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How to buy and sell online

June 11, 2014  By Sue McGregor

When heavy equipment auctions first emerged, they consisted of physical lots filled with machines.

When heavy equipment auctions first emerged, they consisted of physical lots filled with machines. Interested buyers could walk around them and sometimes operate equipment within small parking spaces, but had access to only limited information about the equipment before it was time to bid. In some cases, buyers travelled an auction and left empty-handed, while sellers risked transporting their equipment to auction without finding a buyer.

The internet  
The internet has become an excellent resource for buying and selling used construction equipment.


With the spread of the Internet, people became able to accomplish tasks much more efficiently and conveniently. Today, there are 2.4 billion Internet users spanning the globe. As access and use of the Internet grows, the number of products and services sold online dramatically increases. Heavy equipment is no exception, with Internet-based auctions reaching more people and continuing to increase in popularity among equipment buyers and sellers.


What’s driving interest for sellers and buyers?
Online auctions eliminate distance and language barriers, and they offer benefits for both sellers and buyers. Whether managing a large or small fleet, sellers want to be able to quickly dispose of their items at times that work best for their businesses. Online auctions are a great solution for sellers because:

  • They reach buyers around the world, enabling sellers to generate more interest in their equipment. The more potential bidders, the greater chance an equipment owner has at selling equipment for a favourable price.
  • They eliminate the need to transport equipment to a physical auction site since the equipment remains with the seller until sold.  Transportation is costly and time-consuming, so the seller is provided with higher net proceeds because they don’t have to move the equipment. In addition, if the seller doesn’t find a buyer, storage or transportation back to their fleet yard is not required.
  • They provide quicker time to cash because they occur more frequently. Physical auctions in a seller’s area may only occur four times a year. This means sellers either have to transport their equipment to an auction further away or dispose of equipment at the mercy of the auction organizer’s infrequent schedule. Internet-based auctions hosted on a weekly basis allow sellers to manage their fleets at times that work best for their businesses, and, importantly, they offer faster time to cash.
  • Online auctions provide different selling options to help equipment owners meet specific requirements. Absolute, brokered or reserved auction options can help sellers dispose of their core and specialized equipment at a price point that suits them.

Internet-based auctions also offer numerous benefits to buyers because:

  • They can view and purchase equipment from sellers around the world. Previously, buyers were limited to browsing equipment from sellers who could afford to transport items to an auction site. Now, a buyer in Texas can purchase equipment located in Florida, Canada, Europe and many other places. A greater selection of equipment allows buyers to find items that are better fitted to their needs.
  • Buyers can purchase equipment at times that fit their schedule because they are no longer limited to local auction schedules. Online auctions provide a steady selection of equipment throughout the year, enabling buyers to quickly acquire what they need and be more proactive about fleet management.
  • Online auctions are convenient and provide savings for buyers who save money by no longer needing to travel to physical auction sites to view and bid on equipment. The extra capital gives them more flexibility when bidding, and buyers also save time because online auctions are accessible from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.
  • They retain buyer information, allowing them to alert equipment owners when specific items of interest are added to auction lineups. Now, buyers will never miss a chance to bid on a must-have piece of equipment.
  • Online auctions are easy to navigate, allowing buyers to search for equipment based on sector, type, auction date and more. Buyers can even find specialty equipment in addition to core equipment.
  • Detailed inspection reports on the equipment condition can be viewed so the buyer has more information than gained at a physical auction and has a better knowledge of the equipment they are purchasing.

How to be successful with an online platform
Not every online auction site is created equal. Buyers and sellers should look for companies that provide:

Outstanding customer service

  • Great customer service is essential when listing, purchasing and transporting equipment. Buyers and sellers should look for auction marketplaces that provide access to customer service representatives who speak multiple languages to help answer questions during the selling or buying process.
  • Equipment owners should look for a marketplace that offers full-service brokers to personally match buyers and sellers across the globe. Certified appraisers should also be available to help sellers understand the value and condition of their equipment before it is listed.

Transportation partners

  • Transportation is oftentimes a costly and complex process. Not every buyer has pre-arranged transportation for their equipment purchase. It’s beneficial when the auction marketplace can provide a list of trusted providers from which buyers can choose.

Inspection reports

  • At physical auctions, buyers may not have the opportunity to actually inspect equipment, operate it and review fluid analysis results. Additionally, the information provided during the sale may not be entirely accurate or may be limited. Dependable online marketplaces provide detailed descriptions, images and fluid samples for buyers to review so that they feel confident when buying. These reports should be backed by a guarantee to ensure they provide an accurate representation of the equipment for sale. With a buyer protection program, the auction company will make the situation right if there is a discrepancy between the report and the actual condition of the equipment.

IronPlanet, an online marketplace for buying and selling used heavy equipment, offers the above flexible solutions to more than 1 million registered users in nearly every country in the world. Since its first auction in 2000, IronPlanet has sold more than $3.5 billion of heavy equipment. It hosts weekly auctions allowing equipment owners to consign and sell their equipment in as few as 30 days.  Additionally, IronPlanet offers a Daily Marketplace, which showcases specialized equipment selling with a reserve.

A new era of equipment buying and selling
The Internet creates greater efficiency for many tasks – and equipment buying and selling is no exception. As the next-generation of workers who came up in today’s digital age transition into key industry roles, and with the continued drive to reduce cost and increase efficiency, participation in online auctions is poised for growth.  Just as Amazon and eBay have put pressure on physical “big box retailers,” online heavy equipment auctions will see growth as people look for easier ways to buy and sell equipment.

Sue McGregor is Managing Director of Canada at IronPlanet

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