Buyer Beware: 3 Good Tips on Purchasing Used Mining Equipment

(A used spiral gold wheel that sold for 60% of its new value.)

Miners are Bargain Hunters Too

With the sharp downturn in the U.S economy (not to mention severe economic problems elsewhere) many small-scale or recreational gold miners are not exactly rushing out the door to purchase new mining equipment. If they can't make do with what they already have in their garage or storage shed, they are searching mining periodicals or the internet for bargains in used gear.

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What sort of gear? Primarily motorized equipment such as suction dredges, drywashers, highbankers, trommels, and spiral gold wheels. Some of these items can still be quite costly, despite the fact they have been used and, on occasion, worked pretty hard. That's why it's even more important for you, the potential buyer, to use plain old common sense and remember the old consumer adage, "Buyer beware."

3 Good Tips

Here are a 3 good tips that will make your used equipment purchases saner and more cost effective:

Try to visually examine and test run equipment firsthand. Although this is not always possible, being physically present with the seller and the gear gives you the opportunity to actually examine things with your own eyes and determine whether the seller's claims of "just like new" or "purrs like a kitten" are true or just B.S. and hyperbole.

During the physical exam make sure to check all the intakes, hoses, hardware, motors, belts, drives, etc. as thoroughly as you can for "swelling," cracking, hasty repairs, or any other defect indicators. Make sure the equipment operates as it should (i.e., the drywasher bellows actually "puffs", the highbanker pump "pumps," and the dredge intake hose actually "sucks" since that's what it's supposed to do). Finally, make absolutely certain that all the necessary parts for operating that piece of gear are present and accounted for.

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Pay attention to your "gut" reaction to the seller. I don't know about you, but I always try to get a sense of who it is I'm dealing with when making a purchase like this. So pay attention to your intuitive or "gut" reaction to the seller and his or her words and demeanor, whether over the phone or in person. Being a good judge of character is a real asset in this context.

Do you sense a hustler type or someone who wants to pressure or "run" you? Is he or she a fast talker who overvalues their own gear while making deprecating comments about this manufacturer or that particular brand? Or is he or she low-key and self-possessed, answering all your questions calmly and directly without gaps or holes in the salient information? In other words, is he or she a "miner's miner" as I like to say?

Avoid buying used equipment over the internet whenever possible. I can tell you right here, right now that most used equipment you buy online from individuals or at online auctions is a crapshoot in terms of what you expect to receive for your money and what actually arrives at your door. That "like new" highbanker you bought on e-Bay may look like it's been repaired by some crazed idiot with a 10-pound sledge or that suction dredge you just purchased as "ready to run" is missing key parts and has a badly cracked pontoon.


Think I'm exaggerating? Perhaps a tiny bit, but this is actually not far from the truth based on personal experience and that of a number of mining friends. You can generally expect to get what you pay for in terms of used gear, however, from reputable online mining supply houses and prospecting shops, though you probably won't be able to work the kind of deal you can with private sellers.

Remember, it's always "buyer beware" when it comes to purchasing used gold mining equipment. Stay smart out there.

If you liked this post you may want to read: "Publications on Placer Mining in the Yukon (Part 1)"

(c) J.R. 2009

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