your dealer what the average lead time is for parts, this will help you inventory the correct parts.
 
SERVICE
 
Be sure that the dealer that you are acquiring the equipment from has the ability to service the equipment if necessary.  There may be situations when your technician doesn’t have the time or in some situation the knowledge to repair your equipment.  You need to feel comfortable that you have qualified back up to meet your service needs.
 
SUMMARY
 
Buying used equipment can help your course maximize budget and productivity.  Many times you will be able to purchase an extra piece or two when ordering a package of used equipment vs. new.  A good relationship with your local dealer will help you acquire a great equipment package, followed by great service.
 
Good luck buying in 2016!